The Reds Give A Little For Mychal Givens

The Reds have continued to overhaul their bullpen during the final week before the deadline, acquiring right-hander Mychal Givens, who has undergone a bit of a transformation himself this year, from the Rockies in return for minor league right-handers Case Williams and Noah Davis. Cincinnati will be responsible for roughly $1.5 million of Givens’ remaining salary in his final year of arbitration before he reaches free agency this offseason.

Givens is a player more valued by the industry than fans; consistent relievers, even if they are just consistently solid, are a rare commodity. And Givens is just that, with the weird 2020 season as his only campaign with a negative WAR, and just -0.1 at that. He’s not a high-leverage guy, but he is at least dependable.

His 2.73 ERA this year isn’t supported by most metrics that consistently put him in the 4-plus range, but Givens has a consistent track record of missing bats with both his 92–96-mph fastball and plus changeup, both of which come from a funky, extra-low arm angle. His changeup has always been his best pitch, and over the last three years, he’s gone from using it around 10% of the time to nearly 20% in 2020 to a whopping 40% this season. It makes sense based on how well the pitch performs; you could easily make an argument that Givens should go with a Trevor Hoffman-esque approach of leaning primarily on his fastball/changeup combination and greatly reduce his slider usage, as his fringy breaker gets consistently hit hard.

Givens has never been a precise pitcher, which you can see in his double-digit walk rate, and there should be some concerns about how his fly ball tendencies will play in Cincinnati. But for a bullpen that has five pitchers with an ERA north of five in 20 or more appearances this season, he represents a clear upgrade. Expect Givens to slot into seventh- and/or eighth-inning duties behind a struggling Amir Garrett and a resurgent Heath Hembree.

No team can expect to get big name prospects for a rental middle reliever, so the Rockies settled for a pair of middling arms. Williams at least has a fun story now, as he returns to Colorado after a seven-month sojourn in Cincinnati following the November 2020 deal between the Reds and Rockies that sent him there. A fourth-round pick last year out of a Denver area high school, Williams heads back to his hometown team after scuffling as a 19-year-old in full-season ball, with a 5.55 ERA, 33 walks and 34 strikeouts over 47 innings. He’s obviously young for the level, but he hasn’t shown much in the way of stuff or command this year. He parks his fastball at 89–91 mph, occasionally touching 93, and both his low-70s curve and upper-70s slider lack oomph, as does his changeup. A combination of having no weapon in the strike zone and a struggle to locate has led to his struggles, but he was seen as a projection pick when drafted, and he just hasn’t projected yet.

Ranking No. 32 on our Reds preseason prospect list, Davis is a better talent than Williams, but not an especially good prospect. He was a potential seven-figure bonus type heading into the 2018 draft, but early-season Tommy John surgery plummeted his stock, and he ultimately fell to the 11th round, where he signed for a bonus of $127,500. Between rehabbing from elbow surgery and the lost pandemic season, he’s now a 24-year-old in High-A, so he’s a bit behind the development curve.

Davis has been good at limiting contact, allowing just 44 hits over 65 innings and striking out 77, but he’s also walked 35. His fastball is unremarkable at 92–94 mph, but he consistently ends at-bats with a pair of quality breaking balls that feature sharp action, though scouts wonder how they will play as he moves up and faces more mature hitters that refuse to chase them. By also adding an average changeup, Davis has a starter package, but the dream ceiling is a low likelihood back-end starter.

Kevin Goldstein is a National Writer at FanGraphs.

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Radhames Liz
2 years ago

Where do you get that the change has always been his best pitch? His Pitch Values say it’s consistently been his worst until this year.