Over the past three weeks, the Reds and Dodgers had been engaged in nearly constant conversation, speaking so frequently that Cincinnati general manager Nick Krall quipped he had spoken to Los Angeles president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman more often than his wife.Those talks finally came to fruition on Friday,
Over the past three weeks, the Reds and Dodgers had been engaged in nearly constant conversation, speaking so frequently that Cincinnati general manager Nick Krall quipped he had spoken to Los Angeles president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman more often than his wife.
Those talks finally came to fruition on Friday, when the teams announced a pre-holiday blockbuster, a seven-player deal that sent outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, left-hander Alex Wood and infielder/catcher Kyle Farmer to the Reds in exchange for right-hander Homer Bailey and a pair of prospects in infielder Jeter Downs and right-hander Josiah Gray.
The Dodgers are expected to release Bailey, which would put them on the hook for the $23 million that the right-hander is owed in 2019, plus a $5 million buyout for 2020. Still, shedding the salaries of Kemp, Puig and Wood should save the Dodgers a net of more than $20 million in 2019 and leaves them approximately $30 million below the competitive balance threshold (CBT), per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. This trade could set up Los Angeles to spend big next offseason, when another $50 million or so comes off their payroll.
The departure of Puig also cleared some of the Dodgers' outfield logjam, leading to speculation that they could be closer to signing free-agent superstar Bryce Harper. But that could entail a deal that would put Los Angeles back over the CBT, not to mention a longer-term deal than the club is likely comfortable with handing out.
The Dodgers, now with two more quality prospects in tow, could also head back into the trade market and make a deal for star catcher J.T. Realmuto or Indians aces Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer. And Los Angeles shouldn't be counted out of signing a top free agent like A.J. Pollock, Yasmani Grandal or Marwin Gonzalez, for instance, as it looks to capture its first World Series title since 1988.
"We have a really good team, but we feel like we want to continue to add to it before we get to Spring Training," Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters Friday. "What exactly that looks like, I'm not sure yet; but we've gained some flexibility and strengthened our system."
Meanwhile, the deal adds four Major League-ready players to the Reds' roster and addresses a few needs for Cincinnati in the process, bolstering the rotation with the addition of Wood, improving its depth at catcher with Farmer while adding a pair of power hitters to the middle of the lineup in Kemp and Puig, who should thrive playing home games at Great American Ball Park.
Wood, Puig and Kemp can all become free agents after next season, but this was an aggressive move focused on 2019 that immediately improved the Reds. They have not made the postseason since 2013 and finished in last place in the National League Central at 67-95 last season, but this was a big step toward fielding a competitive team for 2019.
• Puig, Ward reunited in deal
In addition to the four players, Los Angeles sent $7 million to Cincinnati in the deal, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi; thus, Cincinnati is only projected to be adding a few million dollars to its payroll going forward even after this deal. The Reds were able to hold onto their top prospects in this deal, especially considering that Downs and Gray still need time in the Minors before they are ready for the big leagues. President of baseball operations Dick Williams said the Reds have room to add salary in free agency and he was willing to move prospects via a trade as well if it means improving the team.
Given the club's remaining needs, Friday's move seems like only a starting point for the Reds and what could be a very active rest of the offseason. Cincinnati made its first move during the Winter Meetings when it acquired right-hander Tanner Roark from Washington. The additions of Roark and Wood should help strengthen the club's rotation. The Reds had also been looking to move on from right-hander Bailey -- whom the Dodgers will reportedly release -- and rid themselves of his contract and his 10-5 no-trade rights.
The Reds could also look to add a true center fielder, as neither outfielder acquired in the deal is one, though Williams noted that a few players in the organization have the potential to play center.
"We're not done,"Williams said. "We still have resources to make this team better. … We intend to continue to work throughout this offseason to improve the club.
"We still want to get better. We want to improve the club as much as we can. And really anywhere on the diamond is open for discussion. I would say pitching is still an area that we'll continue to look closely at. Probably the area of most focus, but it could be anywhere on the diamond."
Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.