In what has to this point been a quiet off-season of sitting around and waiting to see what Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will do in free agency, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds got together to pull off a huge trade. The Dodgers, who are currently considered one of the favorites to sign Harper, dealt outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp along with pitcher Alex Wood, catcher Kyle Farmer and seven million dollars in cash considerations to the Reds in exchange for veteran pitcher Homer Bailey as well as prospects Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray. This trade will undoubtedly have some major implications in the makeup of both the NL West and Central divisions going forward into 2019.
Looking at this deal from the perspective of the Dodgers it makes all the sense in the world. The Dodgers had an incredibly crowded outfield in 2018 and by shipping out two outfielders in Kemp and Puig they’ve now freed up some space for their top outfield prospect Alex Verdugo to get some innings. Puig saw himself become the odd man out in that extremely crowded outfield group at the end of last season, so a change of scenery is probably best for both sides. In the case of Matt Kemp he seems to be more of a salary dump. He experienced something of a career renaissance in 2018 finishing with a .290 batting average and 21 home runs to go along with 85 RBI. While he played well this past season he is owed 21 million dollars in 2019 and with the Dodgers wanting to stay under the luxury tax threshold, and be able to make a run at Bryce Harper, there was no spot for Matt Kemp in the outfield or on the payroll. As for Alex Wood, the crafty left-hander is entering his third and final year of arbitration and is scheduled to make about six million dollars in 2019. With the continued dominance of Clayton Kershaw and the meteoric rise of Walker Buehler, Wood became an expendable piece and similar to Matt Kemp became too expensive for the Dodgers taste in this particular winter. Kyle Farmer being included in this deal isn’t the most newsworthy part of the deal by any means. Los Angeles has a decent catcher already in Austin Barnes and have been involved in rumors regarding Marlins backstop J.T. Realmuto. The Dodgers are getting back a decent haul, although they are expected to release Bailey upon the deal becoming official they are getting two promising prospects in Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray who can help the team in the years to come. From the Dodgers end, this deal seems to be almost entirely about freeing up some money and unclogging the outfield to make a run at Bryce Harper or another top of the market free agent outfielder such as AJ Pollock.
This trade makes far less sense from the viewpoint of the Reds. Cincinnati is not exactly close to being a contender, especially in a division where they have the Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers all ahead of them. That makes going out and getting an outfielder the caliber of Yasiel Puig confusing. Puig, along with Kemp will certainly give that Reds offense a boost and help shoulder some of the load with first baseman Joey Votto, but it still doesn’t make them a playoff caliber team. On the other side of the ball Kyle Farmer adds some catching depth, something the Reds have been looking for this off-season. In addition to this they also picked up a solid rotation piece in Wood, someone who can eat innings in that rotation and provide some quality outings. With that being said Cincinnati still has a lot of work to do if they want to be considered legitimate playoff contenders in 2019. They also didn’t help themselves by trading one of their top infield prospects in Jeter Downs. Downs figured to be a fairly important piece of the Reds’ future, but the front office clearly deemed that the return outweighed what Downs could potentially give them.
My biggest takeaways from this trade are that the Dodgers are all in on one of the following situations, signing Bryce Harper, or signing AJ Pollock and trading for J.T. Realmuto. Another takeaway from this deal is that for some inexplicable reason, the Reds appear as though they want to compete in the NL Central this year. However if they really want to be a competitive group they’ll need to put some real work into their pitching staff and build depth all the way around the team. As far as a winner and a loser in this trade, that isn’t yet clear. It remains to be seen what the Dodgers will do with the extra space in the outfield and in their checkbook, and it can’t be until the season begins and both teams have filled out their rosters that winners and losers in this deal can be properly assessed.