A Hypothetical Braves and Reds Trade

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The Reds did a thing in 2019. A sort of middle finger to the teams that were tanking thing. They tried to build a competitive ballclub. They added Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, Tanner Roark, Sonny Gray, Derek Dietrich, and Zach Duke. It didn’t work.

They then traded Yasiel Puig and others to acquire Trevor Bauer with eyes on 2020. They added Nick Castellanos in the offseason and traded for Archie Bradley at the deadline. It worked…sort of. In the first year of expanded playoffs, they snuck in with a 31-29 record. We know the story. 2 games later, they were done. #Braves.

Fast forward to the 2020-21 offseason, the only player from the first paragraph that’s still with the team is Sonny Gray. The only player from the 2nd paragraph? Nick Castellanos. On December 7th, they traded their closer Raisel Iglesias. While all of this doesn’t add up to a full-on rebuild, the depth the Reds had is diminished. Their 40-man, down to 32. Their farm? Back half.

It’s time and I think they finally know it. To quote Christmas Vacation, “Retool? I’ll retool you.” Yep, they need a retooling.

Braves Needs and Reds Desires

The Braves are in need of bats. Good ones. None that have questions. Solid, proven bats, preferably one right-handed and one left-handed. The Reds have both, at positions of which would likely be desirable for the Braves.

The Reds are in need of depth. Major League depth. The Braves are very much blessed with that and are likely in need of consolidating some of that talent in a trade to make room for others in need of 40-man spots. Let’s do this thing.


The Reds acquire 4 players under team control for quite some time, all with high upside and Braves get a RH and LH bopper to fill their 3 year window, all at a reasonable cost. In my opinion, these teams match up about as good as any teams in baseball. There might be stocking stuffers added to one side or another to help balance the deal, but it’s fairly balanced with the scales weighing heavier on the Braves cost. That’s just the cost of buying proven commodities. Now imagine this lineup with Suarez and Winker in it. That should make you happy.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this piece, check out our latest update on the Braves 40-man Roster.

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

37 thoughts on “A Hypothetical Braves and Reds Trade”

  1. sansho1says:
    December 17, 2020 at 6:47 am

    Important points being made in the aftermath of this announcement that I admit I never fully considered. One of the hurdles in assessing the average level of play is that major league teams cherry-picked Negro League star players, and it was several years before they allowed anything approaching real integration in their developmental systems. So while we have a lot of data on how well the best Negro League players performed once they arrived in ML (very well!), there’s not much to assess in re how well some of the solid, everyday players might have done. This may have created an erroneous assumption (not necessarily stated or even conscious in the mind of the beholder) that, aside from those who were given the opportunity, the level of play was not comparable.

    oldtimer? says:
    December 17, 2020 at 7:54 am

    Charlie Pride, who just recently passed away, played in the Negro Leagues. He and a teammate were traded for a camper I believe.

    December 17, 2020 at 8:53 am

    @35: Exactly. Ichiro was clearly a world-class baseball player, but that doesn’t mean adding his hits in the Japanese League is an appropriate thing to do. (It doesn’t mean it’s not either, but the history of marginal US talents being far more successful in Japan makes it easier to see that the average quality of play was, and is, lower.)

    The best evidence available (I think) is the performance of those who made the transition to MLB, adjusted for (a) the fact that they were older; (b) the acculturation problems they had; and (c) difference in playing conditions. There are, so far as I know, no players who came from MLB to the Negro Leagues who could better help gauge the average quality of play. So just as it would be harder to judge the quality of the Japanese league by looking only at Ichiro and Ohtani, but much easier when you look at Tuffy Rhodes as well, so too with the Bells and Paiges.

    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.)says:
    December 17, 2020 at 9:02 am

    There are other leagues where the direction is pretty much just one-way: the Cuban League, for example, where as I understand the level of talent is theorized to be somewhere around Double- or Triple-A. It’s obviously harder than it is with the Japanese or Korean leagues where we’ve had players go in both directions, but there’s some precedent for the kind of models that we need.

    (IIRC, NPB is thought to be somewhere around Triple-A, and KBO somewhere around High-A.)

    December 17, 2020 at 9:05 am

    The Cuban League is a good example with similar issues, Alex. I haven’t read any of that research, but I know others have done a lot.

    As long as Hector Olivera doesn’t go into the HOF, I’m good with it.

    December 17, 2020 at 9:19 am

    My only concern as regards the Negro Leagues announcement is over the accuracy of the stats kept during those years. I’ll admit that I don’t know enough about it to have a definitive position, but even early NL player stats from the 19th century are sometimes iffy.

    Other than that, I applaud the decision. Bout damn time.

    December 17, 2020 at 9:22 am

    I should add, I guess, that I approach these issues as a statistician, not as a human being. The noncomparabilities across time in MLB are so huge that the noncomparabilities between MLB and the Negro Leagues are just one extra bit of variance.

    Reminds me of the old Ted Williams line where he said he’d struggle to hit .280 against today’s pitching. “But then again, I’m over 70 years old.”

  2. A hypothetical lineup with no DH:
    1. Acuña Jr
    2. FF5
    3. Suarez
    4. Winker
    5. d’Arnaud
    6. Albies
    7. Dansby
    8. Pache

    I’ll not do a hypothetical lineup with the DH as I’m sure Braves would add another bat. IMO, this trade would also leave room for another decent sized signing. Maybe not Ozuna, but a good DH or bench player.

  3. Absence of evidence (of how well solid, everyday Negro Leaguers might have fared in MLB) is, as we know, not necessarily evidence of absence, and to my mind the hazard to avoid is using that absence of evidence as the primary rationale for continued exclusion. That smacks of gatekeeping for the sake of gatekeeping, and a refusal to grapple with the issue.

    There are other measures that can be employed — competitiveness within the leagues as measured by scores of games, distance between good and bad teams in the annual standings, franchise stability. But even there, you’d would need to allow that economic realities were at play that MLB was uniquely able to address and further along to solving by mid-century. You will find greater volatility in all these measures in the Negro Leagues.

    And of course there is anecdotal evidence, probably best illustrated by off-season barnstorming games between the two groups. Some consensus may have been found there, and this evidence exists alongside the statistical record, not in opposition to it.

    The most compelling piece of evidence to me is the performance of the initial select group of players. Allowing that not all of them became MLB stars, I still find it unlikely that Robinson, Campanella, Doby, Minoso, Newcombe, and Irvin could have arrived as immediately impactful players in the absence of consistently top-flight competition in the Negro Leagues.

  4. @3: But suppose I said “I still find it unlikely that Trout, Lindor, Acuna, Soto, Tatis, and Judge could have arrived as immediately impactful players in the absence of consistently top-flight competition in AAA.” You’d rightly snort at me. The only question I’m asking is whether Josh Gibson would have hit .365 in MLB or .330, or .400, and the methodology you’d use to get to the result you choose. I’m definitely not opposed to merging his records with MLB records. Not at all.

  5. It’s not an airtight rationale, sure. It’s never going to be. But yours is a list of six players out of, what, 1000 who have been elevated from AAA over the last decade? Mine is 6 of the first 10 Negro Leaguers to play in MLB (with Satchel Paige being one of the other four).

  6. @5: I agree, but working the other way is the absolute constraint that stopped people from being brought up. If no one could be brought up from A-ball for ten years, the players that would be brought up first would be pretty damn fabulous. And that would definitely have made A ball better than it is now, by a lot. Good enough to be retroactively characterized as MLB? That’s the question.

    It’s just really, really hard to draw inferences about the mean from evidence about one tail. And our personal biases are bound to leak into that assessment.

  7. And if nobody could have been brought up from A-ball for 10 years, it would have long ceased being A-ball. The level of play would inexorably improve by virtue of talent efficiencies via the arrival of new talent, and this would manifest in both the peak AND mean levels of play.

  8. I just don’t know if I’m sold on either of Suarez or Winker honestly, perhaps seeing the Reds shut down in our 2 game series is weighing on my perception a bit. Would Suarez be an upgrade from Riley? Almost surely but his season last year was dreadful and he strikes out a ton with average defense. Winker has a pretty OBP, so I could see him as a target, though he’s almost unplayable against lefties. I think I vote no on the trade. I’d rather do something around Castillo (maybe with Winker) and forget Suarez.

  9. @8: I said that. It would have ceased to be A ball and would have been much better. It’s only how much better that is in question. But now move the hypothetical a bit. Suppose that it also restricted its input, so that, say, it only took US high school players. It still would have been much, much better than it is now. But the talent pool would still be a subset of the aggregate talent pool. Restrictions in the talent pool made MLB worse in the 1920-1948 era, but it made the Negro Leagues worse than they could have been as well.

  10. @10 Sorry, bad self-edit. Agreed that the level of play of each league suffered due to the existence of the other. I don’t follow your hypothetical. I think it may be beyond me, but I don’t care to pursue it.

    The existence of absolute top level talent, to me, requires a mean level of play that sufficiently approximates that found in the major leagues at the time, because that level of performance can only be forged in competitive atmosphere sufficient to nurture it. It would fly in the face of basic statistical truisms to assume otherwise — why would talent be so differently distributed than that found in the majors? The burden of proof would be to show otherwise. I think you’re trying to make that case, as an exercise in skepticism, but so far I am not seeing it.

    Now, I would believe that at the bottom (say 5th to 20th percentiles) of the talent distribution you would probably find a lot of Negro League players who wouldn’t have made a dent in the majors, and most of those below that might not have even survived tryout camp. Those are the players who make possible Josh Gibson averaging over .400 for a three-year run. But I don’t know that judging the merit of a league by its worst performers is a great way to go about it. It is evidence, yes. But playing against them didn’t make Larry Doby Larry Doby from the get go.

  11. I don’t think we disagree at all, sansho1. But I note that it’s at least slightly amusing that you think we shouldn’t use the bottom 10% of players to judge the overall quality of players, because that’s exactly what WAR does. (That’s partly a joke…but only partly since WAR does allow comparisons over time spans long enough to include the same players in different regimes.)

  12. Winker faired better last year versus lefties but overall has been atrocious against them. But the man gets on base and doesn’t strike out a ton and the Braves could use that in their line up. He is controllable for 3 more years as well and would add a much needed lefty to the order. I would love it if the Braves could just get him by himself although he may require a platoon partner. Wonder what he would cost by himself. He isn’t expensive yet so I’m not sure how inclined the reds would be to trade him.

  13. Honestly, I’m a big fan of the old-school platoon bopper concept, especially as we move into a world where the universal DH approaches ever closer. Winker’s not a five-tool player, but dude can hit.

    I’ve been in love with Suarez for years; he’s been the saving grace of my fantasy team more than once. If the Reds would contrive to sell low, I’d be much obliged to take them up on it.

  14. @13
    If the Braves could pull the Suarez and Winker trade off by adding another pitching while keeping Riley, that would be awesome, especially if we’re living in a world with a DH.

    Remove Riley, add Tucker D?

  15. So with the Mets hot on DJ and Springer, that’s starting to make the Mets look a little scary. Thor will be back. Two huge offensive additions. They’ll be really good.

  16. Also, if a Reds fan wouldn’t welcome a couple decades of team control for selling high on Winker and 29-year old Suarez, they cray. This has to be one of the most lopsided years of control deals I’ve seen. Not that I wouldn’t do it, but I would think the deal looks a little better for the Reds than the Atlanta Baseball Team.

  17. @19 I think it depends on how well acquainted that fan is with Drew Waters, honestly, as he’s the main course of that package IMO.

    I’m probably just down on Riley. I won’t pretend to understand the full mechanics of a major league swing (having not spent the time necessary to know what there is to know). The problem with Riley seems to be partly swing mechanics (swing is too long), and that leads me to worry that he will never be able to handle certain pitches depending on how he adjusts his approach. Happy if someone proves me wrong about the guy.

  18. I know this isn’t football, but Austin Riley is 6’3″, 240LB with light-tower power. That’s exciting. And I just don’t see the incentive of selling him off when he’s 23 years old, has played multiple positions, and is already approaching a league-average hitter.

    Winker’s 2020 was the high end of what you hope Riley becomes. But I said before the season that I’m suspicious of outlier seasons in 2020, so I’d be worried Winker can’t replicate his huge short season. I would trade Riley, Wilson, Waters, and Newcomb in a heart beat, but I would just like to get back a tried-and-true All-Star with control.

  19. @18, I sort of hope the Mets do get Springer and DJ. In each of the last three years, FiveThirtyEight’s preseason model, which I believe takes into account team spending, gave the Mets a better chance than the Braves to win the division. (It also gave the Nationals a better chance each year and gave the Phillies a better chance in 2018, but those were at least somewhat plausible.) Given how those years turned out, I’d like to see the streak continue.

  20. @22
    Trading potential talent for proven talent isn’t robbery, nor is this trade. Braves could add 5-6 wins these next 3 years in, what most would consider, their prime years.

  21. You’re the only person ITT that likes that trade and everyone else in the bar has told you that it is bad.

    Those two players are arguably no better than Riley alone much less with the other prospects (suspects?) thrown in.

  22. @23 While I understand your reasoning, I never like to see talent going to divisional rivals. Sooner or later, you lose to that scenario. 1997 was one of those years, and even though we won the division it was the Marlins who took home the crown–ever once in a while, buying all-stars works out really well.

    Although, I would offer one modern era caveat. In the case of acquiring free agents, it seems like a trend that it doesn’t really pay off. Too many injuries. Too much variability in performance past age 28. It’s becoming a crapshoot.

  23. @Chief…I don’t think you read the thread.

    Ryan, yes
    Dusty, no
    Wesley, 1/2 in, 1/2 out
    Alex, yes
    Dale (Reds Fan), no, which means yes for Braves
    Rob, no
    You, no
    So…3 for yes, 3 nos, and one fence straddler. Hardly “everyone”.

    My thought process..
    Austin Riley is a -0.1 WAR player in 500 PAs
    Bryse Wilson is a 0.1 WAR player in 42.2 innings
    Drew Waters, who has a lot of potential, also has a hole in his LH swing the size of the Grand Canyon
    Newcomb, we know (would’ve likely been cut by the team if they had to go to arb)

    It’s pretty easy to see what one would be getting in Suarez and Winker.
    Suarez was a ~4 WAR player for 3 straight years until a down 2020 that was plagued by HORRIBLE luck. He has up to 5 more years of control at a bargain rate (for a 3-4 WAR player).

    Winker finished 26th overall in average exit velocity in 2020, was worth 1.5 WAR in a 60 game season. He also carried a 49% Hard hit rate. That’s really, really good. I see him a 2.5-3 WAR player in 2021.

    In short, Suarez is what you hope Riley will become and comes with an extra year of control over Riley. Winker is 27, is under control for 3 years, and is a big time breakout candidate coming into his prime.

    Braves getting 8 years of team control
    Reds getting, give or take, 18.

  24. Winker would need for all the temporary measures put in place in 2020 to become permanent and to retain his power spike in order to merit a roster spot on a team expecting to contend. He has one skill — hitting RHP — and as far as I can tell is replacement level or below in every other facet of the game. He’s a terrible outfielder, so he needs to mainly serve as DH. He can’t hit LHP (SSS bump in ’20 is an outlier until proven otherwise), so he’s useless as a bench bat in pressure situations unless there’s an RH reliever who can’t be pulled. He can’t run, so he’d get pulled in important situations for a PR, which along with the other factors strains a 25-man roster. He already has had a litany of soft-tissue injuries.

    The line drives are good, but they don’t get him to second base particularly often due to his lack of speed, so unless he clears the wall the hard-hit rate is a little bit wasted. He gets to first base against RHP as good as anyone, and can go deep often enough to keep you interested, but the player in full is one of my least favorite types.

  25. Add me to the “no” list. The constant crapping on Austin Riley continues unabated around here. There’s still a pretty good chance he becomes more than what he is now IMO. I’m not saying I wouldn’t trade him, but trading him for this would be lamely cashing out your chips.

  26. Rob, I’m pretty sure you’d trade Kyle Wright for a half-eaten onion ring and a can of Diet Coke.

  27. To me if Drew Waters has real potential I want him to stay in Atlanta. If we see him as quad A type material as some suggest we should get rid of him. Unfortunately I’m afraid if it’s the latter we can’t get anything for him anyway.

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