DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers are still searching for ways to boost the offense of the future, and a recent excess of outfielders in Cincinnati could be an opportunity for Al Avila to propose a trade.
Cincinnati signed former Tigers outfielder Nicholas Castellanos on Monday, creating a bit of a logjam in the outfield.
According to baseball analyst Jim Bowden, the Reds front office is planning to play Castellanos at a corner outfield spot, Jess Winker in the other corner outfield spot and Shogo Akiyama primarily in center field.
Bowden mentioned Nick Senzel playing center field and “possibly some infield.” Aristides Aquino would play “mostly in right field” but also could be sent down because he has an option, Bowden said.
If the Reds indeed go with some combination of Castellanos, Winker and Akiyama as their primary outfield, the Tigers might be able to make a move.
Cincinnati is clearly in win-now mode. In addition to Castellanos, the Reds signed slugger Mike Moustakas to a four-year deal at second base. Former Tigers prospect Eugenio Suarez is entrenched at third and veteran Joey Votto is at first base. Freddy Galvis appears to have the inside track to start at shortstop.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman also said the Reds are “considering trading Nick Senzel.” Heyman said he’s heard Senzel’s name is out on the market.
Is Matt Boyd a fit?
The Reds offense is fairly stacked, and the starting rotation looks pretty strong at the top, too. Cincinnati has to feel great about Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray as a trio. Wade Miley is a solid back-of-the-rotation signee from the Houston Astros.
But who will be the No. 5 starter? The Reds are competing in a strong division and will have teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals to deal with if they want to be a serious World Series contender. Miley and Anthony DeSclafani aren’t bad options, but Matt Boyd would be an upgrade.
Most importantly, Boyd is under team control for three seasons, so the Reds would have him along with Castillo and Gray for the foreseeable future if Bauer walks after 2020.
World Series contending teams can never have enough starting pitching. Last year, the Astros, despite having one of the best rotations in the game, ponied up for Zack Greinke. The Reds would definitely pick up the phone.
Second piece of trade package
For the Tigers to make this work, they would also likely have to send a second piece to Cincinnati, most likely an infield or starting pitching prospect.
Cincinnati needs a shortstop, so the Tigers could consider adding Willi Castro to the deal. He’s major league ready and has more upside than Galvis. But the Tigers eyed him for years before they finally snatched him away from the Cleveland Indians, and now that he’s proven himself at Triple-A, the Tigers seem unlikely to trade him.
Isaac Paredes could be a name that comes up in discussions, but again, the team can’t afford to move its offensive prospects, and Paredes, along with Riley Greene, is one of the two best in the organization.
Detroit would probably have to be willing to part with one of its highly regarded pitching prospects to make a deal. Would the Reds demand Casey Mize, Matt Manning or Tarik Skubal, or would be someone from the Alex Faedo, Joey Wentz, Franklin Perez tier?
If the Reds would accept a package of Boyd and Faedo -- an established starter with elite strikeout numbers and a near-top 100 prospect -- the Tigers would have to accept the deal. More than likely, they would have to part with one of the top three starting pitcher prospects or Paredes.
Why this makes sense for Detroit
It’s no secret the Tigers are loaded on the pitching front. The six prospects named above join the likes of Spencer Turnbull, Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris, Elvin Rodriguez, Anthony Castro, Beau Burrows and others in the mix for the future starting rotation.
Dealing Boyd, who at best would be on the roster for one competitive season before free agency, is a no-brainer if a reasonable deal presents itself. Parting with Faedo would be hard, but again, the Tigers need bats.
Just one year ago, Senzel was an elite prospect, ranked among the top five in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline. He’s still only 24 years old and is under team control until 2026. That’s exactly what the Tigers need.
Last season was a bit of a struggle for the rookie. Senzel hit .256 with a .742 OPS, 14 stolen bases and 12 home runs. He was average in the field and never really got his footing at the plate.
Still, he would have been the Tigers’ best hitter with those numbers.
Senzel played 96 games in center field, but he came up through the Reds’ system as an infielder. Could the drastic defensive shift have effected him at the plate? He wouldn’t be the first player to fall victim to that trend.
The point is Avila wanted an elite hitting prospect for Boyd at last year’s trade deadline, and interested buyers reportedly wouldn’t budge. If he has a chance to get just that, and the only reason Senzel is available is because of an up and down rookie season, it would be a steal.
Landing Aquino would be an added bonus. The 6-foot-4 outfielder wasn’t on prospect radars coming into the season, but then he hit 28 home runs in 78 games for Triple-A Louisville. His .992 OPS with the Bats was too much for Cincinnati to ignore.
Aquino didn’t miss a beat after getting called up. He hit 19 home runs in 56 games. The rest of his numbers weren’t great, but the power alone allowed Aquino to finish with an .891 OPS.
He’s only 25 years old, so the breakout isn’t necessarily a fluke. Aquino also played solid defense, showed a strong arm and stole seven bases in seven attempts.
The Reds won’t want to move him, but the Tigers have to do their due diligence.
Making trades for young players is hard, as the Tigers found out last July. It’s not going to be easy to acquire players with prospect pedigrees of Senzel or those who showed as much power potential as Aquino.
But this could be the perfect storm of events for the Tigers to enter negotiations. Boyd still has a ton of value, regardless of the second half of last season. The Tigers have enough high-end pitching prospects to part with one.
Cincinnati is obviously making a run at the NL Central this season. The Cubs are on the decline, the Pirates are awful and the Cardinals and Brewers didn’t do much to get better this off-season. If a three- or four-year window is opening for the Reds -- considering how long they’ve got Castillo, Gray, Castellanos, Suarez and Moustakas under control -- Boyd fits that time frame.
Aquino would slide into right field and Senzel could land at third base, second base or center field for the Tigers. Adding two middle-of-the-order bats who are already major league ready would certainly speed up the rebuild.