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The Three-Way Trevor Bauer Trade Looks Pretty Good For Everyone

Photo: Ed Zurga (Getty)

The Trevor Bauer trade was at least a little overshadowed, because within minutes of the news breaking, one of its major pieces was involved in a big ol’ brawl. Understandable, but it really is a fascinating trade that confounded expectations and may have made the Indians—ostensible sellers here—an even better team both now and going forward.

The full, three-team deal:

Reds get: (From Indians) P Trevor Bauer
Indians get: (From Reds) OF Yasiel Puig, P Scott Moss; (From Padres) OF Franmil Reyes, P Logan Allen, IF/OF Victor Nova
Padres get: (From Reds) OF Taylor Trammell

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Everything must proceed from the knowledge that the Indians were not going to re-sign Bauer after his contract is up after next season. They are not willing to spend money, and, a lesser but still real motivator, Bauer is a headache. Still, pitching is pitching, and Cleveland sent away one of its top-of-the-rotation guys when it’s in a wild card spot and just three games out in the division. That hurts.

“[Y]ou’re losing a damn good pitcher in a race right now,” Indians 2B Jason Kipnis said. “That’s no fun ... That’s a hard trigger to pull. Hopefully, we get some guys here who are ready to compete and ready to fit in.”

The return goes a long way toward easing the pain. The Indians’ starters, especially when Corey Kluber comes back, are still pretty fearsome in a playoff series, and lefty Logan Allen, though he’s had a rough rookie year in very limited big-league action, provides an immediate option to replace Bauer in the rotation. Allen was ranked as San Diego’s No. 7 prospect, and 98th overall, so they expect he’ll be in their rotation for a good long time.

The rotation was not the problem (even though it’s worse now; there’s no way of getting around that). The problem was that the Indians don’t really hit, and definitely don’t hit for power, and absolutely don’t hit in the outfield and DH spots—all issues which Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes directly address. Puig, a free agent after this season, has 22 home runs on the year—no one currently on the Indians has more—and over the last month he’s been hitting close to .300. Reyes is under team control through 2024, and is putting up a .255/.314/.536 in his second big-league season. His 27 dingers immediately lead the Indians. Reyes is sort of a disaster in the outfield—the DH slot is where he belongs, and he should thrive in the AL.

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Cleveland’s thinking on Reyes was shared by the Padres, who always saw Reyes as an AL player, and who preferred the superior defensively Hunter Renfroe in the corner outfield spot Reyes was clogging up. The way’s clear now for Renfroe long-term, and the Padres are also getting the single best prospect in this deal: 21-year-old Taylor Trammell, ranked as the Reds’ No. 1 prospect, and who an awful lot of people think is going to be a star.

As for the Reds, in fourth place and not going anywhere this season, if Trammell pans out they’re the clear losers here. But that’s still an “if,” and there’s reason to like the deal even for them. Cincinnati has quietly built one of the better rotations in the game for next year. Tanner Roark could be moved today and Alex Wood is a pending free agent, but at the very least in 2020 they’re going to trot out Bauer, Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Anthony DeSclafani. Pretty, pretty good.

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It is entirely possible for more than one team, even three teams, to win a single trade, if each side deals from surplus and directly addresses need. There’s no hard guarantees this’ll work out for anyone, but it’s difficult not to be impressed by what Cleveland did here. They made themselves a better everyday team right now, even while beefing up their system pitching depth, and did it without having to raid their own prospects. Yes, everything would be different if ownership were willing to spend, and yes, there may very well come a moment in two months when they really wish they still had Bauer. But what is the trade deadline for if not a bitter wistfulness (or wistful bitterness) over what might have been?

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