Reds Awaken with Triple Pre-Christmas Trades

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On Thursday, the Reds broke the silence over their quiet off-season with three notable moves. The club has signed both former Rookie of the Year Wil Myers and veteran backstop Curt Casali to mutually option one-year deals. The first is guaranteed for $7.5 million; the latter will take home at least $3.25 million. To make room for Casali is Reds DFA Mike Moustakas, who is entering the final season of a four-year, $64 million contract he signed before 2020.

After Cincinnati’s previous rebuild blew it up when it only resulted in one Wild Card contender, Cincinnati’s current rebuilding era is only entering its second season; At best, the team has an outside shot in the playoffs. However, these moves don’t sound to me like pure list fillers or actions for the month of July. Instead, they really make sense as reinforcements to a young team, helping the development of potentially promising ones in tangible ways.

Let’s start with the Casali deal. Since his call in 2014, the right-handed player’s 1,358 plate views make him one of 63 catchers to collect at least 1,000 in this timeframe, and his career wRC+ of 92 is just above the group’s 91 average. Most of that damage, however, was against lefties, where he dealt 108 wRC+ in 452 matches. There have been 62 catchers with at least 300 hits against lefties since 2014; Casali’s 108 comfortably outperforms that group’s average wRC+ of 98.

But Reds incumbent catcher Tyler Stephenson is also a right winger and still has the lion’s share behind the plate. In fact, his appearance in 2020 is part of what makes Casali expendable, and his first tenure with the Reds expires after that season. But last season, Stephenson suffered three serious injuries: concussion and fractures to his thumb and collarbone.

All of Stephenson’s wounds were peculiar in nature; The fractures came in foul ends and the concussion came in a home plate collision. He’s still 26 and has the potential to come out the other side with no issues. But adding Casali to the mix allows the Reds to take some of the pressure off Stephenson, avoiding the blows the catchers take with extra DH (where his stick still plays) or rest days. And as long as the club continues to evolve and prepare for the next run, they can implement that plan and have the option to return to catching full-time when the time comes.

On Stephenson’s rest days, the Reds won’t be sacrificing much offensively and may actually be improving defensively: Casali has been a better framer (according to Statcast) and field seeker throughout his career (ERA runs saved by catcher, a component of DRS) it happened. career. That way, having him around can help boost the confidence and development of the Reds’ young starting players like Nick Lodolo, Hunter Greene, and Graham Ashcraft, not to mention potential back-end-spacer Alexis Díaz. The Reds also signed Luke Maile as a third series actor; While he’s the worst hitter of the three kickbacks, he’s the best in terms of stolen base runs with his arm recovered, he’s a good field caller, and he had the best framing stats last season. It can be especially helpful if the Reds choose to lean into the pitch improvement angle.

Additionally, as Joey Votto is on his way to spring training readiness after surgery for a rotator cuff tear this summer, the Reds would have a hard time counting on his performance and health as he turns 39. Stephenson also has initial experience; A sensible way to keep both him and Votto healthy would be to shift Stephenson to first place against the lefties, either by backing up Votto or shifting him to DH. Casali can then land on the catcher and hit lefties, and right-handed Stephenson doesn’t lose replays against them either. In his career, left-handed Votto hit 22 points worse against left-handers on the wRC+ scale; If he puts another WRC+ rating below 100 overall next year, his streak against leftists could get ugly. Maybe the Reds will try some of their other young hitters in DH or in the first stage while Stephenson occupies one of those two spots when Votto sits down against the lefties.

Speaking of young Reds scorers, Spencer Steer’s end-of-season picks for the third stage have apparently inspired enough confidence in the club’s front office to have him declared the first player of 2023 weeks ago. Right-handed, bought in the Tyler Mahle deadline deal, Steer put 127 wRC+ in 492 Double-A and Triple-A plate matches this year, but only scored .211/.306/.326 in his 108 major league trips to plate. . But this is a small example, and the .211/.289/.356 line in the last two years replaces the no-better Moustakas. Moose dealt with injuries that hindered his performance in 2021 and 22, and his 113 wRC+ in 2015-20 gave hints of his rebounding potential, but the Reds decided to kick him out of their roster rather than bet on one.

While Moustakas’ primary position is third tier, he could back Steer there and second-place Jonathan India, his next most frequent position. He also has experience at first, so he could also factor in the Reds mix on days when Stephenson and Votto were unavailable. And that’s to say nothing about its potential to contribute to DH. In other words, the Reds could have kept him in a good role to evaluate his rebounding ability; If he had performed well, they could have tried to turn him in on the deadline rather than cut him off for something that would probably be nothing. But they previously measured interest in a Moustakas trade in vain; perhaps they had exhausted all means and were ready to hand the reins to their junior players.

Except they signed Myers in the same breath as Moustakas in the DFA. He’s also considering taking into account the Reds’ first base mix; He played there in more than 3,000 strokes during his career. Heck, even Steer played it in the first place. If they really want another option out there, why not hire Moustakas? Myers has been playing more away from home lately and will likely spend most of his time here in Cincinnati, where there are currently no really exciting major league ready options. In his ZiPS predictions for the Reds, Dan Szymborski compared their pre-Myers outfields to a “B-team spring training roster”. With Myers on the right, a combination of Nick Senzel, Jake Fraley, TJ Friedl and Stuart Fairchild would likely finish things off center and left.

Each of these four has something interesting about them. Şenzel is an old no. 2 picks and all three F’s have posted above-average wRC+ ratings this season. Fairchild is only 26 years old and the rest is 27; Another argument against signing Myers is that if the Reds didn’t plan to compete, they could reasonably have provided one of these to test their advantage at length, rather than a finished product 32-year-old player. What’s more, in a contract clause I’ve never seen before, Myers will be eligible for a $500,000 bonus if traded; It seems to me that the Reds have a plan for him beyond using him as deadline bait.

Maybe Myers is part of why the Reds think they have an outside shot in October if all goes well. After all, he’s a prolific player that can be bought at an affordable price. A lot of people fired him after a disastrous 76 wRC+ second season following a great rookie year, but in the eight years since then he has quietly put out 111 wRC+ with an above-average ISO of .198 (the league average has never exceeded 0.000). not passed). 183), despite playing the entire time in the vast Petco Park. It also has a relatively even platoon distribution, making 119 wRC+ against lefties and 106 against righties, so it can be drafted every day.

The Reds will have to find their outfield soon in the future, but Myers offers a good interim option in the meantime. The blue chip allows them to be more competitive in the position without taking any playing time from their potential. The club has a plethora of promising home players led by 60 FV Elly De La Cruz and Noelvi Marte, but most are relatively far from the majors; De La Cruz and Marte have a forecast for 2024. Top athletes in a minor league system often start on the field before moving on to where they need to be in the majors; By trade, infielders like Mookie Betts and Joey Gallo have become Golden Gloves outfielders. So it’s entirely possible that the Reds will eventually move some of their young home players to the outside turf. any possibility they see fit.

All three of the Reds’ moves were made with their restructuring in mind, but none of them made me groan the way standard payroll breakdowns and veteran placeholder signings usually do. The Reds have maintained the touchstone catcher’s health, improved their catch defense to build the confidence of the young shooting team, paved the way to game time for a promising third baseman, and solidified their outcourts without hindering any of their key prospects. They made not only their future, but also their present hopeful.

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