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It’s time to face reality in Cincinnati and admit that it’s really just bolognese sauce and shredded cheese. In unrelated news, it’s also time to trade Johnny Cueto. The Reds’ ace is in the last year of his contract and the team probably won’t re-sign him. At this point, it’s just a matter of which hat Cueto should buy at Lids in the mall before he takes a cab to Covington Airport for the very last time. Here at Baseball Prospectus, we’d like to help him in the process. We’ve challenged our writers to take over a team (randomly assigned) and put together a trade offer for Cueto to see who could land him. Their proposals are below, mostly in the order that they arrived.

Playing the part of Reds GM Walt Jocketty is Mr. #GoryMath himself, Russell A. Carleton.

From the Reds’ perspective, they do have a few assets that might be tempting to other teams in the race. Cueto is the obvious chip to be thrown into the pot because of his contract status (and that he’s a really good pitcher), and because the Phillies are still trying to decide whether they want to trade Cole Hamels. (Hint: yes.)

But there’s more to it. Depending how big of a tear-down the Reds want to do, they might also consider trading second baseman/right fielder Brandon Phillips/Jay Bruce (now an average player signed through 2017 for an entirely average free agent salary), senior-discount-eligible left fielder Marlon Byrd, and a starting pitcher or two. If the Reds want to get really adventurous, they could trade fire-balling closer Aroldis Chapman even though he is under team control through 2017. (Without Cueto, can the Reds really make a case that they have a real chance next year, and if not, why pay a closer to finish 30 of the 75 wins you’ll notch?) They could trade Todd Frazier, a legitimate cost-controlled All-Star now, but who will be on the wrong side of 30 next year. They could even trade (gasp!) Joey Votto to dump his contract.

For a team that has a farm system long on high floor, low-ceiling prospects, but short on sizzle, that could bring back some interesting pieces for the next great (or at least reasonably good) Reds team. But when will that team show up? In 2016? 2019?

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the offers as they roll in.

Minnesota Twins
To: Walt Jocketty
From: Terry Ryan (Brandon Decker)

Your team isn’t getting any younger, and outside of Robert Stephenson and Jesse Winker, your farm system is pretty weak. Well, you’re now talking with the perfect partner. Everyone knows we have the best farm system in baseball. Our team is in the hunt to make the playoffs and we’re willing to give up valuable pieces to pursue it.

We’re offering Nick Gordon, Kohl Stewart, Nick Burdi, and Oswaldo Arcia for Cueto and Byrd.

You’re looking to deal Cueto and Byrd is likely in his last season. Gordon can man second base once Phillips’ contract expires, or better yet, take over for Zack Cozart once this fluke season is over. Stewart has no. 2 starter potential. Burdi is a flame-throwing closer who lets you deal Chapman for more goodies. (You’re welcome.) Arcia gives you a majors-ready power bat.

To: Terry Ryan
From: Walt Jocketty

The problem with my minor-league system, Terry, isn’t that it’s weak. It’s that it’s replete with guys who profile as good, respectable major leaguers. Boring? Sure. But functional. Still, you are offering some interesting pieces. Arcia is a corner guy with some pop (or as non-Midwesterners say, soda) who can’t play decent defense. In a corner. And we don’t have that designated thing over here. Still, I did go out and actively shop for Marlon Byrd this off-season.

Stewart could be a replacement for Cueto in a couple of years, so that’s nice. Gordon could be Brandon Phillips. Burdi throws hard, but it seems that there are a zillion relievers around who throw really fast. It seems like in a best case scenario, in two years I’d have the same team that I do now, but with Frazier and Votto two years older. There’s value in here, but I wonder if I could get something better.

Toronto Blue Jays
Hi Walt, hope you and Sue are both well. Wanted to see if we could get something done for Cueto, who we really like. I’d be willing to put together a package of Marcus Stroman, Anthony Alford, and A.J. Jimenez, assuming you can take on $2.5 mm of the $5 mm left on Cueto’s contract for the rest of this year.

We like Stroman a lot, but feel we still have a shot at the division this year and know Cueto can help put us over the top. Given that Stroman won’t be contributing this year, we see this as a total positive addition to the team for 2015. Alford is another guy we really like, but we’re comfortable with our outfield for the next few years and I think he’s the sort of guy who’d fit really well into your lineup. Jimenez, similarly, can step in at catcher this season, though he’ll probably need a bit more seasoning at Louisville.

–AA (Rian Watt)

***

Hi Alex. Sue is doing great. We’re planning a trip to Sonoma soon for a little R&R and some indie league baseball. If you are in the neighborhood, stop on by!

This is a ballsy trade package on a number of levels. Obviously, Stroman is injured, but my oh my was it pretty when he pitched last year. Jimenez, though a catcher, has had Tommy John surgery and it’s not like the bat is a thing of beauty in Triple-A, so maybe he’s a backup to the backup. Alford is unpolished because of his college football past and missed some developmental time, but no one doubts the athleticism. So, if I believe in Stroman’s recovery from ACL surgery, I may have a very quick Cueto replacement right there. Jimenez isn’t much, but Alford is a fun lottery ticket. This one would be good if I decide to trade Cueto, but promise to the fans that we’re still in it for 2016.

Tempting…

–WJ

Baltimore Orioles
Good day, Walt!

I want to make a push this year while the AL East is ripe for the picking and Cueto and Phillips are key pieces to help us out. We’ve got several young stud pitchers you might like. Because I’m so motivated to get this deal done, I’m going to offer you your choice of Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, or Hunter Harvey. These three guys are all cost-controlled young arms with tremendous potential.

Cheers,
Dan (Ben Murphy)

***

Good morrow, Dan!

I guess this is the Carlos Beltran–for–Zack Wheeler deal, except that it also involves Phillips. Quality over quantity. Hard to really go wrong on picking which arm I’d prefer. Put them in a bag and pull one out at random. Bundy has had TJ, while Gausman has not, but Gausman hasn’t been amazing in his initial tries at MLB. Harvey is a little further off than the other two, but it’s clear the stuff is there. So, if I take this deal, I have a lovely piece to pair with Robert Stephenson in 2017, but I’ll probably also have to concede that I need to trade Chapman and Bruce if I’m trading away Phillips in the same deal. And as much as I rag on Phillips, he is still the kind of guy who can put up a two-win season, and it’s not like those are easy to find.

Must be nice having all those arms to trade!

All the best,
Walt

Houston Astros
Hey Walt,

Long time, no see! I’m at the part of my #process where I need to acquire a good pitcher, so I’m doing some due diligence on Cueto. As you know, we still have a stacked farm system. But as you might not know, I’m willing to deal, even for a short-term fix.

You’ve got some pretty good players, so I’m guessing you don’t want a ton of low-minors guys. You want some players who can help you compete next year, and I’ve got what you need. Here’s what I’m thinking:

Vincent Velasquez: can replace Cueto this year;

Domingo Santana: a bit of a hacker (too soon?) but can be a no. 4 outfielder with some major power at the least;

Tony Kemp: we’ve got Altuve, so Kemp is blocked, but Phillips is like 60 years old (please don’t show him this) and Kemp can be an option for you soon.

Let me know what you’re thinking. We can kick the tires on some other names as well.

Best,
Jeff (Ben Carsley)

P.S. Don’t even think about asking for Carlos Correa or George Springer. I’m not Billy. LOL.

Confidentiality Notice:

This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you have received this email in error please notify the system manager. If you are not the named addressee you should not forward this to Deadspin.

***

Hey Jeff,

Yeah, definitely long time no see. Ever since you left St. Louis and then you guys switched leagues, no more excuses to get together.

Anyway, while I must admit I was sad not to see the name Correa in your offer, because it would totally make sense for you to send your no. 1 overall pick and future shortstop for a three-month rental. But with that said, can I have Correa?

Velasquez can replace Cueto in the sense that someone has to pitch in that spot, but he’s going to have to cut the walks if he wants to actually be a replacement. (Which isn’t to say that success in the majors at 23, with very little time in the high minors, isn’t impressive.) Santana has a big bat that he seemingly uses to hit home runs and field balls. There’s value in that and he’s probably a major leaguer, but you have to look at the whole player. Kemp is a diet Altuve. Nice piece to have around, but I’ve already got a lot of complementary pieces in the farm system.

This is a very realistic offer. Cueto is probably worth a couple of wins over the course of the next 2.5 months if all goes well and probably bumps up your odds of a World Series this year by a bit, but like any trade, only a bit. I guess that’s the dirty secret of these sorts of deals. Really, you’re talking about maybe a 1 percent bump in championship odds. But someone has to win that championship, and I #commend you for trying.

P.S. Why are we using pound signs in front of random words? I #want to know.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Walt,

Good to see you in Pittsburgh last month. I’m glad you made the road trip so we could talk some business in person. Here’s my offer: Cueto and Eugenio Suarez for Nick Kingham, Harold Ramirez, and Elias Diaz.

I think this helps you pair up some of your top guys with some complementary players. Kingham can slot in with Stephenson as the premier arms in your stable, and he’ll be ready very soon.

Ramirez makes a well-rounded addition to an outfield that should include Winker soon. His athleticism and build help him produce results on the field and at the plate. He still needs some refinement around his approach, but his bat speed will play up with more experience and coaching. I think there’s some Carlos Lee in his profile, and that would make a damn good regular to hold down a corner outfield spot.

Even though Diaz doesn’t have the upside of the other two guys, he can probably slot in as your backup catcher next season and for years to come. He’s still got some starter potential, but his defensive profile gives him a high floor.

I know you’re not interested in a lengthy rebuild, and I think all three of these guys will help you sooner rather than later. I’d love to beat Mozeliak and get a shot at a World Series this year. It’s been a long time in their shadow for everyone in this division.

–Neal (Jeff Long)

***

Neal,

Yeah, I love me a good Primanti Bros. sandwich. It was good to see you.

Let’s back up here. Suarez? You want Suarez? A 23-year-old who can play short and has delivered above-replacement value in his brief time in the bigs? Were you thinking that would slip past me? Look, if I’m trading Cueto, it means that I need to be thinking at least a little bit about a rebuild. Suarez may not be the next Barry Larkin, but that’s the sort of guy I’m going to want to hold onto, unless I’m doing some upgrading. Kingham looks like a very low-risk, solid workhorse, Ramirez is mostly projection, and “some Carlos Lee” isn’t very comforting to me. Why does everyone want to trade me their second-best pitching prospect, a corner outfielder, and a backup catcher? Nothing against those guys, but I can do better for Cueto alone.

Plus, it would be a little taboo to trade in the division with you, even though Cueto would be gone from both of our rosters at the end of the year. But it would still be weird.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Dear Walt,

You need young talent, we need starters’ innings. There’s no guarantee that Brandon Beachy can actually pitch, and between you and me, I’m not sure what exactly a Michael P. Bolsinger is, and but I’ve got him starting every five days. So: We’d do Jose De Leon, Chris Anderson, Alex Verdugo, and Austin Barnes for Cueto and Mike Leake. You’ll love these guys. De Leon is a premium arm, and relatively close. Anderson’s 22, in Double-A for the first time, slots in above much of what you currently have, and he was a first round pick! Verdugo’s 19 and hitting .285 in full-season ball, spending most of his time in center field, and a second-rounder. Austin Barnes plays both second and catcher! He’s hitting .302! We’ve broken him into the major leagues already!

Four prospects for two rentals? Heck, I’m probably overpaying.

–Farhan (Kate Morrison)

[Hey Walt – Andrew here. I agree with everything Farhan said. Just wanted to let you know that I read all his emails before they go out.]

***

Dear Farhandrew,

Yes, I’m probably going to trade Leake. He’s 180 innings’ worth of league-average stuff, but for a team that needs a no. 4 guy, it wouldn’t be a bad investment. And maybe my best bet is to package Cueto and Leake, like the Cubs did with Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel last year. Of course, doing that netted them Addison Russell. I wonder if anyone out there would be willing to part with a top-10 prospect like that this year for a really good and a really average starter.

Outside of Barnes, who’s probably a major-leaguer but may not be a starter, this group is relatively far away. Verdugo is, as you point out, very very young. The other two players are both in Double-A, but Anderson’s results haven’t been good and De Leon’s only got about 50 innings there because he started the year in the Cal League. They’re not tiny babies, but this is more of a 2019 trade than a 2016 one.

If I wanted to aim in that direction, I could probably get a couple of guys in the 2019 range for Cueto alone and negotiate something else for Leake (and additional pieces for Phillips, Chapman, etc.). I could build a theoretical super-team for 2019–22, if I’m allowed to stick around that long through the inevitable 270 losses in three years. Leake wouldn’t fetch as much as Cueto, but I’m guessing a fellow GM would be more willing to part with a higher-ceiling guy if he was several years away. I’m assuming all the risk, after all. So the only reason to package those two is if I could get something really special from both of them that I couldn’t get elsewhere. Like the Cubs did with Russell. (Not to harp.)

So, looking at your system, unless Corey Seager is involved, I think I can get a deal better suited to my needs elsewhere.

–Walt

New York Mets
Hi Walt,

Probably didn’t expect to hear from me, right? We have more than enough pitching. But we’ve finally got a real chance at a playoff spot and there just aren’t a ton of impact hitters being shopped. I hear you’ve made Jay Bruce available, but we’re just not looking to take on that much salary at this time. And Billy seems to think that they’re still going to make the playoffs and won’t return my calls on Ben Zobrist.

Anyway, here’s our offer: Brandon Nimmo, Jhoan Urena, and Gavin Cecchini for Cueto.

You’re getting a bona fide top-100 prospect that you’ll be able to pair with Winker for a long time in the corners. Urena’s been progressing well on his rehab assignment and actually just went yard on Monday in the GCL. We’re not too concerned about the wrist being a long-term issue. He’s got a ways to go in the developmental process but there’s possible impact potential. Finally, we’ve been impressed with the steps Cecchini has taken at Double-A this year and he’ll bolster your middle infield depth alongside Suarez with Cozart and Phillips set to hit free agency in a couple of years.

Best,
Sandy (Chris Mosch)

***

Hey Sandy,

You guys apparently need someone to start Game Six? Well … okay.

I can never keep my Cecchini’s straight. I appreciate that you’re not trying to oversell Nimmo as a center fielder and Urena is the proverbial lottery ticket, even without the wrist injury. Cecchini is a shortstop, but did you know that he’s already made 21 errors this year at Double-A and that he made 27 last year? What is going on with him?

I don’t know that I can go back to my fans and say, “I got a boringly average corner guy, a really promising guy (no really), and a guy who can’t seem complete a throw to first.”

Best,
Walt

Los Angeles Angels
Walt,

I’d like to open a line of discussion about acquiring Cueto. My proposal is Tyler Skaggs, Alex Yarbrough, and Sean Newcomb for Cueto. My intention here is to offer you a major-league-caliber starter to replace Cueto as soon as next season—Skaggs—as well as a minor-league arm that can offer future production resembling what you received from Cueto—Newcomb. Yarbrough would add depth to your middle infield and could potentially replace Brandon Phillips after his contract expires in 2017.

Let me know your thoughts on this.

Thanks,

Bill Stoneman (Brendan Gawlowski)

***

Bill,

First off, congrats on getting that job. Again. I guess.

This deal is intriguing, but I’m trying to figure out if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Skaggs has already been passed to the Diamondbacks and then back to you guys. He had Tommy John surgery last year. His middle name is Wayne. But there’s still that “he’s 24, so he could still be a really good pitcher yet” thing. And he’s already MLB-proven. He gets groundballs. And it’s not like I can go watch his next start and see for myself. I’d have to take him sight unseen. Oh, how tempting. At least I know I’m getting an actual major leaguer.

Newcomb seems like a more sensible no. 3. As the headliner in a package, that wouldn’t make me smile, but as a secondary piece, that has some value. Yarborough seems like a tweener even as a utility guy. It’s a little much to say he could replace Phillips, but I’ll leave that aside.

Let’s keep in touch on this. At the very worst, I probably end up with a decent actual MLB pitcher with at least some #dream left in him and a perfectly good pitching prospect to go with him.

You’re welcome,

Walt Jocketty

Chicago Cubs
Hi Walt,

Glad you’re open and listening on Cueto at this stage. Although I know the decision to sell is hard, it’s one we had to consciously make very early in the process for a few years in a row, and we hope you won’t have to do it as often. Consistent, deep competition in the Central is good for all of us, from a long-term, infrastructural standpoint.

Obviously, when it comes to a trade like this, we’re both in a difficult position. I know Bob Castellini is sensitive to the idea of selling and trading Cueto, and I can tell you that our ownership group is actively wary of handing over something that might allow you guys to beat us in future division races. You can’t afford to give us a Jay Bruce, or even an Aroldis Chapman, and we can’t afford to give you a Kyle Schwarber. Too much concentrated future value changing hands within a division like that just makes both of our bosses too uneasy.

I have an offer for you, though, based on our success a couple years ago in maximizing our talent return for short-term pitching assets at the deadline. We were crestfallen when we weren’t able to trade Ryan Dempster for Randall Delgado, but we ended up landing both Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks for him, and truthfully, we feel like we dodged a bullet. Early in a rebuilding process, it can be so easy to lock in on that one sexy name; I want to encourage you not to do so, because it played majorly to our advantage once we stopped doing so. We got Pedro Strop, Jake Arrieta and IFA slots for Scott Feldman in ’13, and of course that bonanza of mid-level contributors for Matt Garza a few weeks after that.

Getting that kind of booster shot of depth really accelerated our rebuild. We’re contenders a year earlier than we expected to be, largely because so many of the arms we grabbed have added actual depth and value. So I want to give you guys the same opportunity, to use your short-term asset to amass long-term depth. We can offer Arismendy Alcantara, Duane Underwood, Jacob Turner, and Carl Edwards Jr. and we can take Cueto at full freight, with our owner’s pre-approval.

Looking forward to a continued dialogue, and ready to deal right now,

J. Hoyer (Matthew Trueblood)

***

Hi Jed,

First off, it’s good to talk to you again.

Second off, I was hoping that when you listed Alcantara first, you were just going alphabetically. He’s probably not as bad as he’s looked in his brief time in the bigs, but maybe you can do a little better. I could see you guys as a trade partner if I was looking for position player talent that was three to four years away (Gleyber Torres?) or perhaps if I wanted to make a splash in the other direction (and depending how you feel) maybe now would be a good time to unload Starlin Castro to free up some of that middle infield logjam?

I appreciate the discussion of needing to look for depth pieces, but I have a lot of depth pieces and in making this trade, I’m giving up “our ace” and any pretense that 2015 will be “our year.” If I’m not careful, I’ll send the message that I’m torpedoing 2016 too.

Too bad. Cueto would have fit in perfectly with Jon Lester and Arrieta in a playoff series. Just saying. You have my number.

W. Jocketty

San Francisco Giants
Walt,

Hope all is well with you and the family.

With some question marks lingering in our starting rotation, we’re interested in discussing Cueto, although a more realistic target for us might be Leake. Nonetheless, a pitcher of Cueto’s caliber would fit right in with our goal of keeping the pennant in San Francisco, so we’d be remiss not to at least compile a competitive offer.

We are prepared to make Christian Arroyo, Steven Okert, and Keury Mella future Reds, and to send two international signing slots to supplement your budget.

Arroyo gives you a refined infield prospect hitting well at High-A who could eventually fill the shoes of Phillips and make an excellent no. 2 hitter. Okert is a nice left-handed reliever who would fit into your bullpen as soon as this summer, and certainly by next year. Mella is a talented High-A pitcher about whom we’re very optimistic; it takes a major leaguer of Cueto’s ilk for us to consider including such an electric arm in a trade package.

Having already blown past our allotment to sign Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox, we also propose sending to you two of our international signing slots, which would put us deeper into the tax penalty but supplement your ability to spend on the teenagers who’ve slipped through the cracks to this point in the signing period.

Please let us know where we stand. Thanks.

Best,
Bobby Evans (Daniel Rathman)

***

Bobby,

Mom and them are fine.

A reliever and two lottery tickets?

You stand over there.

Hugs,
Walt Jocketty

Kansas City Royals
Hey there Walt,

Dayton Moore here to offer you Kyle Zimmer, Hunter Dozier, Foster Griffin, and Zane Evans for Cueto and Jay Bruce.

Zimmer hasn’t been able stay on the mound, but he is healthy now and reminding everyone of his front-line potential. Griffin is a big-bodied lefty with potential to develop three 55 pitches and your organization seems a little light on southpaws. Dozier … well, there’s no denying he’s struggled at Double-A but there is still untapped ability in that stick and Todd Frazier won’t be a part of the next great Reds team. Evans is coming on strong as he continues to make the transition to full-time catcher; if it doesn’t work out, he can still throw 95.

I hate to give up first rounders from each of the past three years and a catcher that can hit but we have the pitching depth and badly need an ace for October. With Gordon out for a while, Bruce’s bat could slot right in and hedge against the possibility we don’t re-sign Alex next year.

–Dayton (Greg Wellenmeyer)

***

Hey Dayton,

It’s generally not a good sign when you start a paragraph with “hasn’t been able to stay on the mound” because we would need Zimmer to do exactly that. Three of the four guys in this deal come with a lot of risk/reward, either because they’re so young (Griffin), hurt (Zimmer), or learning a new position (Evans). If this was a big ol’ teardown, I could envision this sort of package because I’d probably be getting 10 new guys into the system, and could afford if one of them went bust.

–Walt

St. Louis Cardinals
Hi Walt,

How are things? Everything in St. Louis is pretty much the same.

I know how apprehensive you might be about dealing Cueto in the division, but I think you should, and I’m willing to pay a pretty penny to show him off to the BFIB (patent pending).

We’ll send you Steven Piscotty, Rob Kaminsky, Magneuris Sierra, and Chris Perry for Cueto.

I struggled to include this much for a player we’re going to lose at the end of the year, but gosh dang it we want another ring. Piscotty is ready to hit in the big leagues right now; he has a 60 hit tool and improving power that can certainly hold its own in a corner. Kaminsky has been sensational in the Florida State League, and he’s not doing it with smoke and mirrors: He’s a southpaw with three big-league pitches, and the curveball flashes plus-plus in some starts. Perry will be ready to help your bullpen next year; a reliever with a 60 fastball and 55 curveball is nothing to sneeze at, especially when he’s the fourth-best prospect in the deal.

The toughest name to include here—and the one I think you should be the most excited about—is Sierra. Yes he struggled in the MWL, but he’s a teenager, and he’s a guy who could have four 60 tools when all is said and done. Maybe you call him a lottery ticket, but call it a lottery ticket that already has two cherries scratched off.

We hope you find this proposal to your liking, and we look forward to you saying yes in the near future.

John (Chris Crawford)

***

Hey John,

Things are beautiful in the Queen City. We’ve got the All-Star Game. Okay, that’s about it.

Not messing around, eh? Piscotty. Check. Kaminsky and Sierra are both babies with some promise. I wouldn’t normally consider a deal with guys who are that far off, but the fact that Piscotty is headlining the deal makes it a little easier to start making those calculations.

This is very good deal. I’m surprised you’d be willing to give up this much, but I get that Cueto would go a long way toward replacing Adam Wainwright in the rotation and tightening the screws on everyone else who wouldn’t be able to get Cueto for themselves.

It would be a hard sell for me to the fans though. I really do believe in Piscotty, and he’d look lovely in left field for us, but he’s not a pitcher. Plus, I’m probably going to trade Leake as well. So next year, my starting rotation would be … Anthony Desclafani on Opening Day? Wasn’t he the lead singer in No Doubt?

But, I’m not saying no right now.

Walt

New York Yankees

Hey Walt,

It’s Brian . How’s it going? Bad, I bet, because you guys suck this year. Lol, just kidding, but not really, because you do.

It would be downright selfish and strategically unwise to keep Cueto around, especially in his walk year, because he’s pretty and a lot of teams want him. Like us! I feel like we’re a good starting pitcher away from pulling away in this junky division, so you should give him here!

Here’s what I’m offering you: Prospects, because we’re old, and positional depth isn’t exactly our . I’m going to give you Jorge Mateo, who’s , and a shortstop, and pretty good. (Albeit a bit raw.) You don’t see Suarez or Cozart as a franchise pillar there, do you? Give Mateo two years. He’ll be

I’ll also give you Ian Clarkin, a projectable lefty who has performed in High-A this year. You know who he reminds me of? Jose Quintana. Yeah, that Jose Quintana. I’ll pause so you can catch your breath.

And you know what, just because I like you, I’ll throw in Jacob Lindgren. A bullpen of him, Michael Lorenzen, and Nick Howard doesn’t sound too bad, eh?

So give us Cueto—and Skip Schumaker, because I said so—and you’ll get all that. Sounds pretty good to me! I mean, I’d take it if I were you. (Which thankfully I’m not, because your team is .) Whaddya say?

(Ian Frazer)

***

Brian,

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Walt

Walt Jocketty Sitting Quietly At His Desk
One thing that gets lost in all of the trade proposals made on fan message boards is that it’s easy to go to a Top 10 list of your favorite team’s prospects, pick a couple names that you don’t recognize and proclaim that one of them was really gut wrenching to include in your package, especially because you don’t actually have to do it. That’s the fun of armchair GMing. You don’t actually have to face the music. There’s more to consummating a deal like this.

Consider the position that Jocketty is in right now. He went out and got Byrd, presumably because he believed that the team that won 90 games in 2013 and 97 games in 2012 was still in there somewhere. But now that it looks like it was the 76-win 2014 team that returned this year, trading Cueto is just what you have to do because 2015 is effectively over. But what of 2016? Is that 90-win team still somewhere?

The Reds do have some talent. Votto and Frazier are real All-Stars. Chapman throws faster than the speed of light. Phillips and Bruce are competent major leaguers. But as mentioned above, the starting rotation, given that Cueto would be gone, is looking very thin. If they could somehow infuse the team with a bit of MLB-ready talent, perhaps a three-win player in this deal and somehow signing a two-win upgrade somewhere else in the offseason, they could pull back much of Cueto’s value. And if you pretend that this really is a 90-win team, it’s tempting to look at a Cueto trade as a reload, rather than a rebuild, trade. That’s really the first question that Jocketty has to ask himself. Is 2016 worth another run?

To frame the question a different way, why not play for 2016? Why always be thinking three years ahead? I think people are very quick to push the “blow it all up” button. If Cueto brings back a piece that is MLB-ready and cost-controlled, try again in 2016, and if that doesn’t go well, Aroldis Chapman will still have trade value. Maybe you damage your chances in 2019 and 2020 a bit because you won’t get as much for Chapman with half a year left on his deal as you would with a year and a half, but by 2020, Jocketty might not be the GM of the Reds any more. (He’ll be pushing 70 by that point after all.) Even if he is, who would really want to go through the three years of painful losing that a complete teardown would require?

Still, there’s a very real case to be made for the thought that chasing 2016 glory probably isn’t a good idea, with the Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs all in the same division. At that point, why not just cash in on Chapman, Bruce, Frazier, and Phillips, get what you can, and start again in 2017 or 2018? And if someone would take Votto’s contract off your hands a la the Dodgers and Adrian Gonzalez a few years ago, all the better. Nothing against Votto. Everything against having one guy making such a huge chunk of your payroll.

Looking over these deals, if Jocketty is interested in 2016, a trade like the Blue Jays’ offer of Stroman would look reasonable. The Angels offer of Skaggs would also look tempting. Both are injured, but both already have an MLB track record and are cost-controlled. There’s no guarantee that they’d become Cueto-level pitchers (or perhaps even a better than 50 percent chance of that happening), but it’s at least hope that Jocketty could sell to the fans, and like it or not, that really matters.

And then there’s that Orioles’ offer of Gausman or Bundy (or Harvey). But they also want Phillips. Can’t say I blame them. But trading Phillips opens another hole in the roster, and at that point, it’s a slippery slope down to unloading Bruce and Chapman. The luxury the Reds have is that they do have a number of players in their system who profile as solid, everyday players. They also have Stephenson. So reaching for one guy—if it’s a really good one—might make sense too. In 2017, he could have the dream of a rotation headed up by Gausman and Stephenson, backed up by Votto, potentially Frazier, and perhaps Billy Hamilton if he ever figures out the on-base thing, plus the rest of the prospects the Reds might pull in from the other trades and their own homegrown stuff. That could be a good team.

But then there’s the Cardinals’ offer. Piscotty is a nice piece, although as mentioned, not a pitcher, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect him to come to the majors next year (or even in 2017) and be a three-win player. Maybe it happens, but maybe Kirk Nieuwenhuis has another three-homer game in him. Really, it would leave the Reds needing to sign pitching help. There are a lot of really good starters floating around this offseason, but it’s hard to envision the Reds taking on another $20 million pitcher. Or they would have to admit that the next couple years will be rough until the cavalry starts to show up. There’s a lot of talent in that deal, and it’s hard to envision it paying off any time soon, but when it does, it aligns nicely with a new Red Wave.

If I were behaving perfectly rationally, I’d take the Cardinals up on that offer. Next year probably is a bridge too far. If this current group is a 75-win team, why would they be better a year older? Piscotty is not an injured pitcher like Stroman or Skaggs, but would have the most immediate impact, plus you get a couple of lottery tickets for down the road. The Reds do have some pitching depth coming. You trade Chapman now while his value is highest, along with Leake (and Byrd, if someone wants him), and go into “active listening mode” on Phillips, Bruce, Frazier, and even Votto.

But the reality is that an offer headlined by Stroman would be hard to turn down, because it means holding on to this incarnation of the team (and hope) for one more year. (Plus it’s not like four cost-controlled years of Stroman is anything to sneeze at.) And we forget that while one course of action might be the best thing to do in a vacuum, baseball isn’t played in a vacuum. There would be no air for the fans to breathe and they wouldn’t come to the stadium. You may not like that it matters, but it matters.

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mrgriffey
7/15
This was a nice exercise. I enjoyed it. Being a Tiger fan, I substituted David Price and Yoenis Cespedes into the article wherever it said Cueto and Bruce. It got me kind of fired up that the Tigers might be able to spin this spiraling season into a minor youth movement of sorts.
backwardgalaxy
7/15
I enjoyed the humor of the Yankees and Astros sections.
WoodyS
7/15
I agree with you. However, we shouldn't encourage BP when it comes to humor because they might consider putting tons of bad jokes in the Prospectus.
doctawojo
7/15
Or amazing ones.
AlexTheGreat
7/15
I really think there is no way Stroman gets moved. No way.
rianwatt
7/15
I'll admit I'm not familiar to an extraordinary degree with AA's (or ownership's) thinking. My thought, though, was that he'll be extra motivated to make this season something more than a total wash, and Stroman won't be contributing this year anyway. He has solid pitching depth in the rotation, and a nice core to build around. Cueto adds 3-4 wins this year, easy, and that has a lot of value to him right now.
AlexTheGreat
7/15
1) Stroman could easily return late this year if the Jays are in the thick of it. ACL tears are bad but he is young and in very good shape. 2) He's very popular with the team and fans. 3) I think the Jays have the depth to get a deal done without including him.
GBSimons
7/15
"Cueto adds 3-4 wins this year, easy," In 2-1/2 months? No way.
rianwatt
7/15
Let's say that there's 15 starts left for the SP5 spot in the Blue Jays rotation, and the team can be reasonably expected to win seven of those games, losing eight. Do you think it's unreasonable to expect the Blue Jays to win ten of the fifteen games Cueto starts? Because if you don't, a 3-4 win improvement by adding Cueto is a reasonable expectation. He'd be replacing SP5. Just so there's actual data here, the 2015 Reds, who have a 94 wRC+, have won ten of seventeen Cueto starts to date. The Blue Jays have a 113 wRC+. That's enough a gap that projecting ten of fifteen wins for Cueto on the Jays isn't crazy. Your thoughts? Happy to be proven wrong.
nkunke1
7/16
You're a lunatic if you think Cueto will "add 3-4 wins" the rest of the way. 8 wins on the year is an MVP season. And this is coming from a lifelong die hard reds fan. Even disregarding the fact that you threw out a potential all-star pitcher who could even be back by the playoffs this year PLUS pieces as the jay's likely offer, there are almost zero realistic hypotheticals here. First, considering that stroman straight up for Cueto would be all-out, no holds barred highway robbery for the Reds, why on god's earth would even someone who is SUPER low on stroman make him the centerpiece when the jays have so many pieces that make so much more sense? Did you even research this at all? The jays also need relief pitching, the Reds have chapman, and the jays have jeff Hoffman and Franklin barreto. Those guys are 47839100017830 times more likely to be included in a package for Cueto than stroman. Second, out of the other realistic trade partners for the Reds/Cueto--that is, the teams that are publicly going after him who also have the pieces to get him--you're not even close. The jays, Astros, and royals are all actively and aggressively going after Cueto. And you think the royals would even bother with an offer of a handful of nobodys for Cueto *and* Bruce? When the have mondesi *and* manea in their system? There is no way in a billion years the Reds would trade Cueto AND bruce without getting mondesi in return. Cueto for mondesi straight up is honestly probably the most reasonable deal with realistic potential to happen. And that dictates that the Astros and jays offers will be worth a lot as well. And that just reminds me again that you mentioned stroman+pieces as a possible return for Cueto -- and now I'm laughing again. Any Reds fan who knows their prospects would KILL to see a Cueto+chapman for Hoffman+barreto deal go down. And given that stroman+the pieces you listed (maybe even without them) is WAY better than Hoffman+barreto, I think you need to actually perform a modicum of research before you write your next piece. For added kicks, do you really think the Reds would trade Cueto to an IN-DIVISION team without snagging a tip-top prospect in return?! (And do you think an in-division team would give up a tip-top prospect for Cueto?...lol) As a Reds fan and someone who (pays for and) devours just about everything that's put up on this website, I opened this piece extremely excitedly, hoping to gain some insight into what the Reds might fetch for Cueto. Instead, I suffer through a very lengthy article that was clearly poorly (if at all) researched. Hopefully this isn't a trend with BP
doctawojo
7/16
Billy Beane would be extremely surprised to hear that the Jays have Franklin Barreto.
rianwatt
7/16
As would I. Would've loved to swing that deal, though. Can't beat the acquisition cost.
pizzacutter
7/15
I was surprised to see his name in an offer as well. It's a big gamble on going all in for this year. Stroman will come back from his ACL tear, and hopefully will regain form. But he's not useful for 2015 and suddenly, the Blue Jays are the new Royals, with the longest playoff drought in baseball and the constant handicap of playing in the AL East. I can see the motivation for throwing a deal like this out there. I don't know that I would do the same, but I at least get where Rian was going with this.
rianwatt
7/15
Yep, it isn't what I'd do for my own shoes (I wouldn't trade for Cueto, or any TOR pitcher, as the Blue Jays GM), but I think it's a fair representatation of the outcome of one potential route that AA might be actually considering. I tried really hard to put myself in his shoes, aiming for job security and taking advantage of a weak division with lots of money already spent for this year. Appreciate the consideration, Russell.
nkunke1
7/16
Please don't listen to anything said in this article. The author is legitimately clueless and there is ZERO chance that the jays would even do stroman straight up for Cueto. Especially not when they have barreto and Hoffman as chips. This dude didn't do a damn hour of research before writing this up
jivas21
7/16
If you had done any research -- much less than an hour's worth -- you'd know that Franklin Barreto was traded to the A's this offseason. But, by all means, keep acting like an aggressive jerk on the internet; no need for facts to get in the way of your righteous anger.
danrnelson
7/15
If I'm the Twins, no way in hell I'd give up that much for a rental. Look what that did to the A's. Teams like the Twins and A's can't afford to empty their minor league system for a rental. Here's hoping Terry Ryan is smarter than Billy Beane.
johnwood427
7/15
Love these!! Want more!!
LouBro
7/15
If we give up Stroman for a half year of Cueto, in a year that there is no guarantee we get to the playoffs, then I will lose my freaking mind.
adrock
7/15
I would try to retain my sanity, but unless Stroman and Alford brought back Cueto AND Chapman (which the Reds might not want to do) I would lead the 'Fire Anthopolous' Brigade. Okay, I wouldn't lead it, but I'd join it, despite the rebuilt farm system and Donaldson trade. I like AA, but that sort of short-termism would be enraging. Much better to pay a lesser price for Samardzija or Cashner or Kazmir.
rianwatt
7/15
Agreed it isn't a smart move, as I mention in a comment above. Tried to put myself in AA's shoes and think about the different weights he'd put on '15 and '16. I'd think opportunity to improve the big-league squad by 3-4 wins without subtracting from the roster this year would be pretty attractive to him right now.
aea0016
7/15
One of my favorite articles. But the Cardinals won't offer that/ the hypothetical Reds GM should jump on that offer or Stroman. The Cardinals probably would make that offer minus either Kaminsky or Sierra.
squirrelmasterz
7/15
How is the Twins offer not the best? There are some major-league ready players offered in other deals but the Twins "offered" four strong prospects. I don't think that they would offer such a package and, in the world of this article, they could offer 3 of those and still probably have the best offer for the Reds.
matrueblood
7/15
Arcia is one-dimensional and has some deep flaws. Burdi is a relief arm who failed his first try at the AA test. Stewart is ages away yet and has arm trouble on his track record already. I think you're using dated valuations of some of these guys. I do also think, though, that that offer suffered from coming in first. It's a solid third-best offer, behind Toronto's and St. Louis's.
bdecker02
7/15
You're spot on there, Matt. Before the season started, no way would I have offered this, but Stewart has taken a step back this season in a pitcher friendly league, Burdi has really been a let down, and Arcia is a one-dimensional guy. I do believe in Gordon, but he's still three years away from a potential call up, and I'd be willing to part ways with him for a run this season.
pizzacutter
7/16
In my head, I was most interested in getting something back that would be fairly close to MLB ready. Maybe that's not the best strategy for maximizing value, but that was where I think the Reds are in this case. Maybe they'll surprise me when it comes to the actual Cueto trade in the next two weeks. But eeek, Arcia is probably a -20 in left field over a full season, and that's him in his mid-20s. Sure, the power might develop (more) but that's a guy who needs to be in a league with a DH.
Grasul
7/15
Nicely done.
sam19041
7/15
Fantastic article. Love these (pretty sure you've done one or two in past; please keep 'em coming!). "Farhandrew" was well played. Also good use of: ¯_(ツ)_/¯
pizzacutter
7/15
First time I've ever done it.
rogerb
7/16
Just a shrug to Mateo, Clarkin, Lindgren offer for 2 months of Cueto? Besides Lindgren, not MLB ready enough?
pizzacutter
7/16
The shrug was more an attempt at humor based on "Brian Cashman's" emoji fueled trade offer. But basically, yeah. Projectable stuff, but as my M.O., I wanted something a little closer to MLB level, rather than to signal a complete tear-down and rebuild. That may not be the absolute best course of action from a #GoryMath point of view, but I think that impulse does have to be taken into account.
oldbopper
7/15
The memory of Billy Beane trading his offense for pitching last year and blowing up the A's by doing it should not be forgotten. Those deals were probably what caused him to lose his mind and trade a controlled superstar, Josh Donaldson, for a bag of balls. In today's game 1-0 and 2-1 games are still going to be the norm and giving up young prospects for 1 or 2 wins, maybe, is a fool's errand but some team will do it. No one will ever know how close the Red Sox came to sending Mookie to the Phillies last year but, at this time, the entire Phillies team isn't of equal value.
ElGeneral
7/15
Great work, gentleman. Now it's time to see this for Hamels and Samardjia.
GBSimons
7/15
"it's really just bolognese sauce and shredded cheese." Bite your tongue. Maybe you went for Gold Star when you should have had Skyline. Cincinnati chili is special and excellent.
GBSimons
7/15
Also, with the Covington Airport, pop/soda, and “Things are beautiful in the Queen City. We've got the All-Star Game. Okay, that's about it” comments, you guys sound a bit like dismissive “flyover state” elitists.
doctawojo
7/15
I'm pretty sure Russell is from Ohio.
pizzacutter
7/16
Cleveland, actually. Which should explain both my fawning love and snark for Cincinnati. I drove through last week on my way up from Atlanta to visit my parents and stayed in Florence on the Kentucky side of the river. No one appreciated the Gary Burbank reference?
mblthd
7/16
Gary Burbank whatevs, all I know is it's been over 10 years since anyone's made a Pondo Sinatra reference here.
gilpdawg
7/16
I caught the Burbank reference, but didn't know you were an Ohio guy, so I didn't think it was a Burbank reference. I thought it was just coincidence.
TheRedsMan
7/16
As a Reds fan, I'm honestly surprised that the deals included that much value. Cueto is awesome and I've loved having him as a Red, but I'll be absolutely shocked if he brings back a Stroman or Bundy.
mattofaction
7/16
Yes, but what does Randy think will happen?
ndparks
7/16
Unless AA is really blowing smoke, I do not believe they are players for Cueto based on the fact he is a rental. I agree with the guy who states there is zero chance of a Stroman for Cueto deal - he can be right on that even though he got the Barreto facts confused. I believe however, that if Chapman were in the deal from Cinci's side, I could see a Stroman + Pompey being offered to solve all problems on the pitching staff. But given the Jays finances, I think they need to keep two guys that are cost controlled and major league ready. Hoffman could be up by the end of '16, so its tough to see any of these guys included for a rental, particularly because this division doesn't exactly profile as on the rise over the next few years. The Jays may be content to let chips fall where they may this year and assess next year's prospects in the offseason. All of that said, this is a great piece. I would like to see additional articles to this series, perhaps one every few days to cover the top 5-7 trade targets. After all, just two weeks to the deadline.
OBPplusSLG
7/17
So you think the Cardinals clubhouse would accept the guy who ended the career of one of their players?
TonyRiha
7/18
Memories fade fast in baseball, in this case the Reds possibly had the opportunity to avoid all of this. A year and a half ago a hot rumor was the Yankees looking to move Brett Gardner for Homer Bailey. That would have solved the Reds leadoff and LF needs while possibly allowing signing room for Cueto. Instead the team opted to sign Bailey as staff anchor and put their faith in Hamilton as leadoff, thinking they could teach him to get on base (a skill he didn't really have even in the minors). Moving into the Now, there's no reason to blow up the team. The 2016 starting eight features four potential All Stars, Votto/Frazier/Mesoraco/Bruce, and when hitting at the bottom of the lineup Hamilton is as valuable as anyone - superior defense and speed that produces runs. The defense is solid if not even better than that. The starting staff could be a recuperating Bailey, Sclafani, Stephenson, Lorenzen and Iglasias. Leadoff/LF is still a problem and you can go relatively cheap and get a Will Venable (.284, .356, .463 this year away from PETCO) who has enough speed at the top of the lineup to keep an old school manager somewhat comfortable. And who knows, maybe Jesse Winkler steps up and is ready for a post-June, 2016 call up (high OBP). As for Chapman, that's the type of arm you acquire, not trade. The asset that could be moved about which no one is talking is Tony Cingrani - he's killing it in his AAA rehab assignment and his July mood may be the same as the start of the season when he was bumped from the rotation for, well, anybody the Reds could run out there. Surely there must be a team looking for a live, young LH arm, no? If me - trade Cingrani, Byrd if you can find any kind of taker and as the team is locked out of Cueto take a pkg for him or settle for the supplemental pick when he walks.
sestey4
7/18
There is absolutely no way that the Blue Jays would trade Marcus Stroman for a rental, and it just doesn't make sense. That offer is not realistic.