Overnight Trade Roundup: Athletics, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Reds, and Royals

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

When trades occur that aren’t quite big enough to merit their own post, we sometimes compile our analysis into a compendium like this, where we touch on a number of transactions at one time. In this dispatch, I’ll cover the Reds’ acquisition of Sam Moll from Oakland, the Cubs’ trade for Jose Cuas from Kansas City, and the Diamondbacks’ trade for Jace Peterson, also from Oakland.

While the two teams tilted at Wrigley, the Cubs and Reds added interesting relief options to their managers’ toolkits. The Reds traded hard-throwing prospect Joe Boyle to the A’s for lefty Sam Moll and international pool space, while the Cubs traded outfielder Nelson Velázquez to the Royals for sidearm righty Jose Cuas.

Moll epitomizes lefty specialization. The 31-year-old southpaw debuted with the A’s in 2017, then hopped around to several other orgs before returning to the Bay Area in 2021. He’s on pace to set a career best in strikeout rate and FIP, in part thanks to the introduction of a second, riding fastball to his mid-90s sinker and his slider. Moll, whose velocity is also up a little bit this year, has all the markers of a specialist reliever. He has more appearances (45) than innings pitched (37.2) and his splits are extreme:

The Reds bullpen was already thin on lefties and Reiver Sanmartin’s recent surgery left Alex Young as the lone lefty reliever on the 40-man roster. Adding Moll, who is under team control through the 2027 season, gives them a stable (albeit low-leverage) option to deploy in the middle of the game against same-handed hitters.

In exchange, the A’s get power-armed relief prospect Joe Boyle. He has huge stuff and has been incredibly wild for his entire lifetime as a prospect. Boyle pitched exclusively as a reliever at Notre Dame and walked well over a batter per inning there. The Reds moved him to the rotation (which makes sense from a developmental standpoint even if the chances were remote that he’d develop enough control to start in the big leagues) and he’s continued to walk roughly 20% of opposing hitters so far as a pro. He’s sitting 97-100 mph as a starter again this season, and both his upper-80s slider and low-80s curveball flash plus or better. Some of his sliders are elite and have huge break for pitches traveling at that speed.

Boyle still needs to hone his strike-throwing quite a bit just to profile as a reliever — there’s a chance he’s our generation’s Steve Dalkowski and there’s a chance he’s a late-blooming Félix Bautista sequel. The A’s recent track record of developing pitchers is pretty poor — prospects tend to get worse after they’re acquired by the A’s, not better — but adjusting Boyle’s forecast accordingly veers away from “scouting” and into “predicting” in a way I tend to avoid. He’s a high-variance 40 FV relief prospect who has a chance to be an impact reliever, and still might be nothing at all. For the A’s to acquire a pitcher with late-inning potential for a few years of a low-leverage lefty seems like a worthy gamble for them.

The Reds also received international bonus pool space in this trade, amounting to $187,000.

Not long after the Boyle/Moll swap, the Cubs acquired sidearmer Jose Cuas. Once a power-hitting SS/3B, Cuas was college teammates with LaMonte Wade Jr. and Brandon Lowe at Maryland, and he spent his first few pro seasons in the Brewers system as a hitter before moving to the mound. He pitched in Indy ball and in the Dominican Winter League in 2019 and 2020 before re-emerging in affiliated ball with the Royals in 2021. Once he was in the Royals system, Cuas moved quickly, making his big league debut in 2022. He has 79.1 career big league innings under his belt, with an ERA, FIP, and xFIP all in the 4.08-4.55 range.

Cuas has begun to use his fastball as a chase pitch up above the strike zone this year, something he didn’t do in 2022. He still works down and to his arm side with his low-90s sinker most of the time, but his new upshot fastball essentially gives him a third pitch, and forces opposing hitters to respect the top of the strike zone. I think this change to his approach is largely why his strikeout rate has taken a sizable leap (from 18% to 27%) in his second season, even though Cuas’ stuff really isn’t any different than it was last year. He’ll also provide a different look than anyone else coming out of Chicago’s bullpen, which is otherwise full of guys with more typical deliveries.

In exchange, the Royals get power-hitting 24-year-old Puerto Rican outfielder Nelson Velázquez, who was strikeout-prone (31%) during a 77-game big league trial in 2022 and has largely been squeezed out of 2023 playing time by the more stable, left-handed-hitting Mike Tauchman, and the more athletic and versatile Christopher Morel. Velázquez is a pull-side mistake hitter with big raw power, which he’s only really able to access against middle-in pitches. He’s chase-prone and struggles with breaking stuff at the bottom of the zone. As he has physically matured, what was once big rotational athleticism and bat speed has been replaced by raw strength and stiffness, which is hopefully not a harbinger of an early decline.

The Rebuilding Royals can give Velázquez an opportunity to make adjustments to big league quality stuff over a longer period of time and see if they can turn him into their version of Christian Walker (or something like that) by giving him a longer runway. I’m skeptical that Velázquez is an actual late-bloomer candidate because of the trends noted above, but Cuas probably wasn’t going to be a meaningful long-term piece for them, and there’s a sliver of a chance that Nelly can be. I had a 45 FV on Velázquez when he was a prospect but would pretty comfortably take the under on that evaluation at this point.

Finally, the Diamondbacks traded 24-year-old Double-A starter Chad Patrick to the Athletics for 10-year, seven-team veteran Jace Peterson. With Evan Longoria recently on the IL due to a strained lower back, and Josh Rojas and Dominic Canzone departing for the Pacific Northwest via the Paul Sewald trade, the Diamondbacks needed both infield and lefty-hitting reinforcements for their bench. Peterson is under contract through 2024. Arizona is paying the remainder of his $4.5 million salary this year, while Oakland is picking up $2 million of his $5 million salary in 2024.

A terrific athlete, Peterson was All State in four sports as a high schooler and played football (defensive back) and baseball at McNeese State before he was drafted 58th overall by San Diego in 2011. He’s a career .230/.320/.340 hitter whose performance has been close to that level each of the last three years, and he has a 96 wRC+ against righties in 2023, a little above his 90 wRC+ career mark. Peterson has experience at many different positions but has overwhelmingly played either second or third base during the last few campaigns. Ketel Marte is healthy and entrenched as the everyday second baseman, which means Peterson will most commonly offer a lefty complement to Emmanuel Rivera (and, eventually, a healthy Longoria) at third base. A slow exchange and less-than-ideal arm utility (he’ll sometimes intentionally three-hop throws to first if it means getting rid of the baseball more quickly) contribute to Peterson’s 40-grade third base defense (Rivera is plus). Peterson’s usage will mostly be limited to situational at-bats against righties in lieu of Rivera and perhaps occasionally Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Rivera has been hitting well enough that I wouldn’t pencil Peterson in to start against every righty while Longoria is out.

Meanwhile, Patrick, who dominated Oakland’s Double-A affiliate just two days before the trade, heads back to the A’s in this deal. I wrote up Patrick as a command-oriented spot starter on the recent Diamondbacks prospect list. He only has a 4.71 ERA at Amarillo as of the time of the trade, which is impressive considering that ballpark’s hitting environment. His peripherals (23% K%, 9% BB%) and stuff (sitting 92-94, robotic command of a mid-80s slider) are both solid, if unspectacular. Patrick is very likely to pitch in the big leagues at some point but not likely to be an impact arm. He projects as a stable no. 6 to 8 starter and 40-man occupant with trustworthy command.

Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Cave Dameron
9 months ago

Wild that we are in the age of prospects where I’m not even surprised to hear about a starter averaging 97-100 and not even being an organization’s most prized prospect.

9 months ago
Reply to  Cave Dameron

20% walk rates will do that to a guy…

9 months ago
Reply to  Cave Dameron

Seriously, even 10-15 years ago he would have been seen as a prospect of note.

I’m reminded of Henry Rodríguez (the pitcher), who could also throw a ball through a wall but had no idea where it was going, who was an A’s untouchable for awhile in the late 2000s. Or when having a lefty who could top 90 was a big deal, which was not so long ago.

Shirtless George Brett
9 months ago
Reply to  synco

I think you are stretching a bit there. 10 years ago was 2013. Nobody with a 20% walk rate would have been a prospect of note in 2013 no matter how hard he threw.