The 2014 season has been a difficult one for the Cincinnati Reds and their fans. Sitting at 31-34 and eight games out in the NL Central, the Reds find themselves in a difficult situation. Are they going to compete over the rest of the season and aim for one of the two Wild Card spots (which didn’t work out so well for them in 2013), are they going to become buyers to get over the hump and make a run for the division, or are they going to have a fire sale and start things over again? With so much money invested in Joey Votto and Homer Bailey, it seems nearly impossible for the club that consistently screams small-market and small payroll to right this ship quickly, but there is a deal out there that could make a lot of sense for the Cincinnati Reds.
When the Reds signed Bailey to a six-year, $105 million extension, they seemed to have closed the door on any extensions for Johnny Cueto (a free agent after the 2015 season who has a $10 million team option for 2015), Mat Latos (arbitration-eligible in 2015 and a free agent after the 2015 season), and Mike Leake (arbitration-eligible in 2015 and a free agent after the 2015 season). The Reds have a nice problem right now with Latos coming back from his elbow injury and having to decide who to boot from the rotation between the breakout, 9-win starter Alfredo Simon and the young, hard-throwing lefty Tony Cingrani; however, beyond the six pitchers (Cueto, Bailey, Latos, Leake, Simon, and Cingrani), the Reds starting pitching depth is rather weak. Jeff Francis is the club’s top option from Triple-A Louisville, while the club waits on the maturation of Robert Stephenson and Michael Lorenzen at the Double-A level to refine the future of the Cincinnati rotation.
With that being said, the Reds are in desperate need of offensive production. The club ranks 26th in MLB in team batting average, 25th in MLB in OPS, and 25th in wOBA. With Joey Votto’s knee injury and Jay Bruce‘s lack of production (.212/.320/.364, 89 OPS+), the Reds have leaned heavily on the production of Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier to keep the team treading water during the struggles and absences of the stars, but the Reds could use an influx of offensive talent, and the only way to do that is to deal from the club’s strength.
Cincinnati Reds Trade Mat Latos to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Matt Kemp and cash considerations.
With the cost of a win reaching $7 million and the revenue streaming in from MLB Advanced Media and television contracts, small market teams could find it quite challenging to shell out the kind of money necessary to compete with large market clubs in free agency. For that reason, the Reds could acquire a talented, powerful right-handed batter from the Dodgers to put into the middle of the Cincinnati order between Votto and Bruce, while improving the less than stellar production in left field that has managed a .672 OPS for the Reds in 2014.
Matt Kemp is due a whopping $107 million between 2015 and 2019, but whoever takes on the contract from the Dodgers could acquire cash, as well, due to Kemp’s struggles with injuries over the last couple of seasons. When the Dodgers took on the Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford contracts, they added hundreds of millions of dollars in payroll, which made the Andre Ethier contract and the Matt Kemp contract seem nearly immovable due to the money and years involved. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Ethier’s contract is quite possibly the worst contract in baseball ($56 million between 2015 and 2017), while the club has very little leverage in trades due to the gluttony of outfielders that the club has with Crawford, Kemp, Ethier, Yasiel Puig, and Joc Pederson raking in the minor leagues. By trading Matt Kemp and $30 million in cash considerations, the club would rid themselves of $77 million in payroll over the next five season ($15.4 million per season), while acquiring additional talent to compete in the NL West.
Mat Latos would be the perfect acquisition for the Los Angeles Dodgers if they were to trade Matt Kemp. Latos, while coming off of some elbow and left knee woes currently, is just 26 years old. He has compiled a career 3.35 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 849.2 career innings. Prior to the 2014 season, since he hasn’t thrown a pitch yet as of this article being posted, Latos had missed time to the disabled list twice in his career (2010 for an abdomen strain and 2011 for shoulder inflammation), but he hadn’t had any types of surgeries until bone spurs were removed from his elbow after the 2013 season and the surgery to repair his left meniscus this spring. Latos makes a lot of sense for the Dodgers with Josh Beckett heading towards free agency, taking his $15.75 million salary off of the books. Latos would sit nicely in the Los Angeles rotation with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu, especially with Chad Billingsley and Dan Haren having options that may lead to their dismissal from the rotation and club in 2015, as he would solidify an already dangerous rotation.
While the Reds would miss Latos in the rotation, they still have quite a bit of existing talent, at least through the 2015 season. By taking on five-years and $77 million in Matt Kemp, the Reds would be paying less on an annual basis for Kemp than what Shin-Soo Choo is getting paid annually by the Texas Rangers after he left Cincinnati for a seven-year, $130 million deal. Kemp is just 29 and the right-handed power in the cleanup spot can’t be understated when he could be put between Votto and Bruce. If you consider that the Reds are paying Ryan Ludwick $7 million in 2014 and he has a -0.1 WAR, you can see how it would make perfect sense for Cincinnati to pay an additional $8.4 million to have a player like Kemp take his spot in left field in 2015.
Would the Dodgers do this type of deal? Perhaps if they are given an opportunity to work out an extension with Latos prior to the completion of the deal, and, a bigger question, would the Dodgers include that amount of cash without receiving additional talent with Latos, or is the loss of $77 million in future payroll worth making the deal? For the Reds, their long-term pitching could take a hit, but they already knew that they could potentially lose three starters after the 2015 season going into this season, which is likely why they acted quickly on Homer Bailey. Now, Cincinnati needs to act on adding to their offense, as the additions of Skip Schumaker and Ramon Santiago by Walt Jocketty this past offseason has done nothing to help the club.