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Mahle Returns, Latest Trade Rumors, Another Series vs. Cardinals


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Mahle Returns, Latest Trade Rumors, Another Series vs. Cardinals
By Reds Content Plus • Issue #288 • View online
Welcome back to the MORNING SPIN! We hope you enjoyed the All-Star festivities and are ready for the second half of the season. While the Reds are one of MLB’s worst teams and are well out of the race by this point, the looming trade deadline is the storyline we’re all watching with bated breath. We’ll talk about that and more in today’s newsletter.
This morning’s topics:
  • Mahle to Start This Weekend
  • Roster Moves During All-Star Break
  • A Comprehensive Look at the Reds on the Block
  • Scouting Cardinals SP Adam Wainwright
This issue was written by Matt Wilkes.

Mahle to Start This Weekend
News: The Reds will activate pitcher Tyler Mahle from the injured list this weekend and he’ll start against the Cardinals on Sunday.
Analysis: As hoped, Mahle’s shoulder strain was minor and kept him out for minimal time. He’ll make a maximum of two starts before the trade deadline on August 2, giving himself a chance to showcase to other teams that he’s healthy. As long as Mahle appears healthy and effective, opposing teams should show significant interest. While Luis Castillo is the best starting pitcher available at the deadline, Mahle is in the next tier along with Athletics starter Frankie Montas. Beyond that, the options thin out quickly. The Reds will have two of the hottest commodities at the deadline, and if the team chooses to move both, it should get a significant prospect haul — as long as Mike Moustakas isn’t involved in either trade.
Roster Moves During All-Star Break
News: During the All-Star break, the Reds activated Mike Moustakas and Dauri Moreta from the COVID-IL and sent substitute reliever Ryan Hendrix back to Triple-A Louisville.
Analysis: Moustakas’ third stint on the COVID-IL this season was another short one, lasting only four days. The team had already optioned Max Schrock back to Louisville on Sunday, prior to what became a rained-out game. Moreta’s stay on the IL also lasted just four days. Hendrix, who was called up as a substitute player and was not added back to the 40-man roster, pitched in one game against the Cardinals and threw two scoreless innings with two strikeouts and a walk.
Who's on the Block?
Keeping track of trade rumors can get overwhelming, especially with as many available players as the Reds seem to have. I thought it might be helpful to list the players most likely to be moved, why the Reds would move them, and which teams are or could be interested in their services.
Luis Castillo
Why he’s on the block: Castillo has a year-and-a-half remaining on his contract, and the Reds have shown no public interest in extending him. An extra year of control will make Castillo incredibly enticing to other teams, allowing the Reds to (hopefully) maximize the trade return. While it would’ve made sense to extend Castillo for a season or two beyond his arbitration years, the window to do so has long passed. He’ll likely want at least a five-year contract in free agency, a risky proposition for a pitcher who will be 31 years old when he hits free agency. The Reds are banking on young pitchers — Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, and others — to develop and eventually fill the hole left by Castillo.
Which teams need him: Insert the name of any contender here. Castillo would significantly bolster any team’s rotation down the stretch, immediately stepping into a #1 or #2 role in a playoff rotation. The Yankees have probably been most heavily linked to Castillo so far, but the Dodgers and Astros are also strong contenders. The Blue Jays, Cardinals, Mariners, Mets, Padres, Red Sox, and Twins have also shown reported interest in him.
Tyler Mahle
Why he’s on the block: Like Castillo, Mahle has a year-and-a-half of team control left — and the window to extend him past his arbitration years is probably closed. A longer-term extension with Mahle could be more feasible since he’s still 27 years old and wouldn’t be as pricy as Castillo. But the Reds have made it clear they want to get younger and avoid spending money. As mentioned in the news item above, Mahle is the second- or third-best starting pitcher on the trade market, and the Reds could get a significant prospect haul back for him. Since 2020, Mahle ranks 14th among starting pitchers in fWAR (6.8).
Which teams need him: Again, insert the name of any contending team. Whichever clubs don’t get Castillo, or can’t pay the price for him and want the next-best option, will probably pursue Mahle. The Mets and Giants are specific teams who’ve been linked to Mahle. More teams should emerge if Mahle proves his shoulder is healthy. However, AL East clubs are almost certainly out on Mahle, who is not vaccinated for COVID-19 and can’t play in Toronto. Other AL teams may also be hesitant to trade for him, too, if they have games remaining in Toronto or have a chance of meeting the Blue Jays in the Rogers Centre during the playoffs.
Brandon Drury
Why he’s on the block: Drury is a trade chip the Reds didn’t expect to have a few months ago. Signed to a minor-league deal during spring training, he made the Opening Day roster only due to injuries and wound up being the Reds’ best hitter this season. He’s been an impact right-handed batter in 2022 — with the underlying metrics to back it up — and has positional versatility any contending team would want. The 29-year-old is a free agent at the end of the season. He could be an enticing add-on to a trade including Castillo or Mahle.
Which teams need him: The Dodgers, who lost the versatile Chris Taylor to a broken foot, and Giants are showing interest in Drury. The Braves also make a ton of sense, as they’re without Ozzie Albies (broken foot) and currently trotting out the bloated corpse of Robinson Canó at second base. The Mets and Phillies could also use upgrades at second base or third base. The White Sox likely prefer a lefty hitter, but Drury would be a clear improvement over incumbent second baseman Josh Harrison. The Guardians have gotten less production from righty hitters than any team in the game (78 wRC+), but Drury wouldn’t have a clear spot to play with two all-stars occupying second and third base for Cleveland (Andrés Giménez and José Ramírez). The Mariners may want an upgrade over Adam Frazier (79 wRC+) at second base. Like Mahle, Drury is not vaccinated and probably won’t draw interest from AL East teams.
Tommy Pham
Why he’s on the block: Pham is a free agent at the end of the year, and his future is not in Cincinnati. Although he’s been average overall at the plate (100 wRC+), Pham still hits left-handed pitchers well (113 wRC+), draws a lot of walks (11.6 BB%), and plays an adequate left field.
Which teams need him: There aren’t any credible rumors on Pham (or any remaining player on the list) yet. The Dodgers are an obvious fit with Taylor out and a hole in left field. Astros left fielder Michael Brantley is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury, which could put Pham in play for them. The Braves, meanwhile, have received disappointing production from their left-field platoon of Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario.
Tyler Naquin
Why he’s on the block: Naquin is also a free agent after this season. While he’s struggled to stay healthy for most of his career, he’s strong against right-handed pitchers when he’s in the lineup (117 wRC+). The 31-year-old has only played right field and DH in 2022, but he has previous experience in left and center field.
Which teams need him: The White Sox stick out here. Their lineup is almost entirely right-handed, and no team in baseball has received less production from their lefty hitters (60 wRC+). They’re in the bottom 10 in the league against right-handed pitching. Chicago is currently starting Gavin Sheets in right field against righty pitchers. Sheets hit well last year against righties (143 wRC+) but has fallen off in 2022 (97 wRC+). Naquin represents a potential upgrade in right field and, at worst, would be a valuable bench bat the Sox currently lack. The Red Sox also make sense, as they could desperately use an upgrade over Jackie Bradley Jr. in right field. Naquin could also fit with the Padres as insurance for Wil Myers, who has dealt with a knee injury that may eventually require surgery.
Kyle Farmer
Why he’s on the block: Farmer is 31 years old and there are young shortstops creeping up behind him in the Reds’ farm system in José Barrero, Elly De La Cruz (who was just promoted to Double-A), and Matt McLain. As for what Farmer brings to other teams, he annihilates left-handed pitching (186 wRC+) and can play all over the diamond. A contending team that needs an infielder or utility bench player would surely love to have Farmer, who’s also regarded as a clubhouse leader.
Which teams need him: The Giants like versatile players who they can mix and match into the lineup based on platoon splits. Farmer checks both boxes. San Francisco’s long-time shortstop, Brandon Crawford, is currently dealing with an injury, and Farmer is a better hitter against southpaws anyway. Given the Giants’ reported interested in Drury, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were looking at Farmer. By that logic, the Dodgers could make sense as well, although Farmer would not see much time at shortstop unless Trea Turner needed a rest or got injured. The Rays could also come calling with shortstop Wander Franco potentially out until September due to a broken hamate bone. Seattle is a recent trade partner with the Reds and may have interested in a second-base platoon with Farmer and Frazier.
Donovan Solano
Why he’s on the block: He’s a free agent after this season. Although he’s missed most of the season to this point, he could be a useful bench bat for a contender (112 wRC+) and fill a platoon spot against lefties.
Which teams need him: The same teams that pursue Drury and Farmer could look at Solano, too. To recap the teams we’ve speculated for the other two: Dodgers, Giants, Braves, Mets, Phillies, White Sox, Guardians, Mariners, and Rays.
Scouting Cardinals SP Adam Wainwright
The year is 2050. A 68-year-old Adam Wainwright toes the rubber for the Cardinals and, with longtime catcher Yadier Molina behind the plate, hurls six innings of two-run ball against the Reds. “Will they ever go away?” we ask, in vain, as the Cardinals complete their 43rd consecutive winning season.
While that nightmare isn’t a reality (yet), it feels like Wainwright has been around forever. The 40-year-old will take the mound for the 40th time against the Reds in his career tonight. The right-hander will (supposedly) retire after this season, which means this could be the final time he pitches in Cincinnati. The Cardinals do visit town one more time at the end of August.
If this is Wainwright’s last year, he’s going out in vintage form. In 18 starts and 111 innings, the right-hander has a 3.00 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 3.86 xFIP, and 4.34 xERA. The gap between his ERA and the ERA estimators show how good the Cardinals’ defense has been, but Wainwright has been legitimately impressive for a pitcher his age. Most players, especially pitchers, are out of baseball long before they hit 40 years old. Wainwright is currently on pace for about 2.8 fWAR this season, which would be the highest total by a pitcher 40 or older since Bartolo Colon in 2013.
The last time the Reds faced Wainwright on June 11, we noted that his strikeout rate was way down and his walk rate was up. Starting with that outing, those metrics have both leveled out toward his career norms. He’s walked only nine of the last 186 batters he’s faced, with four of those coming in his most recent start versus the Dodgers.
Wainwright is far from infallible, though. He pitches to contact and doesn’t throw hard (88-89 mph), which means he can get hit hard if his command is off on a given night.
We know Wainwright’s repertoire well by this point. He throws three different types of fastballs: a sinker, cutter, and four-seamer. None are particularly remarkable, although he’s gotten far better results on his sinker (.221 BA, .328 SLG, .266 wOBA) than expected based on contact quality (.264 xBA, .465 xSLG, .340 xwOBA). Perhaps that’s another result of the Cardinals’ vaunted infield defense.
Wainwright’s signature pitch is still his curveball, which has held hitters to a .271 xwOBA and ranks as his best offering by pitch value (-7). His curve gets more than five inches of horizontal movement above average, 12th among all pitchers.
Tonight will mark Wainwright’s third start against the Reds this season. The Reds knocked him around on April 24 (5 IP, 4 ER, 8 H, 3 BB, 3 K), but Wainwright pitched better the second time around in June (7 IP, 3 ER, 8 H, 1 BB, 7 K).
MORNING SPIN is the daily newsletter (Monday-Saturday) of Reds Content Plus. Its writers are Matt Wilkes, Steve Mancuso and Kyle Berger.
Stats Glossary
Need a quick refresher on what a certain stat means? You can find definitions here at our glossary at Reds Content Plus. If you run across a stat in MORNING SPIN that we don’t have there, please let us know by email at redscontentplus at gmail.
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