Reds and Yankees Agree to Unexpected But Necessary Exchange

It was a hectic day on the trade market. First, news broke that the Pirates had traded Tyler Anderson to the Phillies. Shortly after, the Mariners provided extra heat to the stove by sending relievers Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero to the Astros in exchange for Abraham Toro and Joe Smith. They didn’t stop there, swooping in to nab Anderson and taking advantage of an issue that surfaced with one of the two Phillies prospects originally headed to Pittsburgh.

The number of tweets dwindled as the night rolled in, signaling an end to the frenzy. We would have to wait until tomorrow for more deadline shenanigans, but I suppose a bonus transaction couldn’t hurt, because out of the blue, the Yankees’ Twitter account dropped this bit of news:

A trade announcement at 12:35 AM Eastern Time? Sure, why not. Let’s break this one down.

The obvious headliner here is right-handed reliever Luis Cessa, who’s put up a respectable 2.82 ERA in 38.1 innings. He’ll likely become the Reds’ best fireman once the trade is finalized, which is more a testament to how bad their bullpen has been — its 5.36 ERA and 4.86 FIP are both league-trailing marks —than his skill. Still, he provides much-needed help for a team that still has a decent, albeit waning shot at making the postseason.

There are a couple of red flags when it comes to Cessa. Considering his career 4.40 ERA prior to this season, it’s possible he’s over-performing. A pedestrian strikeout rate of 19.3% certainly doesn’t support the idea that he has unlocked a new gear. And as expected, most of his peripheral numbers are higher than his actual ones.

Supporting him are three pitches: a slider, a four-seam fastball, and a sinker that’s really just his four-seamer with a little extra moment. He throws the slider around 60% of the time, and for good reason; it’s by far his best pitch, and one that’s evolved over the years by taking on vertical drop. His fastballs, however, aren’t as effective. Cessa’s command of his sinker has been spotty, and despite its passable vertical movement, he’s elected to also locate his four-seamer down, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the fastballs get mistaken for one another. I wonder if the Reds will have him focus on one of the two to complement his slider better; this season, they’ve already given new life to Heath Hembree’s slider.

But the Yankees, who also aren’t slouches when it comes to pitching development, were presumably aware of Cessa’s shortcomings, and while the peripherals aren’t as sexy, he’d been beneficial to the team up to this point. Did the Yankees just not have him in their future plans? The presence of Justin Wilson provides us with a clearer answer. The two-year deal with a 2022 option worth $5.15 million he agreed to last offseason has resulted in a 6.76 FIP – not good. The Yankees are looking to be active at the deadline, but are also a whisker away from the luxury tax threshold, and Wilson’s contract represents dead weight. No team would take on his contract without compensation, though, and Cessa fulfilled a dire Cincinnati need.

Consequently, the Yankees’ return is light: a PTBNL whose identity won’t be revealed for a while. It’s worth noting that the new rule regarding PTBNLs means 2021 draft picks are, in this case, ineligible. I’m not sure which type of player in the Reds’ system the Yankees would target, but chances are it’s not someone with a recognizable name.

To make room on their 40-man roster, the Reds designated RHPs Ashton Goudeau and Edgar García for assignment. There’s not much to note about the 29-year-old Goudeau, but García at least seems a bit interesting. Based on a small sample of major league innings, his fastball has enormous carry, and his slider looks decent, too. Walks have been a colossal issue, but perhaps there is a team willing to give him a chance thanks to his younger age and still-intact prospect pedigree.

In the grand scheme of things, this exchange is more a process than a destination. The Yankees are clearing roster space and payroll in preparation for a bigger deal. The Reds are acquiring a legitimate reliever who’s helpful but won’t dramatically shift their outlook for the remaining season and beyond. Regardless, these sort of moves do matter, and every bit of action this week does deserve at least some attention. The swap itself will soon be forgotten, but what it (may) lead to won’t.

Justin is a contributor at FanGraphs. His previous work can be found at Prospects365 and Dodgers Digest. His less serious work can be found on Twitter @justinochoi.

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2 years ago

I came for the Phantom Menace quote.

2 years ago

A Cessurprise, to be sure, but a welcome one