Trade Analysis: Dodgers and Reds Swap Seven

Dodgers send: Yasiel Puig, OF; Alex Wood, LHP; Matt Kemp, OF; and Kyle Farmer, 3B

Reds send: Jeter Downs, IF; Josiah Gray, SP; and Homer Bailey, SP

After nearly three weeks of negotiation, back and forth, and posturing the Dodgers and Reds completed a seven player swap sending Cuban star Yasiel Puig, lefthander Alex Wood, Matt Kemp, and Kyle Farmer to the Queen City for the contract hit of Homer Bailey and two talented prospects in Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray. A strong statement of intentions to contend in Cincinnati, as the three marque names headed to the Reds are all in the final years of their respective deals. Alternatively it opened a “Harper” sized hole in the outfield for the Dodgers, while dropping a net $20 million, getting them $30M below the competitive balance threshold. Whether or not the Dodgers decide to blow past that number with a Harper signing remains to be seen.

Many have speculated this was a smart, almost shrewd move by the Dodgers. Swooping in and selling the Reds on false dreams of contention, while robbing two of the more talented players from their lower minors. Whether or not this move was foolhardy on the Reds part comes down to the remainder of the off-season, but there will need to be significant additions made to give the Reds a true punchers chance at the division and playoffs. The deals might be out there for Cincinnati if they’re willing to deal from a strong cache of prospects. Even if they were to fail in this endeavor, at the end of the day the worst case scenario is Puig, and Wood are tendered contracts, sign elsewhere, and the Reds receive two compensation round picks to replace Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray, two former comp round players from the previous two drafts.

The Dodgers receive two talented players with potential star ceilings. Jeter Downs doesn’t have a standout tool so to speak, but he’s shown the across the board ability offensively that often shows itself to have hidden ceiling (a la Jose Ramirez). Josiah Gray is newly committed full time to starting after playing both ways and pitching out of the pen at D2 Le Monye College. Here’s what I had to say in my recent Reds Top 30 writeup:

Josiah Gray

This story is just too crazy not to be true, division 2 shortstop/reliever heads to the Cape Cod League for the summer, pitches his keister off, and leaves a potential first day pitching prospect. Sounds absurd, but that’s actually what happened with Gray. Over the last year few players have grown by the leaps and bounds Gray has. At the moment he’s essentially a two-pitch pitcher led by his plus fastball, a nasty offering in the 92-96 range with above average spin. Gray gets lots of swings and misses on the pitch, averaging at least a few whiffs per inning. His slider flashes plus, but is still too inconsistent to project as a future plus offering. At times it can lose its shape, but at its best, it’s a second swing-and-miss offering. He features a changeup, but it’s very fringe at the moment, as he’s yet to master the deceptive arm speed needed.

Gray’s athleticism is on the high end of the scale, giving him the ability to repeat his mechanics. He’s a drop and drive type delivery, pitching from low three quarters arm slot. He extends well and gets excellent push with his lower half, doing a good job of using his entire body to generate velocity. Overall Gray is an intriguing arm, with a limited track record on the mound, substantial growth from Gray is a very real possibility in the coming years. However, it might take a little more time than your average pitching prospect. A mid-rotation upside with a high leverage bullpen floor.
ETA: 2021

Jeter Downs

A quick-twitch athlete without a carrying tool, Downs produced one of the more eye-popping stat lines in the system, stealing 37 bases, while hitting 13 homers, and walking at a 10% clip. Strong numbers for a prep player in his first full season of pro ball. He’s short to the ball with loft in his swing, leading to a high amount of fly balls to the pull side. Not the worst skill for a smaller middle infielder to flash early in his career, as he likely adds more strength as his body matures, leading to more balls clearing the fence. He’s not the fastest player only logging run times in the mid 4-second range, but has a good first step and instincts.

There’s some question as to whether or not Downs average arm will move him off the position, I’m definitely in that camp. There were lots of throws he struggled with, and I’m not sure he’ll ever add the type of zip needed to make those tosses consistently. I believe his future home is second base where his good footwork and quickness could make him a plus defender at the position. A sum of his parts player that’s showed production louder than his tools. Are we missing the ceiling?
ETA: 2021

The expectations on the Reds side from many prognosticators is that Yasiel Puig’s power numbers will explode at Great American Ballpark, and it’s a reasonable expectation. The rejuvenated Matt Kemp should provide some sparks at times too. I wonder how Jesse Winker figures into the new outfield setup, as Winker and Kemp on the corners with Puig in center sounds problematic from a range perspective. So there’s some trade offs in the field even if it’s a win at the plate.

Certainly the Reds added their best starter to date in Alex Wood and he should slot in ahead of Luis Castillo and Tanner Roark at the top of the Cincinnati rotation. Wood was dominant in 2017 putting up a monster first half finishing the year with 3.5 WAR. In 2018 he was back to his average production with 2.6 WAR season, his third over his short career. Additionally he gives you a lefthanded starter with the perfect combination of groundballs and swinging strikes for success in GAB. This trade certainly improves the Reds for 2019, but it’s a fair question to ask if the assets of Downs and Gray could have been better spent elsewhere.