San Diego Padres

The Reds are shaking up the MLB Trade Deadline and the NL Central

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USA TODAY

The Reds are shaking up the MLB Trade Deadline and the NL Central

You know it's a wild night for a ballclub when one of your pitchers taking on an entire team in a brawl is the second-most interesting headline.

Shortly before Amir Garrett tried to fight the entire Pittsburgh Pirates roster in a moment that will live on in baseball infamy, the Reds actually put the NL Central on notice with a different move, acquiring Trevor Bauer from the Indians and trading away Yasiel Puig in a three-team deal.

The move is undoubtedly the most high-profile of the 2019 MLB Trade Deadline to date, as both Bauer and Puig are big names and talented players switching clubs. The San Diego Padres also got into the mix, dealing outfielder Franmil Reyes and left-handed pitcher Logan Allen to the Indians and acquiring Reds top prospect Taylor Trammell in return.

Bauer, 28, joins a much-improved Reds pitching staff after making his own headlines this week by chucking a ball over the centerfield fence when he was being taken out of a game in his final outing in Cleveland. The right-hander was in the running for the AL Cy Young last year before an injury and at the time of the trade this season, led the league in innings pitched (156.2) while boasting a 9-8 record, 3.79 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. 

He is under team control through the 2020 season, so it gives the Reds plenty of options. They can try to make a run for a playoff spot this year, but they currently sit 7.5 games out of first place in the NL Central and 6.5 out of the wild-card race with a 49-56 record. So they're most likely retooling for next season, though they could flip the MLB Trade Deadline on its head and turn around and deal Bauer to another club before 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Puig is a free agent after this season and has disappointed in his first year with the Reds. The 28-year-old enigmatic outfielder was hitting .255 with a .785 OPS and 22 homers at the time of the trade and shortly after the move was reported, he was out right out there alongside Garrett trying to fight the Pirates.

It's a savvy move by the Reds, trading away a short-term asset for a longer-term guy. But it had to be tough to part with Trammell, who ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the game by Baseball Prospectus coming into the season.

Even if they don't make a push for the postseason this year, the Reds could still be a formidable spoiler down the stretch, with a rotation pairing Bauer alongside Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray and an offense that still features Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett. 

That's bad news for the Cubs, who are already only 5-7 against the Reds this year and have to play them seven more times, including a trip to Cincinnati next weekend. 

Maddon on Addison Russell: 'We gotta make sure the mental mistakes are curbed'

Maddon on Addison Russell: 'We gotta make sure the mental mistakes are curbed'

Addison Russell had a tough day at the ballpark Saturday.

He was thrown out twice on the basepaths, lost a popup in the sun, let another popup drop behind him in an apparent miscommunication with Albert Almora Jr. and somehow threw his bat into the Cubs dugout in the follow-through of a swing — again. 

Joe Maddon wasn't upset about the issues on the popups, but it was the baserunning issues and mental mistakes that really irked the Cubs manager.

After the game Saturday — a 6-5 Cubs win — Maddon laid it out simply:

"He’s gotta straighten some things out," Maddon said. "He has to. There’s no question. I’m not going to stand here — he’s got to, we’ve talked about his baserunning in the past. 

"… The baserunning, there’s some things there — we’re making too many outs on the bases and we’re missing things on the bases that we can’t to be an elite team."

Russell wasn't in the lineup for Sunday's game with Robel Garcia taking over at second base and before the contest, Maddon doubled down on the baseruninng comments.

"Yesterday was just a tough day and it wasn't even the popups — I don't care because the sun's tough and the wind's tough and it's a thousand degrees," Maddon said. "That's not it. There were other components that we need to make sure he gets back on top of his game with.

"His defense, for me, is still among the best. It's still among the best. He had a tough day. The physical mistakes, I never worry about them. We just gotta make sure the mental mistakes are curbed."

Since returning from suspension in May of this season, Russell rates positively as a defender and has only been charged with two errors. But he's made several other mental mistakes in the field, not to mention the baserunning gaffes that the rest of the Cubs team has seemingly moved past after struggling as a whole in that regard for a few weeks leading into the All-Star Break.

The Cubs are also waiting for Russell to get going offensively.

In Friday's series opener against the Padres, Maddon liked the way Russell was trending against left-handed pitching — an issue for the Cubs lineup in general this year — and put the embattled second baseman in the 5-spot in the order behind Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs pulled off another victory that day and Russell scored the game-winning run, but he also struck out three times.

On the year, the 25-year-old is hitting .243 with a .730 OPS, 6 homers and 16 RBI in 53 games.

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How Cubs stack up against Padres

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USA TODAY

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How Cubs stack up against Padres

The National League looks as strong as ever, with as many as 12 of the 15 teams planning to contend in 2019.

The Cubs had a quiet winter, transactionally speaking, but almost every other team in the NL bolster their roster this offseason. 

But expectations haven't changed at the corner of Clark and Addison. After a disappointing finish to 2018, Kris Bryant and Co. once again have their sights set on another World Series.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

San Diego Padres

2018 record: 66-96, 5th in NL West

Offseason additions: Manny Machado, Ian Kinsler, Greg Garcia, Adam Warren, Aaron Loup, Garrett Richards

Offseason departures: A.J. Ellis, Freddy Galvis, Cory Spangenberg

X-factor: Joey Lucchesi

The Padres made a huge splash with the Machado deal, but they're not necessarily expected to contend in 2019. 

That being said, this is not a bad roster by any means. It wouldn't be all that shocking to see Machado and Co. making a push for the second Wild-Card at some point this year, but if they're going to, it will be because the pitching staff exceeded expectations.

You could put any pitcher's name in here as an X-factor — I just chose Lucchesi because hes lined up as their ace on paper at the current moment. The pitching staff is filled with a bunch of question marks and will likely be the main force holding this team back in 2019. Lucchesi was impressive at times in his rookie season last year, striking out 145 batters in 130 innings, but posting a 1.29 WHIP, 4.08 ERA and serving up 23 homers even while making half his starts in one of the best pitcher's parks in the game.

The 25-year-old southpaw may not turn into anything all that impressive as a starting pitcher or maybe he takes another step forward and emerges as a surefire long-term piece in the Padres rotation. Either way, he will have a pretty sizable impact on the team's overall pitching situation.

Projected lineup

1. Ian Kinsler - 2B
2. Manny Machado - SS
3. Eric Hosmer - 1B
4. Wil Myers - LF
5. Hunter Renfroe - RF
6. Manuel Margot - CF
7. Luis Urias - SS
8. Austin Hedges - C

Projected rotation

1. Joey Lucchesi
2. Robbie Erlin
3. Bryan Mitchell
4. Eric Lauer
5. Luis Perdomo

Outlook

This is a really interesting team that could go either way — challenge for one of the NL Wild-Card spots or challenge for 90+ losses.

Ultimately, I'm pegging them for somewhere in between. I think they're still a year away from emerging as a true contender, but there's a lot of exciting talent here and the arrow is pointed firmly up. 

The Padres are widely considered to have the best farm system in the game, with one of the game's brightest young stars on the verge of the big leagues in shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. But there's so much more beyond him, including a wide array of pitchers coming up through the farm system. Urias and catcher Francisco Mejia are only 21 and 23, respectively, and have high ceilings as well. 

Then there's the young outfield with Myers (28), Renfroe (27), Margot (24), Franchy Cordero (24) and Franmil Reyes (23). It remains to be seen how all those young players will get enough playing time, but there's so much upside here. Myers is already a borderline star when healthy, Renfroe is a slugging machine with a cannon in the outfield, Margot is a perfect post-hype sleeper as a former top prospect who has yet to break out in the majors and Cordero and Reyes are Statcast dreams with their impressive exit velocities.

And now the Padres are adding one of the game's truly elite players to the lineup in the form of a 26-year-old Machado who will be in his prime right as the rest of the top prospects are getting comfortable in their big-league skin.

Kinsler was also a solid add this winter on a relative bargain ($8 million over 2 years). He'll turn 37 in June, but he's still a good defender and decent hitter and will provide valuable veteran leadership. Plus, they eventually won't need to play him every day by the time Tatis is in The Show and forming a middle-infield punch with Urias.

The Hosmer deal last spring (8 years, $144 million) was a terrible decision and the Padres have to be kicking themselves on that to some extent a year later. But it's the only bad contract on the books and there's at least some reason to expect a bit of an offensive rebound. Before posting a .720 OPS and .253/.322/.398 slash line with San Diego a year ago, Hosmer put up a .799 OPS with a .292/.351/.449 slash line over the previous 5 seasons with the Royals. He's in a much tougher hitter's park now than he was in Kansas City, but some regression to the mean is probably in store for the 29-year-old.

As I mentioned above, it will probably come down to pitching with this team more than anything else. The arms just aren't there yet to help supplement an exciting young lineup. 

Padres starting pitchers combined for the 4th-worst ERA a year ago (5.09) despite playing in such a spacious ballpark. That doesn't look to be changing anytime soon, with Richards expected to miss most — or all — of the season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

The saving grace for this staff may be in the bullpen. San Diego finished 6th in baseball in reliever ERA (3.53), even including spending 1/3 of the season without Brad Hand and Adam Cimber at the back end of the bullpen. 

Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen and Matt Strahm are certainly not household names, but they're all coming off fantastic seasons. Warren and Loup are not big signings, but they could be solid adds to help give manager Andy Green an underrated bullpen.

Don't count on seeing the Padres in October this fall, but those days are certainly coming...and fast.

Prediction: 3rd in NL West

All 2019 previews & predictions

San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Los Angeles Dodgers
Miami Marlins
New York Mets
Atlanta Braves
Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals
Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates
Milwaukee Brewers
St. Louis Cardinals

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