I was watching the Sunday Night Baseball game between the Pirates and the Cardinals and the mid-game discussion lead to the 2015 trade deadline and the Reds making outfielder Jay Bruce available in a trade. That discussion led to the possibility that the Reds trade their ace Johnny Cueto, who is a free agent at the end of the season. ESPN's baseball insider and sideline reporter Buster Olney said that the consensus opinion of many GMs he has spoken to is that the Dodgers are the favorite to land Cueto by the end of this month.
This is not the first time Olney has said or written that the Dodgers are the favorites to land Cueto. He has mentioned it several times in his blog, saying that the Dodgers new front office loves Cueto. With current Cy Young favorite Zack Greinke a virtual lock to opt out of his contract at the end of the season, trading for, and possibly signing Cueto makes a lot of sense for the Dodgers. That, and the fact that the Dodgers could use another ace starter to go further in the playoffs than they have over the last two seasons.
Cueto is once again pitching like one of the best pitchers in the game this season as he is 6-6 with a 2.73 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 3.18 XFIP, a 0.90 WHIP and a 24% strikeout rate. His strikeout rate is down slightly compared to last season, but not drastically, and his walk rate is down as well.
So, assuming the Reds do make Cueto available in a trade in the next two weeks, what would the Dodgers have to give up for 2-3 months of his services? Trying to find a comparable trade for two months of an ace is hard to find, but last season we saw the Rays trade David Price in a three team deal with the Mariners and Tigers. Here are the details of the trade:
TIGERS GET: LHP David Price
MARINERS GET: OF Austin Jackson
RAYS GET: LHP Drew Smyly, INF Willy Adames, INF Nick Franklin
The Rays received a young pitcher in Smyly, top 100 infield prospect Willy Adames and Franklin who is more of a bench bat than an every day starter, and was recently demoted to AAA by the Rays. But, the Tigers got the services of Price for a year and a half, while the Dodgers only get Cueto for 2-3 months, so they shouldn't have to give up as much in a deal.
Since that was a three team trade, I won't attempt to duplicate it, as the Tigers gave up both Smyly and Adames in the deal. I will assume that the Dodgers would have to give up a pitching prospect to get a deal done.
I will also assume that Corey Seager and Julio Urias will not be included in any trade involving Cueto, and if they are, I will personally fly out to Los Angeles and burn Dodger Stadium down. Not really, but you get the point.
In return for trading Cueto to the Dodgers, the Reds could receive one of the following:
Jose De Leon
De Leon is pitching well in AA this season and is currently ranked as a top 20 prospect according to John Sickel's recently published midseason Top 75 prospect rankings over at Minor League Ball. Keith Law ranked him in his recent top 25 prospect rankings as well.
Holmes has made 15 starts in Low A this season, and has dominated, but he has had some control problems as he is walking more than five batters per nine innings. It appears the Dodgers are keeping his innings down as he has thrown just 64.1 innings in his 15 starts thus far. Sickels ranked Holmes as his #34 ranked prospect in his midseason Top 75.
I am not sure the Dodgers would have to give up much more than one of these two pitching prospects, and as a Dodgers fan, I prefer they don't deal either of them, but to get an established ace you have to give up some talent. Plus, the Dodgers just drafted two of the top pitching prospects in the MLB Draft back in early June in Walker Buehler and Kyle Funkhouser, so dealing one of their pitching prospects wouldn't harm their farm system that much.
One more thing I want to mention. When the ESPN crew was discussing the possibility of the Dodgers trading for Cueto, they mentioned that the Dodgers might request a 72 hour window to sign him long term. I imagine the Reds would want more in return for allowing the 72 hour signing window. Signing Cueto would be huge for the Dodgers, since they wouldn't have to deal with 29 other teams looking to sign him in the offseason, and they wouldn't have to give up a draft pick, since they would be signing him to an extension.
I wonder if more teams will look to request the 72 hour window to avoid having to give up a first round pick going forward. Of course, there is a price to pay for the 72 hour window.
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