Fresh off signing Nick Castellanos to a 4-year deal, the Cincinnati Reds are now considering trading Nick Senzel. Is this a smart move? Let’s break it down.
The Cincinnati Reds have been the NL version of the Chicago White Socks as a rebuilding team wanting to pry open their contention window. The Reds started their path to contending by acquiring Trevor Bauer at the deadline last season.
They parlayed that into free agent signings of Mike Moustakas, Shogo Akiyama, and the previously mentioned Castellanos. With Akiyama slated to get work in CF, former top prospect Nick Senzel now finds his future in Cincinnati up in the air.
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Year one in Cincinnati was a mixed bag for Senzel as he hit .256/.315/.427 for a 90 wRC+, was learning CF on the fly and totaled a meager 0.7 fWAR. Senzel did show elite speed (96th percentile via Statcast) and above-average Jump which bodes well for his future as an OF.
Offensively, Senzel’s exit velocities were below average at 87.5 MPH but his calling card in the minors was his hit tool rather than power. Looking at his swing profile, we can see that Senzel was chasing pitches both inside and down.
In 2018, Senzel posted a 149 wRC+ at AAA so it could be Senzel adjusting to big-league pitching. If his swing selection improves then so will his exit velocities and hard-hit rate. Senzel remains an immensely talented player but without a direct way to everyday ABs, the Reds are now being tempted by the trade market.
One big reason for the temptation of trading Senzel is Cincinnati’s hole shortstop. Despite his defensive flexibility, Senzel probably doesn’t fit long term as an everyday shortstop. If the Reds are truly ready to push their chips in to compete this season, they could now make the most compelling offers for Francisco Lindor.
When I considered what a Reds/Lindor trade, Senzel wasn’t considered in a Reds deal because they wouldn’t want to deal him from the MLB roster. Before the season, Senzel had a 60 FV projection which FanGraphs valued at $55M. Senzel’s value is less now due to a lackluster first showing and his service clock has started. Nevertheless, teams will still be interested and his value is probably in the $40M – $50M range.
All of a sudden, the Reds can offer a package headlined by Senzel and complemented by a combination of prospects Johnathan India, Tyler Stephenson, and Hunter Greene, the Indians would have to give serious thought if a better package will present itself for Lindor.
The Reds have the most information on Nick Senzel and maybe their signings this offseason indicate they are lower on him than the general public. Not every prospect immediately becomes a superstar, especially one who is learning a new position at the MLB level.
The Cincinnati Reds see a window of contention opening but they should tread carefully. The NL Central has three other teams (Cubs, Cards, Brewers) that could contend for the division and wild card.
Senzel didn’t burst onto the scene in year one but he retains huge upside. Senzel has the same FV grade as Dodgers’ prospect INF Gavin Lux and RHP Dustin May who they have been reluctant to include in any deal. The Reds should think long and hard before they give up on Senzel after one year because they just might regret it long-term.