Prior to the lockout, the Cincinnati Reds were thought to be sellers and three of the team's starting pitchers were rumored to be the prime targets of opposing general managers. Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle all heard the names mentioned in trade rumors.
Castillo's price tag is likely to be insanely high, and Gray's injury history coupled with his 2022 salary might make several teams balk as the idea of trading for the Vanderbilt alum. But Mahle looks to be a solid, middle-of-the-rotation starter who's controllable through the 2023 season.
Could the Reds and Mets work out a trade for Tyler Mahle?
The New York Mets have been rumored to be interested in upgrading their starting rotation despite the fact that Cy Young winners Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer are already in the fold. Adding Mahle would give the Mets a fantastic No. 3 starter who's 2022 salary is estimated to be $5.6M per MLB Trade Rumors.
If the Mets and Reds do engage in trade talks involving Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati could get quite the haul for the 27-year-old. Mahle is coming off career-highs in strikeouts (210), wins (13), innings pitched (180), FIP (3.80), and fWAR (3.8).
You'd have to assume that an outfielder would be quite high on Nick Krall's shopping list. After all, the Reds are likely to lose last year's All-Star Nick Castellanos, and two of Cincinnati's best outfielders (Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel) don't have the best track record of staying on the field.
With that in mind, the trio of Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, and Jeff McNeil are likely to draw some attention. Each one, however, brings concerns to the table. Nimmo has only eclipsed 140 games once in his career, Smith struggled mightily in 2021, and McNeil is a better infielder than he is an outfielder. Also, all three are left-handed hitters - something the Reds already have plenty of.
Furthermore, Nimmo is a free agent after this season. That, along with his projected $6M salary in 2022 likely take him out of the running. If the Redlegs took a peek at either Smith or McNeil, they'd be taking a gamble on a player who'd performed well in the past but is looking to bounce back in 2022. Would Reds GM Nick Krall take that kind of risk?
What could the Reds receive in return for Tyler Mahle?
Jeff McNeil might be too valuable to the Mets organization to sacrifice for Tyler Mahle. If we were talking about Luis Castillo, I think McNeil would definitely be part of the equation. With that in mind, I think the one player who makes a lot of sense for both teams in J.D. Davis.
Yes, the Reds have plenty of third basemen already on the team, but Davis does have experience in the outfield and at first base. Besides, if you're trading for Davis, you're focused on his bat, not his glove. The 28-year-old has a career slash line of .271/.354/.446.
The concerning thing about Davis, however, is the dip in his power numbers over the past two seasons. After posting a .527 slugging percentage in 2019, Davis' has slugged a combined .422 over the past two seasons.
But the Cincinnati Reds would need more than just J.D. Davis in return if the front office was willing to part with Tyler Mahle. Cincinnati should also look toward New York's farm system and pluck a solid young arm or two.
While the idea of landing a pitcher like J.T. Ginn or Matt Allan is intriguing, that's a big ask in exchange for Tyler Mahle. But, a pair of young, hard-throwing right-handers might be enough to get a deal done. With that in mind, the Reds should ask for Robert Dominguez and Calvin Ziegler in addition to Davis.
Both pitchers are at least two to three years away from making their major league debut, and questions remain about whether either has what it takes to be a starter. Still, the potential is their for both hurlers to be part of a team's starting rotation.
While many throughout Reds Country hate the idea of trading Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, or Tyler Mahle, the reality is that Cincinnati has a plethora of young starting pitchers. With the quintet of Vladimir Gutierrez, Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Reiver Sanmartin, and Graham Ashcraft all likely to push for a role in the starting rotation, at least one of the mainstays will have to be dealt.