The Reds and Pirates agreed to an intra-divisional trade that sends infielder Kevin Newman to Cincinnati for reliever Dauri Moreta. Both teams have announced the deal.
Newman changes organizations for the first time in his career. Pittsburgh selected him with the 19th overall pick in the 2015 draft, and he reached the majors roughly three years later. He struggled in 31 games down the stretch as a rookie, but he had a solid sophomore showing. The University of Arizona product hit .308/.353/.446 across 531 plate appearances in 2019, securing the primary shortstop job in the process.
He held the role for the next couple seasons, but his offensive productivity wilted. Newman had well below-average numbers in both 2020-21, combining to hit just .226/.268/.302 through 726 plate appearances. Even with strong defensive metrics in 2021, his overall production hovered right around replacement level. The rebuilding Bucs continued to give him opportunities, however, and he righted the ship enough this year they managed to find a trade partner.
The 29-year-old posted a .274/.316/.372 mark over 309 plate appearances this past season. He lost over two months to a left groin strain mid-year, but his rate production was his best since 2019. The righty hitter’s overall offensive profile hasn’t much changed throughout his career. Newman makes a ton of contact, putting the ball in play early in counts to suppress both his strikeout and walk totals. He has very little power, with just 20 career home runs — 12 of which came during a 2019 season that saw arguably the liveliest ball in league history. He’s reliant on a quality batting average on balls in play to prop up his numbers but looks like a decent bottom-0f-the-lineup option when enough singles drop in.
Newman’s calling card is his ability to play up the middle. He’s logged over 2500 big league innings at shortstop, typically rating at or a bit below league average. He drew quality marks in 2021, but for his career, he’s been an estimated nine runs below average according to Defensive Runs Saved and six runs below par in the estimation of Statcast. Public metrics have rated him slightly below average in just under 800 career frames at second base as well.
The presence of Oneil Cruz in Pittsburgh displaced Newman at shortstop. The Bucs could’ve relied upon him at second base, but they may prefer to take a longer look at 23-year-old Rodolfo Castro with an eye towards eventually turning things to a prospect like Nick Gonzales or Liover Peguero.
Cincinnati has less clarity at shortstop with José Barrero thus far failing to seize the position. The Reds dealt Kyle Farmer to the Twins this evening and could use a stable option to hold down the position until the arrival of top prospect Elly De La Cruz, who turns 21 in January and finished this year in Double-A. Newman is arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz for a $2.8MM salary; he’s controllable through 2024.
Moreta, 26, received his first big league call late in 2021. The 6’2″ righty pitched in four games down the stretch but got some decent run this past season. The Reds called upon Moreta 35 times in relief, and he worked to a 5.40 ERA through 38 1/3 innings. Moreta punched out a decent 24.4% of opponents against an average 8.1% walk rate, but he was done in by major home run issues. He surrendered 10 longballs (an average of 2.35 per nine innings), thanks in large part to a very low 32.7% ground-ball rate.
That extreme fly-ball propensity made him a rough fit for Cincinnati’s hitter-friendly home environment, but he could have a better go in the more spacious PNC Park. Moreta has a fastball that sits just under 96 MPH on average, and he missed bats on a solid 11% of his offerings this year. With a more favorable home park, it’s possible he translates those decent strikeout and walk numbers into viable middle innings work. He won’t reach arbitration until at least the end of the 2024 campaign, and he can still be optioned to the minor leagues in each of the next two seasons. He’s a big league ready middle relief depth option.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
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