The Cincinnati Reds continued their roster cleansing methodology — veterans for prospect/suspects — by trading starting pitcher Dan Straily to the Miami Marlins for three minor leaguers.
The Reds acquired two righthandsed pitchers, Luis Castillo and Austin Brice, plus outfielder Isiah White, low-level minor leaguers.
Even though the Reds are in a tear-it-down and put-it-back-together mode, this trade is a bit curious.
Straily, only 28, was their best starting pitcher last year — 14-8 with a 3.76 earned run average over 191 1/3 innings that was constructed via 31 starts and three relief appearances.
MAKING IT A BIT CURIOUS is the fact that Straily is not eligible for arbitration until after next season and is can’t become a free agent until 2020. That meant the Reds had financial control over him until 2020.
But starting pitching is one part of the team that is strong and the club felt he was expendable. The rotation is expected to be a healthy Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan and a host of candidates that include Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Tim Adleman and Amir Garrett, among others.
The Reds claimed Straily off waivers the week the 2016 season began and he was a monstrous surprise. But for the second straight season the Reds finished last in the National League Central and are the usual suspect to do so again in 2017.
As Pittsburgh general manager Branch Rickey once rtold home run star Ralph Kiner, when Kiner sought a raise, “We finished last with you and we can finish last without you.”
Of course, it wasn’t Kiner’s fault the Pirates finished last. His supporting cast was abysmal and perhaps that’s the way the Reds felt about Straily.
SO THE ACCUMMULATION of prospects/suspects continues as the Reds ignore the present with their aim at the future.
Castillo, 24, pitched at Single-A and Double-A last season, going 8-6 with a 2.26 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 131 2/3 innings.
Brice, 24, pitched in Double-A and Triple-A. He was 4-7 with a 2.74 ERA in 32 minor league games, including 13 starts. He appeared in 15 games for the Marlins last season where he had a 7.07 ERA in 14 big league innings.
White, 20, was taken in the third round of the 2015 draft by Miami. He played at short-season Single A last season, hitting .214 with one homer and 17 RBIs in 51 games.
As is apparent, they are prospects/suspects, which is always the case when a team obtains minor league players. Some will be very good, some will be average, some will be mediocre and some will never make it. Nobody knows for sure which is which.
Castillo was Florida’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year and the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year and was rated by Baseball America Miami’s second-best prospect and fifth-best by MLB.com. It must be noted that the Marlins farm system also is rated is one of the worst in baseball.
“Castillo has a power arm, and we believe he is trending up,” said Reds general manager Dick Williams. “We think he has a very good chance to start or be a late inning reliever. He has improved his control over time while demonstrating plus velocity, which he can maintain deep into a game. He has the impact potential we were looking to add.”
BRICE IS RATED BY MLB.COM as the Marlins’ ninth-best prospect. He made his Major League debut in 2016, holding opponents to a .173 batting average in 15 games out of the Marlins’ bullpen and was a Southern League All-Star for Class AA Jacksonville.
“Brice showed promise as a starting pitching prospect in the minor leagues,” said Williams. “We think that starting is a definite possibility given his size, durability and mix of pitches. Given the success he had as a reliever last year, we will evaluate him there as well. He represents another exciting young pitcher that adds to our depth.”
White was ranked as Miami’s 10th-best prospect by Baseball Prospectus and 16th-best prospect by MLB.com. In two seasons as a professional since being drafted in 2015 by the Marlins in the third round, he combined to hit .247 with 18 stolen bases in 89 games with Rookie GCL Marlins and Class A Batavia.
“White is a very athletic player with plus speed who is strong defensively,” said Williams. “We liked him in the draft in 2015 and are excited to add another young athlete with upside to the system.”
So add three more prospects/suspects the Reds have gobbled up since the trade deadline last July. All those high-ranking numbers as to where the players standings in a team’s minor league system don’t mean much. They are fodder for talk but they seldom translate into anything significant when a player does (or doesn’t) reach the majors.
While this might be very exciting for team in the Reds’ minor league system, for fans of the big club another important piece will be missing.
Straily, though, was expendable because of the team’s starting pitching depth. But losing 14 wins and 191 innings can be a big blow — to a contending team.
The Reds will not be contenders in 2017.