Dick Williams assured fans the news won’t stop with the blockbuster trade the Cincinnati Reds announced Friday afternoon.
“We still have resources to make this team better — both in terms of prospect capital and financial wherewithal,” said Williams, the Reds President of Baseball Operations. “We’re not done yet. We intend to continue to work throughout this offseason to improve this club.”
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The Reds acquired three former all-stars — starting pitcher Alex Wood and outfielders Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig — plus catcher Kyle Farmer from the Los Angeles Dodgers while giving up Homer Bailey, who was immediately released by the Dodgers, and two prospects from the lower rungs of the minor leagues, shortstop Jeter Downs and right-handed pitcher Josiah Gray.
“We did trade some good prospects here,” Williams said, “but we acquired four major-league players that address needs for us and make us better in the short term. We feel good about the way this came together.”
The deal has been in the works for 3½ weeks. Word of a possible trade leaked Dec. 11 in Las Vegas at the winter meetings. General Manager Nick Krall was the point man on the trade and said talks started two weeks before that.
“We had some conversations before the winter meetings,” Krall said. “We talked several times during the winter meetings. Then the last week, we’ve talked a lot as well.”
The Reds weren’t going to make a deal unless a starting pitcher was included, Williams said, and it’s a bonus that Wood is left-handed. Anthony DeSclafani, Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and Tanner Roark, who the Reds acquired from the Nationals earlier this month, are all right-handed. Those four pitchers are the most likely players to form the staff along with Wood.
Wood, 27, was an all-star in 2017. Last season, he was 9-7 with a 3.68 ERA in 27 starts. He made three relief appearances in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, allowing two earned runs in 2 1/3 innings.
“We didn’t tip our hand and tell everyone we need a left-handed starter,” Williams said, “but we did think it was important to put one in the mix here. Wood’s a guy that has had a lot of success over the last several years. Not a high-velocity guy but a very good pitchability guy. Good strikeout-to-walk rates.”
Puig, 28, has played his entire six-year career with the Dodgers and was an all-star in 2014. Last season, he hit .267 last season with 23 home runs and 63 RBIs in 125 games. He will compete for the center fielder job but could also play in right field.
“We’ll get to spring training and let the coaches sort that out,” Williams said. “We’ve still got a lot of offseason to go. We feel good about having multiple guys who have the ability to play in center field. (Scott) Schebler has played out there. (Phillip) Ervin has played out there. We think Puig has the athleticism to play out there, but we really see him as an every-day right fielder primarily. And we’ve talked about the possibility of Nick Senzel playing out there.”
Kemp, 34, hit .290 with 21 home runs and 85 RBIs last season. He’s a three-time all-star (2011, 2012 and 2018) who has played 10 his 13 seasons with the Dodgers. He has 10 home runs and 36 RBIs in 36 games in his career at Great American Ball Park.
“He has a chance to be an impact bat, especially when you put him in our ballpark,” Krall said. “He has had a lot of success over the course of his career, and we think he can bring some power to the middle of that lineup.”
Puig and Kemp reunite with Turner Ward, their hitting coach the last three seasons with the Dodgers. Ward joined new manager David Bell’s staff in November.
“I’ve been around all these guys,” Ward said. “Puig’s going to bring some excitement to the club that the Cincinnati fans are really going to appreciate. He’s going to go out there every day and give it all he’s got. I just got off the phone with him, and he’s so pumped and fired up about coming. Matt Kemp again was an all-star. He’s an impact bat.”
The Reds ranked eighth in the National League in 2018 in runs scored, fourth in on-base percentage and ninth in home runs. With Puig and Kemp added to the mix, Ward sees an offense that can do a lot of damage.
“It just looks like a lineup that can be a force,” he said.