Transaction Talk: Time to Trade Talent


As the Reds continue to struggle, it is becoming painfully obvious that this team will need to upgrade the roster in order to repeat as NL Central champions. Fans and some in the media have been clamoring for players like Jose Reyes and Matt Kemp. While Reyes and Kemp would both supply significant upgrades at their respective positions, the Reds should look elsewhere for improvements. Acquiring Kemp and/or Reyes would require the Reds to give up significant prospects and incur large salary obligations. In addition, an acquisition of Kemp or Reyes would likely prevent the Reds from upgrading the real weakness of this team – pitching.

The Reds currently rank 2nd in all of baseball in runs scored, ahead of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers. They only trail the Cardinals by 6 runs, and St. Louis has played one more game than the Reds. Offense is not the problem. Why give up talented prospects to upgrade the team’s greatest strength?

On the flip side, the Reds’ team ERA ranks 14th in the NL. Even worse, Reds’ starting pitching has posted an ERA over 5, ranking 15th in the NL. If the Reds want to improve their team, and must give up prospects to do it, the target should be a starting pitcher.

So who might be available and worth pursuing?

James Shields, Rays
Contract – $4.25 million in 2011, $7 million team option for 2012, $9 million team option for 2013, $12 million team option for 2014

There are many who don’t think Shields will be available from the Rays. But if they fall further out of contention, the budget-conscious Rays might look to shed some salary, in exchange for cheap prospects. Shields is likely the best pitcher on this list. He’s currently posting an 8.7 K/9 ratio, to go along with his 2.77 ERA. At 29, he’s  in his prime. If the Rays make him available, it would likely cost the Reds a couple top prospects to acquire Shields. Still, he might be worth it, considering he’s probably the only “ace” caliber pitcher available.

Edwin Jackson, White Sox
Contract – $8.35 million, free agent at end of year

Jackson is no stranger to trade speculation, as he has been traded 4 times in his brief MLB career. Still only 27 years old, there is reason to believe Jackson can be a difference maker. In terms of stuff, Jackson is elite. The average speed of his fastball is over 94 MPH, topping out around 98 MPH.  He also throws a nasty slider. This season, he is throwing his slider more than 40% of the time.  Since Jackson’s contract is up at the end of the season, he’d likely be a “rental,” meaning the cost of prospects would be minimal.

Erik Bedard, Mariners
Contract – $1 million, free agent at end of year

Bedard’s availability will likely depend on the Mariners ability to stay in contention. Should they fall out of contention, the Reds should be on the phone with Seattle. He has posted an ERA under 4 every year since 2005, while striking out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings. He’s a slight fly-ball pitcher, which could scare the Reds a bit considering the bandbox they play in.  Still, he is currently posting a solid 2.95 SO/BB ratio with a 3.46 ERA. Given his solid performance and inexpensive salary, he should be at the top of the Reds’ list.

Joel Pineiro, Angels
Contract – $8 million, free agent at end of year

Another “rental,” Pineiro might be a good fit for the Reds. He’s a contact pitcher, posting a 5.52 K/9 for his career. He won’t dominate very often, but he’ll give you a lot of innings without walking people. The contract is a bit expensive, but the Angels likely won’t be asking for much in return.

R.A. Dickey, Mets
Contract – $2.25 million in 2011, $4.25 million in 2012, $5 million team option for 2013

Dickey throws a knuckleball nearly 80% of the time. He doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters, but he doesn’t walk guys either. He’s 36 years old, yet still reliable. He is definitely not the “ace” we would all like to see, but he could give the rotation some much needed stability. Given the Mets current situation, he could likely be acquired without giving up the farm.

Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles
Contract – $5.75 million, arbitration eligible end of season

Guthrie is a reliable, yet unspectacular right-handed pitcher. He’s managed double-digit wins 3 years in a row in the AL East, despite playing for the Orioles.  He’s good for 200+ innings a year, and an ERA under 4. He won’t strike out a lot of hitters (career, 5.5 K/9) but his solid control prevents free passes. He’s another “fly-ball” pitcher, so fears about bringing him to GABP are rational.