Cincinnati Reds Rumors: Dodgers the Frontrunners for Johnny Cueto?


Last evening’s Sunday Night Baseball game was between the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates, but some very interesting information on the Cincinnati Reds was reported by Buster Olney during the broadcast. Per Olney, the Reds have yet to begin shopping Johnny Cueto, but baseball executives believe that the Los Angeles Dodgers will be the frontrunners for the right-hander when he is put on the market.

On paper, the Dodgers appear to be good trade partners for the Reds. A rotation headed by Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Cueto would be the best in baseball and could very well make the Dodgers the favorites to win the World Series. The Dodgers also have baseball’s third best farm system (per Baseball America), meaning the Reds could get great talent in return for their ace.

Atop the list of Dodgers prospects is shortstop Corey Seager. The 21-year-old was ranked baseball’s No. 5 prospect before the season and was bumped up to No. 1 overall in Baseball America’s midseason rankings. Seager is destroying minor league pitching, hitting .308/.355/.521 with 27 doubles, two triples, and 13 home runs this season between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City. He’d be the ideal player for the Reds to get in return for Cueto, but I doubt that the Dodgers would part with the top prospect in baseball for a rental player.

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That could also mean that pitcher Julio Urias, the No. 4 prospect in baseball in the midseason rankings, is off the table. If the Dodgers offered either one for Cueto, general manager Walt Jocketty should jump on the offer immediately, but I’d be genuinely surprised if they do.

More realistic options to build a trade around could include right-handed pitcher Grant Holmes or outfielder Alex Verdugo, the Dodgers’ first and second round draft picks in 2014. Ranked No. 4 and No. 5 in the Dodgers’ system before the season, both are 19 years old and are currently teammates with the Great Lakes Loons, the Dodgers’ Low-A minor league affiliate.

In 15 starts, Holmes is 4-1 with a 2.94 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s also walking 5.3 hitters per nine innings, which is an incredibly high number, but he has plenty of time to work that out.

Here’s a snippet of a scouting report on Holmes from’s Jim Callis, which was written before the 2014 draft:

"“He made scouts sit up and notice when he fired a 100-mph fastball during a preseason scrimmage, and he continued to deliver outstanding velocity throughout his senior season. Holmes repeatedly worked at 91-97 mph, also impressing with his improved ability to locate his fastball on both sides of the plate.Holmes can devastate hitters with his curveball as well. At its best, it grades as well above average, a low-80s power breaker with good depth. He didn’t need it much against high school competition, but the Florida recruit also has made significant strides with his changeup, which can run to either side and shows flashes of becoming a plus pitch.”"

Holmes would be an outstanding arm to have in the Reds’ system and could potentially be a top-of-the-rotation MLB starter in the future, but the Reds’ need for hitters means they could turn their focus to Verdugo.

A left-handed hitter and thrower, Verdugo hit .353/.421/.511 in rookie ball in 2014. He’s been putting up fairly impressive stats at the next level as well. In 320 plate appearances, Verdugo is hitting .283/.313/.382 with 20 doubles, two home runs, 30 runs batted in, and seven steals, while primarily playing center field. He’s only hit five home runs in his professional career to this point, but per, the power could come in time:

"“Verdugo has advanced feel for hitting and knowledge of the strike zone. Add in his bat speed and strength, and he has the potential to develop into a .280 hitter with 20 homers per season. He’s an average runner with good instincts on the bases.He broke into pro ball as a center fielder but probably will wind up in right field. He has the plus arm strength and the bat to profile at the latter position.”"

Of course, the Dodgers’ interest in Cueto is only that for now. But with the kind of young talent they have in their farm system—even when you take out Seager and Urias—the Dodgers should be one of the first teams the Reds have discussions with when and if they decide to make Cueto available.

Next: Three Reds prospects showcased in Futures Game