John Clay

John Clay: By dealing Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds’ rebuild now in overdrive

Cincinnati Reds' Todd Frazier bats in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, in Cincinnati. The Cubs won 5-3.
Cincinnati Reds' Todd Frazier bats in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, in Cincinnati. The Cubs won 5-3. AP

Perhaps this escaped your attention, but the team up the road, the Cincinnati Reds, lost 184 games the past two baseball seasons. That’s why the Reds traded away their All-Star third baseman, Todd Frazier, on Wednesday.

The Reds Rebuild isn’t just on, it’s on fire. Dealing Frazier was proof. There wasn’t a more popular Red. Not only did the New Jersey native hit 35 homers and drive in 89 runs in 2015, he won the Home Run Derby on All-Star Weekend at Great American Ball Park. He was also a good, hard-working accessible guy, just the kind you want representing your team in a blue-collar town.

Frazier will be missed, but he had to go. He will be 30 in February. Coming off career-high production, his value will never be higher. He’s owed about $8 million next year as part of a two-year, $12 million contract, and he’s arbitration-eligible after 2016. He’s eligible for free agency after 2017.

You can argue that the Reds received too little in return in the three-team deal that sent Frazier to the Chicago White Sox. Jose Peraza, a 21-year-old infielder, is reportedly the best of the trio of Dodgers prospects coming to Cincinnati. Scott Schebler is a 25-year-old power-hitting outfielder. Brandon Dixon is a 23-year-old infielder/outfielder who might be more of a fringe prospect.

You cannot argue that the Reds were in need of a tear-down that started during the season when impending free agents Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, a couple of standout pitchers, were dealt away for prospects. Marlon Byrd, a one-year rental to play left field, was dealt for another prospect before the season ended.

At last week’s winter meetings in Nashville, the Reds nearly dealt fireballing closer Aroldis Chapman to the Dodgers only to have the transaction scuttled by news that Chapman allegedly was the instigator in a domestic violence dispute. The MLB reportedly is investigating. Plans to move the Cuban Missile have been placed on hold.

Now come reports that longtime second baseman Brandon Phillips could be on his way to Washington for a reunion with new Nationals manager Dusty Baker. If the deal is completed, Phillips would have to waive the no-trade clause in his contract, but you figure why would the veteran turn down a chance to compete for a pennant in 2016?

It will be a while before the Reds are in that position. With Joey Votto, a healthy Devin Mesoraco, a healthy Zack Cozart, a healthy Homer Bailey and a bounce-back year from Jay Bruce, the Reds could be better than expected next year. If the rookie pitchers who started the team’s final 64 games gain measurably from that experience, they could even surprise.

They do not, however, figure to contend in a division that includes the Cubs, Cardinals and Pirates, three playoff teams that are on a different level right now. And by acquiring Jason Heyward and John Lackey in the offseason, the Cubs just might take it to another level.

So, the Reds rebuild. Baseball America rates pitcher Corey Reed as Cincinnati’s No. 2 prospect, behind pitcher Robert Stephenson, heading into 2016. Reed was acquired from Kansas City in the Cueto deal. The publication ranked pitcher Keury Mella at No. 8. He was acquired from San Francisco in the Leake deal.

Meanwhile, Peraza was rated as the 19th-best prospect in all of baseball for 2016 by FanGraphs. Formerly in the Atlanta Braves’ system, he hit .339 in Double-A in 2014 before slipping to .293 in Triple-A in 2015. He’s considered an excellent defensive player who can hit and steal bases. At 21, the newest Red figures to be a staple for many years.

New is what the Reds need. The window has closed on the old. It was a good — 91-71 in 2010, 97-65 in 2012, 90-72 in 2013 — but ultimately empty run thanks to a 2-7 playoff record in those three glory years. The Reds never got out of the NL Division Series before regressing while their division opponents got better.

Todd Frazier will be missed, but he had to go.

Players Reds acquired in Todd Frazier trade

Jose Peraza: A 21-year-old infielder from Venezuela rated the 19th-best MLB prospect for 2016 by FanGraphs. Peraza hit .293 and stole 33 bases last season in Triple-A. He played in seven games with the Dodgers, hitting .182 in 22 at-bats.

Scott Schebler: A 25-year-old outfielder who was rated the ninth-best prospect in the Dodgers’ organization going into 2015 by MLB.com. A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Schebler hit .241 with 13 homers and 50 RBI last season in Triple-A. He hit three homers in 19 games last season with the Dodgers.

Brandon Dixon: A 23-year-old infielder/outfielder who played college baseball at Arizona. Dixon hit .263 with 19 homers last year in A and Double-A ball. He hit .244 in 83 games with Double-A Tulsa. He was a third-round pick by the Dodgers in the 2013 Amateur Draft.

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