By Patrick Brewer, Lead National League Writer
It finally happened. The Reds pulled the trigger and traded their prized trade piece Johnny Cueto. And the Royals were the team on the receiving end of this two month rental. This trade had been discussed since really the beginning of the season. It was really a foregone conclusion from the get go. There had been many teams in on Cueto from the start including the Blue Jays, Astros, Dodgers, and Royals showing the most obvious interest. The Royals were the team that finally got the deal done after weeks of speculation. In return the Royals sent Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, and Cody Reed to Cincinnati.
Now that the deal has been consummated, after the deal reportedly fell apart on Saturday night, many people are asking if the Reds got a good enough return. To better answer this question, a more full analysis must be done of each of the players they got in return and what value they are expected to produce going forward.
Given his previous MLB experience, Brandon Finnegan may be the most ready of any of the three players dealt to the Reds. Finnegan was the Royals first round pick (17th overall) in the 2014 draft and made his Major League debut later that same year. Finnegan got the call up in September and played a big part in the Royals playoff run and their run to the World Series. He pitched in seven games last year with a 1.29 ERA in 2014 and has pitched in fourteen games this season to the tune of a 2.96 ERA. The main issue with Finnegan is that it seemed the Royals made it pretty clear that they saw him as a reliever at least for the short-term. In contrast the Reds have already come out and said that they would be treating him as a starter going forward. This may delay him having an impact on the Reds big league roster but he still has the highest potential upside of any of the three players. Most likely he will be a consistent three or four starter for the Cincinnati Reds long-term.
Beyond Finnegan it gets a little more interesting for the Reds. Both John Lamb and Cody Reed would seem just like throw in pieces but both are performing at a high level in 2015 and have greatly increased their respective values. Lamb has pitched to the tune of a 2.67 ERA and 3.57 FIP so far in Triple A. He was initially drafted in 2008 in the 5th round but has experienced quite a few injury set backs that have stalled his career. However he is still only 25 years old and his good showing this year has increased his stock quite a bit. Lamb is not a high-end prospect but he seems nearly major league ready and could provide some good value for the Reds.
Cody Reed may be the most interesting piece of the whole trade. He wasn’t viewed as much prior to this season but a good showing in a combined effort at Single A and Double AA has increased his value quite a bit. So far this year he has been able to cut down on his walk rate, increase his strikeout rate which has allowed him to produce a much improved ERA and FIP in Single A. He has struggled a bit since going from Single A to Double A last month but still has time for further development. He definitely has the potential for some high upside in the future and may be the best part of this deal for the Reds long-term if he continues his development. Reed still has his question marks but a player with rising stock is always good to have if you are the Reds.
So with these evaluations in mind there are a few question marks on both sides. For the Reds the biggest question mark on this trade is the fact that they got no bats in return. It is clear that this may be a small issue for the Reds but getting three potentially high upside arms to replace Cueto is a good deal for them in the end. They may have not gotten a potential top of the line starter like Cueto but the Reds did get three potential middle of the arm rotation pieces for their rebuild over the next few years.
On the other side, the Royals got the front of the line starter that they have been sorely missing since the season began. Given their success so far this season, and their comfortable position in both the standings and with the playoff odds, the Royals made the move to prepare them for their very likely playoff run. The Royals may still be a starter, and perhaps a bench piece, away from making a run back to the World Series but this trade is a good first step for them. The Royals got the player they wanted, and really the player they needed, and did not have to give up their top offensive prospect in Raul Mondesi or their top pitching prospect in Sean Manaea.
For the Royals it may be a trade for a rental but they did not have to dip too much into their future talent pool to make that happen. If the Royals make it back to the World Series, and perhaps win it, they will have no regrets about this trade. If they do not win the World Series they may have some regret but can take solace in the fact that they didn’t give up any of their top talent. At face value this seems like a fair trade for both teams. It helps the Reds build up their pitching staff for the long-term and helps the Royals with their short-term playoff push.
Patrick Brewer is the Lead National League Writer for Call to the Bullpen. You can find Patrick on Twitter @PatrickBrewer93 or join in the discussion @CTBPod, in the comment section below or on our Facebook Page.