While the Cincinnati Reds may not necessarily be in the market for Jeff McNeil, the New York Mets are in the market for starting pitching and have made the 29-year-old available. What might a trade involving McNeil look like?
It's been no secret that the Reds have been looking to unload payroll this offseason. Cincinnati has already traded Tucker Barnhart and waived Wade Miley, effectively shaving $17.5M off the books for next season.
The Reds have also been rumored to be listening to offers for Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle. Castillo is the star of that trio, and while the Reds price tag is said to be astronomical, it's not crazy to think that Steve Cohen and the Mets could put together an offer that would knock Nick Krall's socks off.
What might a Reds trade for Jeff McNeil look like?
Let's get this out of the way first - Jeff McNeil is not a perfect fit for the Cincinnati Reds. His primary position is second base and Jonathan India has that on lockdown for the foreseeable future. Beyond that, McNeil can play third base and the outfield.
Eugenio Suárez and Mike Moustakas, unless traded this offseason, will likely be battling it out in spring training for the right to line up at the hot corner on a regular basis in 2022. If the universal DH is implemented next season, that will likely be Moose's way to stay in the lineup every day.
Though he's not necessarily known for his defensive prowess in the outfield, McNeil has 7 defensive runs saved while playing both right and left field during his career. The Reds could conceivably find regular ABs for McNeil while playing alongside Jesse Winker, Tyler Naquin, and Nick Senzel in the outfield grass at Great American Ball Park.
Jeff McNeil is an established major leaguer with a career wRC+ of 126. Though he struggled last season, McNeil still has very good value and is under team control for the next three seasons. A career .299 hitter, Cincinnati could certainly use a bat like that in their lineup.
What else would the Mets have to offer?
So, if the New York Mets really want to add Luis Castillo to their starting rotation, it's going to cost them more than just Jeff McNeil. No matter which team is trying to acquire the right-hander, any offer for Castillo should come with a Top 50 prospect attached.
Francisco Alvarez is likely off limits, so the Reds will need to adjust their expectations slightly. That leaves me looking at two of the Mets top prospects; shortstop Ronny Mauricio and infield/ outfield prospect Brett Baty. Based on the shortstop depth the Reds have in their farm system, if I'm Nick Krall I'm leaning toward Baty.
Baty was New York's first-round pick in 2019. In 91 games, split between High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton last season, Baty hit .292/.382/.473 with 12 home runs, 56 RBIs, and a wRC+ of 132. Baty has seen time at third base and left field in the minors, but many scouts project the left-handed slugger as a first baseman. Joey Votto can't play forever, right?
J.T. Ginn would be another Mets prospect the Reds should inquire about. Ginn was one of the top pitching prospects prior to the 2019 MLB Draft. Unfortunately for Ginn, he underwent Tommy John surgery just before the draft, but New York still picked up the right-hander in the second-round and he received a $2.9M bonus.
Ginn started 18 games between Low-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie last season. The right-hander posted a 3.03 ERA, with 82 strikeouts in 92 innings. Ginn had an impressive 5.9% walk-rate 3.39 FIP. With Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo likely to graduate to big leagues next season, Cincinnati needs to replenish their farm system with talented young hurlers like Ginn.
Finally, the Cincinnati Reds should take a flier on a lesser prospect with upside. Perhaps Cincinnati could set their sights on a pitching prospect like the 6-foot-7 Junior Santos. The fastball is Santos' calling card, but at only 20 years old, if Santos is able to develop a secondary pitch, he could, at the very least, a nice option out of the bullpen.
Both Reds and Mets fans alike may hate this trade proposal, but don't think for one second that New York isn't looking to bolster their starting rotation. If it's not Luis Castillo, the Mets may very well make a play for fellow starters Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle as well.