The Cincinnati Reds have an expensive logjam at third base. Eugenio Suárez is owed approximately $33M over the next three seasons and Mike Moustakas is signed for two more years with $38M remaining on his deal.
After a less than stellar 2021 season for both Geno and Moose, it seems ludicrous to pay $27M to the third base combination that hit .201 last season. Moustakas only appeared in 62 games last season, and Suárez spent the majority of the season hitting below the Mendoza line.
The Reds are said to be shopping both Suárez and Moustakas this offseason. Geno is the less expensive option, a better defender, and a fan favorite. Not to mention it looked like Suárez turned a corner in September. Unless the DH makes its way to the National League next season, Moustakas will be an expensive bench bat.
Would the Nats be a willing trade partner with the Reds?
Could the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals work out a mutually beneficial trade? Nats GM Mike Rizzo says that his club is rebooting, and Reds GM Nick Krall is trying to align the team's payroll to its resources. That's GM speak for getting expensive contracts off the books.
If the Reds and Nationals were to attempt to workout a trade, Cincinnati would undoubtedly have to attach a couple of prospects to a potential deal. Though Nick Krall has said he'd prefer not to go down that road, if the club really wants to trade Moustakas, they'll have no other alternative.
Now I'm not suggesting that Cincinnati part with some of their elite talent like Nick Lodolo or Hunter Greene, but some of the Reds other top prospects would have to be sacrificed in order to shed Moose's contract.
The Nationals would certainly be looking at young prospects who'd be major league-ready in the next year or two. So players like Elly De La Cruz and Ariel Almonte don't necessarily fit the Nats' timeline. De La Cruz should be off limits anyway.
But maybe some prospects like Ivan Johnson and Graham Ashcraft would pique the Nationals' interest. Johnson is talented, young infield prospect with excellent bat speed from either side of the plate. Ashcraft is a fast-rising pitching prospect who's trying to prove that he has what it takes to be a solid piece in the starting rotation.
What might Cincinnati take back in return? Aging reliever Will Harris is under contract for the 2022 season with a price tag of $8M. Harris only appeared in nine games last season and underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.
But the Cincinnati Reds shouldn't just settle for a pitcher who may not even be healthy next season. Maybe another major league piece could be had as well. Might the Washington Nationals be willing to part with centerfielder Víctor Robles?
Robles was at one time the Nats' top prospect, but the last two seasons have raised serious questions about his long-term prowess as a hitter. Over the last two seasons, Robles has hit just .209 and posted a .606 OPS.
Robles wouldn't seem to fit into the Nats' timeline going forward. After trading Trea Turner and Max Scherzer to the Los Angeles Dodgers last July, Washington is likely looking at the 2024 season before they become a contender once again.
Víctor Robles is under team control for three more seasons, so he definitely would fit into the Reds budget. The Nick Senzel experiment in center field has gone horribly wrong, and Cincinnati doesn't have a major league-ready center field prospect at this time. Michael Siani is likely at least one more year away from breaking into the big leagues.
The Reds need to find a way to trade Mike Moustakas.
In this hypothetical scenario, the Cincinnati Reds would shed themselves of Mike Moustakas' $16M salary in 2022 and the $18M he's owed in 2023. Moose also has a $4M buyout for the 2024 season. Cincinnati would take on the $8M owed to Will Harris, and MLB Trade Rumors estimates Víctor Robles will take home $1.7M next season via arbitration.
All together, the Reds would rid themselves of about $6M worth of payroll for the 2022 season and the remaining $22M of Moose's contract. While Cincinnati would be sacrificing a few top prospects, the Reds would no longer have to entertain the idea of trading Luis Castillo or Tyler Mahle in order to shed payroll for next season.
Would Ivan Johnson and Graham Ashcraft move the needle enough for the Washington Nationals to take on Mike Moustakas' contract? Would the Cincinnati Reds have to part with more than just two of their talented young players?
I know Reds fans still have that awful taste in their mouths from the 2018 trade that sent Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs along with Homer Bailey to Los Angeles, but if Cincinnati wants to be competitive in 2022, they need to find a way to shed payroll while keeping Castillo, Mahle, and Sonny Gray in the starting rotation.