Reds Land Archie Bradley, Brian Goodwin Just Ahead of Deadline Buzzer

A .441 winning percentage and fourth place in one’s division on the day of the trade deadline aren’t typical characteristics of a buying team, but 2020 is anything but a typical season. Even after a disappointing 15-19 start, the Cincinnati Reds are just 1 1/2 games out of a playoff spot. Considering the number of moves the team had already made in an effort to make this a contending season, that’s a gap the organization thought was worth trying to close with a pair of deals completed just ahead of Monday’s 4:00 pm deadline.

The Reds acquired outfielder Brian Goodwin from the Angels and closer Archie Bradley from the Diamondbacks within just a few minutes of each other on Monday, with the list of total exits and entrances appearing as follows:

We’ll start with Bradley, as he’s likely to have the biggest impact considering Cincinnati’s relief woes. The Reds’ bullpen has been a far cry from their stellar starting rotation this season, allowing the fourth-worst ERA and fifth-worst FIP in the majors. The unit hasn’t had any trouble striking out batters, leading the majors with 11.9 strikeouts per nine, but it has allowed opponents to rack up walks and homers with similar frequency — only four teams have a higher walk rate in their bullpens than Cincinnati’s, and only the Phillies have a higher home run rate.

Enter Bradley, whose transition to the bullpen in 2017 immediately saw him become one of the most effective relievers in the majors — he posted a 1.73 ERA and 2.61 FIP in 73 innings, amassing 2.0 WAR. The last couple of seasons have been more good than great, but his 85 ERA- and 82 FIP- since the beginning of 2018 alongside a good track record of health rather easily made him one of the better relievers available for trade this season.

Bradley is hardly the kind of heavy-spin pitcher the new pitching regime in Cincinnati has targeted, last year posting fastball spin numbers in the 41st percentile and curveball spin in the 2nd percentile. He also hasn’t garnered as many whiffs as one might expect from someone with his strikeout totals — he had a 75th percentile K% last year, but just 39th percentile swinging strike rate, neither of which have moved much this season. What he does accomplish, however, is suppressing homers. He hasn’t allowed any home runs this season in his first 10.2 innings, and he has averaged just over 0.7 per nine innings since moving to the pen. That’s a skill the Reds have coveted when trading for relievers such as Jared Hughes and David Hernandez in recent seasons, and it’s one the team hopes Bradley will continue to show even after moving to Great American Ball Park.

The team will also hope a few early signs of trouble from Bradley this season aren’t here to stay. His velocity is down for a third straight season, from 95.5 mph on average last year to 94.2 mph in 2020. He has also seen his groundballs turn into line drives at a distressing rate so far, with his 41.4 LD% inflating some of his expected statistics according to Statcast. It’s far too early to panic on either subject, though — Bradley’s velocity has pretty steadily increased with each appearance this year, and his exit velocity allowed is actually at a career low. There’s still plenty to like here, enough to allow Bradley the opportunity to take over a closer/stopper’s role that Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, and others have struggled with this season. And because Bradley won’t hit free agency until after 2021, Cincinnati has more than just a few weeks to get value out of him.

Also hoping to contribute to the Reds’ success beyond 2020 is Goodwin, whom the team has added to its somehow-still-increasing number of outfield bats. Goodwin is having what would be his best offensive season to date, hitting .242/.330/.463 with four homers and a 113 wRC+ in 30 games.

Under the hood, there isn’t much going on here that hasn’t always been true of Goodwin, a 29-year-old outfielder who joins his third team since reaching the majors. He offers a little patience and a little pop to go with a whole lot of strikeouts, but more often than not, that’s been enough to make him a league-average-or-better stick in the lineup. Last season, he rated in Statcast’s 22nd percentile in xwOBA. This year he’s in the 23rd percentile. He has, however, seen a significant jump in his exit velocities. Cincinnati has long been willing to overlook some swing-and-miss tendencies if you can hit the ball hard and run well, and Goodwin matches that profile.

How he fits into this organization beyond that characterization is a bit of a head-scratcher. The Reds went into the last offseason with three presumed starting outfielders in Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, and Aristides Aquino. Then they selected Mark Payton in the Rule 5 draft. Then they signed Shogo Akiyama, Nick Castellanos, and Travis Jankowski. Then they claimed Nick Williams. There were already a lot of outfielders on this team, particularly ones who batted from the left side and showed a skill set not too different from Goodwin’s.

But in spite of all those bats being brought in, the Reds haven’t hit, and Goodwin has. Cincinnati has two outfielders crushing the ball in Winker and Castellanos, but Akiyama has struggled to get off the ground so far, and Senzel hasn’t played since Aug. 14 since hitting the IL for what remain undisclosed reasons. Winker and Castellanos are both best-deployed in the DH spot, which means the openings are still there in this outfield for a player like Goodwin, who comes somewhat cheap.

In adding two big league pieces, the Reds part with a young major leaguer of their own as well as two of their top 20 players on their top prospect list. VanMeter, 25, heads to Arizona having already logged 298 plate appearances in the majors, hitting .214/.305/.378 for a 78 wRC+ to go with decent defense at second and third base and passable defense at first and both outfield corners. He’s a former fifth-round pick by the Padres out of high school in 2013, and he spent his minor league career very much off the radar until he broke out with a .348/.429/.669, 14-homer showing in 49 games at newly-rabbit-balled Triple-A last season. That power hasn’t shown up in the majors yet, but he did show promise as a somewhat versatile bench bat last season before struggling badly in 2020.

The Diamondbacks also add Fairchild, the 38th overall pick of the 2017 draft who landed at No. 11 on the Reds’ preseason prospect list. Last year was a great one for the 24-year-old outfielder as he acclimated himself very well at both Advanced-A (130 wRC+ in 67 games) and Double-A (142 wRC+ in 42 games). This was Eric Longenhagen’s take in his write-up:

Fairchild’s swing has a little more going on now than it did while he was in college, but it’s still pretty simplistic relative to a lot of other hitters’. Once extremely stationary, he now has a baby leg kick and is actually loading his hands. His groundball rate has dropped from 50% during his first pro season, to 40% during the first half of 2018, to the 30%-37% range in the three half-seasons since then, and somehow his strikeout rate dropped all the way to 12% during his six-week stint at Double-A Chattanooga. I don’t think that’s a sustainable rate but I do think it makes sense that Fairchild would become more comfortable with the swing over time. He doesn’t have overt everyday physical ability but he is a plus athlete who has been able to make mechanical adjustments, so he might yet get better.

The Angels, meanwhile, get Naughton, a 24-year-old left-hander who ranked 20th in the Reds’ system this winter. Eric had this to say about him:

Pitchers whose best attributes are their command and a changeup often outperform industry expectations, and even though Naughton’s fastball only averaged 89 mph last year, I think he’ll do the same. He’s funky and deceptive, hides the ball well, creates tough angle in on righties’ hands, and then drops that changeup on them. Naughton’s curveball isn’t great, but he can throw it for strikes. I like him in a multi-inning relief role a la Ryan Yarbrough.

On Monday, Cincinnati found two last-place trade partners with assets they no longer had much use for. The Diamondbacks, already having dealt Robbie Ray and Starling Marte, were taking a couple of steps back in a division that the Dodgers and Padres are determined to have a stranglehold on for the foreseeable future. If they didn’t plan on having many leads to trust Bradley with this season or next, there was little point in holding onto him as his value deteriorates the nearer he gets to free agency.

The Angels’ division hopes don’t appear quite so hopeless in the next few seasons, but Goodwin was unlikely to do much to move the needle in future playoff chases. The Angels are paying Justin Upton more than $20 million a year to man one of their outfield corners, and they just called up one of the game’s best prospects in Jo Adell to man the other one. Their third outfield spot is taken by that Mike Trout guy, and the DH spot is occupied by Shohei Ohtani. Barring something out of the team’s nightmares, all four of those players would have taken precedent over Goodwin in the future.

While all three of these clubs wanted to contend this season, it hasn’t worked out perfectly for any of them. But when the Diamondbacks and Angels saw the yellow light and hit the brakes, the Reds eased onto the gas pedal. They, too, could have sold on Monday, with Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani weeks away from free agency and a farm system that leaves something to be desired. But they see a path to the postseason that other sub-.500 teams aren’t fortunate enough to have. They believed they were a playoff team when the season began. Five weeks of games, no matter how disappointing, weren’t enough to shake that.

Tony is a contributor for FanGraphs. He began writing for Red Reporter in 2016, and has also covered prep sports for the Times West Virginian and college sports for Ohio University's The Post. He can be found on Twitter at @_TonyWolfe_.

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