The NL Central is far from the strongest division in baseball, but for a team in contention for a World Series ring it’s a good place to look for deadline acquisitions. Yesterday, Sam covered the Chicago Cubs as a possible trade partner, and today we’ll look at the Cincinnati Reds — a team firmly entrenched in a long-term rebuild — and what they could provide the Yankees with.
It wasn’t too long ago when the Reds were in the middle of possibly opening a window of contention. A playoff team, albeit in the expanded system of 2020, it had an intriguing nucleus of starters with Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer, and Luis Castillo, paired with a lineup anchored by the likes of Jesse Winker, Nick Castellanos, and Joey Votto.
However, management pivoted since that 2020 season, and only Castillo and Votto remain from that group, with the rest having left either via trade or free agency.
A couple of years later, the Reds are now 26-50, which if you can believe it or not, represents an improvement from their first month, and are one of a few teams that can be indisputably labeled as sellers with more than a half a season of baseball left. Even with one of the worst records in baseball, the Reds do possess a few interesting trade chips. Let’s look at some of those names that could be wearing pinstripes by August.
The biggest name in the Reds lineup is without a doubt Joey Votto, but any trade involving the former MVP is virtually impossible with so many hurdles in place, and that’s without looking at what has been a rather unimpressive season with a .740 OPS. Between Votto’s no-trade clause, the $25 million he’s owed for the 2023 season, and the fact the Yankees are basically set at 1B/DH, there simply is no reason to even ponder a deal.
Looking elsewhere, the Reds have a couple of interesting right-handed bats that could be of service to the Yankees. Brandon Drury and Tommy Pham are both playing on expiring contracts, and with the former having a career year, a deal would be very intriguing.
The 29-year-old Drury has been the Reds' most productive hitter in 2022. The journeyman infielder (and brief 2018 Yankee) currently boasts a .864 OPS, and among third basemen in the National League, only Manny Machado has a higher slugging percentage than Drury’s .534 mark.
Because Drury is on an expiring deal, and doesn’t have the best track record, a package for his services wouldn’t necessarily hurt the Yankees’ farm system all that much, and his versatility is a huge bonus. Drury has over 100 career games at second base, third base, and in a corner outfield role. He could fill in for Donaldson at third and play the outfield in a pinch, but his best role for the Yankees would probably be at second base, which would enable Aaron Boone to occasionally insert Gleyber Torres at shortstop more often.
Tommy Pham is also on an expiring deal and can be a rather inexpensive addition to this ball club. The Yankees on paper have a crowded outfield, but with Aaron Hicks and Joey Gallo’s continued struggles, Pham could easily overtake either one, especially Gallo, for an everyday role.
The Reds outfielder has bounced back nicely after a really bad start to the year, and actually has an OPS+ above league average (105), something neither Gallo nor Hicks can say they do. At worst, Pham is another option for the outfield with experience hitting at the top of the order as a table-setter.
Every team can always add to a ‘pen, but the Reds may not be the best team to look for help in that department. Lucas Sims, their best reliever coming into the year, is out for the season, and Art Warren is having a very disappointing 2022 campaign. Alexis Diaz and Connor Overton have performed really well, but are both currently hurt, which only leaves Jeff Hoffman as a viable trade candidate. The former top prospect transitioned to a reliever role last year and has a 3.34 ERA in 35 innings pitched, and he’s controllable via arbitration until 2025.
As far as starting pitchers go, Tyler Mahle could be a quality short-term addition and is coming off back-to-back strong campaigns, but his 2022 performance has been shaky. His 3.38 FIP shows promise, though it’s unlikely that the Yankees pursue him.
The big name to watch here is Luis Castillo. The Reds ace has been a part of the rumor mill for quite a while now, and in a market short in supply, he figures to be one of the few available aces in this year’s deadline. With all five members of the rotation performing this well, the Yankees aren’t necessarily pressing for a starter, actually far from that, but Castillo would have to be considered if the price is right — in talent you could place him as the Yankees’ third-best starter in a hypothetical scenario (behind Gerrit Cole and Luis Severino).
Castillo had a late start to the year and only has 10 starts under his belt, in those 57 innings he bolsters a 3.32 ERA with a .617 opponent OPS. The Reds’ starter is controllable through next year and would certainly command a hefty price tag.
It is hard to envision the Yankees being the highest bidder in the Castillo sweepstakes, especially with so many teams pressing for a high-caliber arm, but the point to be made perhaps is that the Yankees’ current rotation situation shouldn’t determine an approach that’s too conservative. If they don’t get Castillo because the Reds’ asking price is too high, then that should be an acceptable reason, not because Taillon is performing extremely well as a fifth starter.