With five days remaining until Tuesday’s trade deadline, the Cincinnati Reds made their first deadline deal.
The Reds feel outfielder Tyler Naquin and Triple-A reliever Phillip Diehl, a Cincinnati native, to the New York Mets for two prospects, the teams announced Thursday night.
The two low-level prospects are 19-year-old pitcher José Acuña, who will report to Low-A Daytona, and 18-year-old center fielder Héctor Rodriguez, who will report to the rookie-level Arizona League.
“We had several teams that had interest in Tyler,” said Reds General Manager Nick Krall, who began his press conference by thanking Naquin for his contributions to the club. “This was what we felt was the best deal for him and we felt we added two quality players to our pipeline.”
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Naquin, who homered in Thursday’s 7-6 loss to the Miami Marlins, is a free agent at the end of the season, which made him a clear trade candidate. He was hitting .246 with seven homers, 12 doubles and 33 RBI in 56 games.
The Reds have three outfielders on rehab assignments at Triple-A Louisville – Aristides Aquino, Jake Fraley and Albert Almora Jr. – so they have a lot of outfielders biding for playing time. Stuart Fairchild, promoted to the big leagues on July 12, has received 14 at-bats.
This is just the start for the Reds, who will be sellers at the deadline with arguably the most to sell. Luis Castillo is considered the best pitcher available on the trade market with Tyler Mahle one tier below him. Brandon Drury, Donovan Solano and Tommy Pham are other position players in the last year of their contracts.
“I’ve said this before, we have to build through our player pipeline,” Krall said. “For us, we have to make sure we’re continuously stocking that player pipeline. Having conversations about those players doesn’t mean we’re going to trade them. Doesn’t mean we’re not going to trade them. We’ re working right now to figure out how we can do the best we can to build us for long-term and sustainable success.”
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Acuña, a Venezuela native listed at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, has a 3.16 ERA in 25 2/3 innings between rookie-ball and Low-A with 36 strikeouts and seven walks. The right-hander made two starts at Low-A, touching 94 mph with his fastball, and he will remain at that level.
“He added 3 mph to his fastball from last year to this year,” said Krall, noting his fastball, slider and changeup all grade as above-average. “You can see him developing and growing. He’s 19 years old. He’s got a chance to be a legitimate Major League starting pitcher.”
Rodriguez is hitting .356 between with four doubles, four triples, three homers and 16 RBI in 26 games, which includes two games at Low-A. The 5-foot-8, 186-pound Rodriguez, from the Dominican Republic, has stolen 12 bases in 15 attempts, and he’s drawn six walks to nine strikeouts.
Why did the Reds choose two teenage prospects compared to a more experienced prospect?
“We had conversations about some upper-level guys as well, but taking the upside with both of these players,” Krall said. “With Héctor Rodriguez having a chance to be a center fielder, a chance to have a quality hit tool, that can run, you just don’t get those players at the upper levels. They become premium prospects for teams to trade. Acuña is the same way.
“Those are harder to get as you climb up the levels. Maybe you would’ve got one of those instead of both, but we felt that it was the right thing for us in this organization to take a shot on two guys at the lower levels.”
Trade talks have intensified over the last several weeks, Krall said, with conversations picking up right before the start of this month’s MLB Draft.
Naquin signed with the Reds before the 2021 season on a minor-league deal, but he quickly earned his way into the lineup as a guy who hit well against right-handed pitching. Injuries plagued him during his five seasons in Cleveland, but he played in a career-high 127 games last year while batting .270 with 19 homers, 24 doubles and 70 RBI.
A 31-year-old right fielder, Naquin missed a month this year with a hamstring strain. He’s owed about $1.6 million for the remainder of the season.
The left-handed Diehl, a Moeller grad, made five relief appearances with the Reds this year. He allowed seven hits and eight runs in 5 2/3 innings (11.12 ERA). He had a 4.24 ERA in 25 appearances at Triple-A Louisville.