Reds: Grading the trade of Robert Stephenson to the Rockies

The Reds traded Robert Stephenson and Jameson Hannah to the Rockies yesterday.

Robert Stephenson’s career with the Cincinnati Reds has come to a close. Unfortunately, it was one of much disappointment. Stephenson, a former first-round pick, was dealt to the Colorado Rockies yesterday along with outfield prospect Jameson Hannah. In exchange, the Reds received right-handers Jeff Hoffman and Case Williams. What grade do the Reds deserve for the trade?

Stephenson’s career with the Reds will be remember for unattained expectations. Such is the life of a first-round pick. The right-hander never reached his potential, and after failing to make it as a starting pitcher, Stephenson was sent to the bullpen last season and had some measure of success.

After a career-high 125 ERA+ and 81 strikeouts over 64.2 innings in 2019, it looked like Bob Steve had figured it out. However, his 2020 campaign was disastrous. The 27-year-old put up a 9.90 ERA and couldn’t keep the ball in the yard. Stephenson surrendered eight home runs in 10 innings of work and it was questionable as to whether or not he’d be on next year’s roster.

Reds Get
RHP, Jeff Hoffman
RHP, Case Williams
Rockies Get
RHP, Robert Stephenson
OF, Jameson Hannah

The player the Reds received in return, Hoffman, has failed to meet the lofty expectations that come with being a first-rounder as well. Originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, Colorado received the right-hander as part of the return for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

Hoffman is the same age as Stephenson, 27, and has had about the same level of success, or lack thereof. In 68 career games, including 38 starts, Hoffman is 10-16 with a 6.40 ERA. Hoffman’s rookie season was arguably his best, going 0-4 with a 4.88 ERA in 31.1 innings of work.

Jeff Hoffman’s spin-rate is among the best in the league, with his four-seam fastball ranking in the 82nd percentile according to Baseball Savant. Hoffman typically works in the mid-90s, but can get his fastball up to 97-MPH. The problem appears to be his command and control. For his career, according to FanGraphs, Hoffman’s K-BB% is just 8.6%.

Robert Stephenson was always one who struggled in that department as well, putting up a 12.1% K-BB% for his career. Interestingly though, the past two seasons under the tutelage of pitching coach Derek Johnson, Stephenson improved by leaps and bounds in this category as well as his strikeout-rate. It’ll be curious to see if Johnson’s instruction can have the same effect on Hoffman.

Both Hoffman and Stephenson were, as Nick Krall pointed out via MLB.com, in need of a change in scenery. Krall also said that Hoffman will be given a chance to earn a spot in the starting rotation. If he fails to do so, look for the right-hander to be part of the Cincinnati Reds bullpen in 2020. Both Stephenson and Hoffman are out of minor-league options.

The biggest acquisition of this trade may be right-handed pitching prospect Case Williams. For a deep-dive into Williams’ background, check out the scouting report from our FanSided friends at Rox Pile. Williams has already been inserted into the Reds Top 30 prospects per MLB Pipeline.

A virtual unknown before the 2020 MLB Draft, Case Williams was taken in the fourth-round by the Rockies and has the profile of a solid big league starter. A 6’3″, 210-pounds, he more than fits the mold of a starting pitcher. The right-hander tossed a no-hitter in high school and has a fastball that sits in the 93-95 MPH range.

According to Krall, Williams is a player the Cincinnati Reds front office was hoping to draft this past year, but the Colorado Rockies snuck in a few picks before and snagged the 18-year-old. The Reds were able, instead, to draft outfield prospect Mac Wainwright.

I absolutely love this trade for the Reds. Chances were high that Robert Stephenson would have been non-tendered this winter, released this spring, or designated for assignment during the 2021 season. Either way, his future was not in Cincinnati. Hoffman will be given a chance to compete for a spot in the rotation, and at worst, will be an arm in the bullpen that can give you several innings.

The key to this trade is Case Williams. In essence, Cincinnati dealt away Jameson Hannah in order to acquire Williams. Hannah was a Top 20 prospect in the Reds organization, but was redundant prospect. The light-hitting Hannah projects, at best, to be a rotational outfielder with speed and a fringe arm.

Williams has potential, but fans will have to be patient. The young man is just 18-years old and will need a considerable amount of tutoring in order to reach his peak. However, with Cincinnati Reds recent delve into data-driven pitching analysis, you have to believe that Kyle Boddy and company did their homework and see a star Williams.

While I hate to see Bob Steve exit stage left, it was only a matter of time. Jeff Hoffman could offer improved results under the coaching of Derek Johnson. I’m going to give the Cincinnati Reds a B+ for this trade with the upside of Case Williams being the key. If the Reds get more than they’d hoped for out of Hoffman, he’s under team control through 2024.