What the Yasiel Puig trade means for Reds and Dodgers.
It looks like the National League Central just got a whole lot more interesting.
In a blockbuster trade, the Los Angeles Dodgers have sent LHP Alex Wood, UTIL/C Kyle Farmer, OFs Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, plus $7M to the Cincinnati Reds for RHPs Homer Bailey and Josiah Gray and SS/2B Jeter Downs.
There is so much to unpack with this trade, along with some speculation and rumors as to what it means for both teams in the 2019 season.
Starting from the Dodgers perspective, their main return is going to be Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs, two top-tier prospects at their respective position.
Gray is Cincinnati’s No. 20 rated prospect and a great fit for the Dodgers going forward. The 21-year-old righty out of Le Moyne, NY features a nice array of weapons, including a plus slider and an upper-90’s fastball. He posted a 10.15 SO/9 with Greenville in rookie-league ball last season. He figures to continue his development in the Dodgers farm system and be MLB ready in a couple of years.
Downs is Cincy’s No. 7 prospect and was the main target for LA in the deal. The 20-year-old shortstop out of St. Andres, Columbia was, in fact, named after one of the best at his position. Jeter is an above-average defensive shortstop with a powerful arm and great offensive capability. He hit .257 and had an OBP of .351 in 120 games with Low-A Dayton last season. A speedster who can reach base and rarely strikes out, Downs should be major-league ready by the 2022 season.
Bailey is also included in the package to LA, but will more than likely never dawn a Dodgers uniform. The Reds pitcher posted a 1-14 record with a 6.09 ERA last season and is more of a salary dump than anything.
On the Reds side of things, they are enjoying an extreme boost to their current lineup and starting rotation. Puig, who openly voiced concerns over everyday playing time, will fit like a glove in Cincinnati’s outfield. The Cuban had a slash line of .267/.327/.494 in 125 games last year with LA while slugging 23 home runs and scoring 60 times.
Kemp also seems to benefit the Cincinnati outfield in a big way. In an all-star campaign, Kemp slashed .290/.338/.481, and drove in 85 runs in 2018. His first-half performance was arguably what kept the Dodgers afloat until the all-star break, and what ultimately led his team to their second straight NL championship.
Wood adds a plus arm into a somewhat-vacant Reds starting rotation. Wood posted a 3.68 ERA and a 8.0 SO/9 while going 9-7 in 33 games with LA last season.
“We think he’s a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy who’s going to fit in really well”, said Dick Williams, Reds’ president of baseball operations (h/t Washington Post).
Farmer seems to fit as a backup catcher behind Tucker Barnhart, while also serving a utility role in the infield. Farmer, at age 28, has only had 88 big league at-bats, making his defensive role the most valuable for the Reds.
The main motivation for Los Angeles in this deal seems to be salary relief, as they will dump somewhere between $60-68 million in cap space, freeing up some spots in the outfield and in the rotation in the process. This would open the door for a big-name signing or another blockbuster trade, such as signing Bryce Harper or trading for Corey Kluber as many have speculated. This could now theoretically be done while staying under the luxury-tax threshold if LA plays it’s cards right.
For Cincinnati, it’s a huge move that could propel them into the wild-card conversation in the NL. Offensive weapons like Scott Schebler, Joey Votto, and Scooter Gennett in addition to Puig/Kemp could pay dividends for a team that has been stuck at the bottom of the central division for a good amount of time. Throw in an arm like Alex Wood and this team could be a sneaky underdog for the NL Central crown in 2019.
Both teams seemingly got what they wanted in this deal, but it seems as though this is only the beginning for both of these hopeful clubs. Keep an eye on what moves they make in the coming weeks.