Reds-Giants trade likely takes Cincy out of the mix for this popular deadline target

The Reds' acquisition of Austin Slater may alter the team's trade deadline plans.

Baltimore Orioles v Oakland Athletics
Baltimore Orioles v Oakland Athletics / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

With their first significant trade of the 2024 season, the Cincinnati Reds took steps to build outfield and bench depth by adding San Francisco Giants’ outfielder Austin Slater. The move, though, seems to have taken Cincinnati out of the running for a prized deadline target Brent Rooker.

The Reds acquired the lefty-mashing Slater and cash in exchange for left-handed reliever Alex Young, who played with the Giants during the latter half of 2022 and spent most of this season with Triple-A Louisville.

Slater is a good fit for Cincinnati’s injury-plagued outfield, which ranks in the bottom-half of the majors in most offensive statistics against lefties. He is a low-cost veteran presence on a team with an average hitter’s age of 27.3 — second-youngest in the National League. He will almost certainly operate as a platoon with the left-handed hitting Will Benson. 

Would Brent Rooker have been a better fit for the Reds than Austin Slater?

Some baseball analysts have connected Rooker with the Reds for weeks now, and the Oakland A’s outfielder seemed like a strong fit for Cincinnati. The former All-Star is a pull-hitter with major pop, and Great American Ball Park is the most righty-friendly venue in the Majors. He will enter his first year of arbitration this offseason and is, thus, under team control until 2027.

The trouble with Rooker, though, is his limited defensive ability. He has appeared in just 14 games as an outfielder in 2024. Slater has played primarily in right field this season but can man all three outfield positions.

Slater's minus-1 defensive runs saved (DRS) won’t turn any heads, but it is as good or better than all three currently injured Reds' outfielders (Nick Martini, TJ Friedl, Jake Fraley). It's also an improvement over Benson and Spencer Steer. Slater has also put in time at first base, although not since 2019.

The Reds still need to replace a ton of offense around the diamond, so perhaps Rooker, primarily a DH, could still find a home on the team. If Cincinnati opts to stand pat with their current outfield plus Slater, they could turn their attention to first base, the bullpen, or any number of other weak spots.

The acquisition of Slater could indicate a team saving up to make a bigger move closer to the deadline or a team content with trying to weather the storm of injuries.

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