The Reds and Mets have lined up on a trade sending outfielder Tyler Naquin and minor league reliever Phillip Diehl from Cincinnati to New York. In exchange, the Reds are acquiring a pair of low minors prospects, right-hander Jose Acuña and second baseman Hector Rodríguez. Both clubs have announced the agreement.
Naquin had been one of the more obvious trade candidates around the league. The 31-year-old is set to reach free agency at the end of the season, so there was little reason for the last-place Reds not to look to move him for future value. He’ll head to Queens as the second left-handed bat the Mets have added in as many weeks. New York picked up first baseman/designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach in a deal with the Pirates last Friday.
A former first-round pick of Cleveland, Naquin had an excellent rookie season back in 2016. His offensive productivity was up-and-down for the rest of his time there, but he’s settled in as a solid platoon bat over the past two years. Naquin signed a minor league deal with Cincinnati over the 2020-21 offseason, and he cracked the Opening Day roster last year. That paved for the way for a season and a half as a Red, in which he posted a .262/.324/.462 line through 655 plate appearances.
That overall offensive productivity is a hair above average, and Naquin has been quite good when holding the platoon advantage. He’s popped 23 homers in 542 plate appearances against right-handed pitching over the past couple seasons, compiling a .278/.338/.503 mark against righties. That power has translated outside of the Reds hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park, and the Mets figure to leverage him as a platoon player down the stretch.
The Mets have one of the game’s best outfields, with a trio of Mark Canha, Brandon Nimmo and Starling Marte manning the grass. Canha and Marte will continue to pick up the lion’s share of playing time in the corners, but Naquin complements those veteran right-handed bats. He’ll also supplement a DH group that includes Vogelbach and Dominic Smith from the left side, as well as the righty-swinging J.D. Davis.
Naquin’s acquisition seemingly increases the likelihood that at least one of Smith or Davis gets dealt before next Tuesday’s deadline. The Mets have been on the hunt for offensive help for weeks, largely due to dissatisfaction with Smith’s and Davis’ performance. Adding a pair of DH/bench bats to an already full outfield and with superstar Pete Alonso at first base further clutters that group. Each of Smith and Davis has minor league options remaining, and the Mets have already optioned Smith this year. That’s a possibility if the club simply wants to stockpile as much depth as possible, but it also stands to reason they’d be open to trade opportunities.
The Mets will seemingly add a bit of money to the payroll, as there’s no indication cash considerations are changing hands. Naquin is playing this season on a $4.025MM salary, around $1.525MM of which is still to be paid. The Mets luxury tax figure is narrowly above the $290MM threshold, in the estimation of Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, a team that exceeds $290MM (the fourth and highest tier of CBT penalization) is taxed at an 80% rate for every dollar thereafter.
In addition to Naquin, the Mets add some non-roster bullpen depth. Diehl, who was outrighted off the Reds 40-man roster in May, won’t immediately occupy a spot on New York’s 40-man. He’s spent the bulk of the season with the Reds top affiliate in Louisville, working to a 4.24 ERA through 23 1/3 innings. The 27-year-old has an excellent 30.6% strikeout rate against a decent 8.2% walk percentage, although his fly-ball oriented approach has made him fairly home run prone.
New York’s left-handed relief depth is thin, with Joely Rodríguez and recent waiver claim Sam Clay the only two bullpen southpaws on the 40-man roster. Clay has been hit hard in four appearances with Triple-A Syracuse and has yet to appear in an MLB game as a Met. Rodríguez, acquired from the Yankees shortly before the season, owns a 5.93 ERA across 27 1/3 innings on the year. He’s striking out batters and inducing grounders at a decent clip, but he’s also walked a massive 16.3% of batters faced. Left-handed relief help figures to continue to be a target over the next few days even with Diehl bolstering the organizational depth.
To create space for Naquin on the 40-man roster, the Mets announced they’ve designated reliever R.J. Alvarez for assignment. The righty was selected onto the roster earlier this month but didn’t wind up making an MLB appearance. He’s had a nice season in Syracuse, working to a 3.16 ERA through 31 1/3 frames. The Mets will presumably place the 31-year-old on waivers in the coming days.
The Reds, meanwhile, add some talent to the lower levels. Rodríguez, an 18-year-old infielder, was recently ranked by Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs as the #30 prospect in the Mets organization. Longenhagen writes that the left-handed hitter has excellent bat control, but he has limited power upside in a 5’8″ frame. He was recently signed out of the Dominican Republic. Acuña, 19, was recently promoted to Low-A. He has never appeared on an organizational prospect list at FanGraphs or Baseball America.
It’s the first move of what’s likely to be a busy few days for Cincinnati general manager Nick Krall and his staff. Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle are the club’s top trade candidates, but they also have a host of rental bats who should generate interest. Beyond Naquin, Cincinnati could market impending free agent hitters Brandon Drury, Donovan Solano and Tommy Pham to contenders.
Robert Murray of FanSided first reported the Mets were acquiring Diehl. Joel Sherman of the New York Post first reported the Mets were acquiring Naquin. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com was first to report the prospect return.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
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