Reds Acquire Austin Slater – MLB Trade Rumors

The Reds and Giants have struck a late night deal with just three weeks to go until the transfer deadline. According to an announcement from both clubs, the Reds have signed outfielder Austin Slater from San Francisco in exchange for left-hander Alex Jong. Cincinnati also receives cash considerations as part of the deal. The Giants sent Young to Triple-A following the trade.

Slater, 31, has been with the Giants organization for more than a decade. His professional career began when he was selected by the club out of Stanford in the eighth round of the 2014 draft, though he wouldn’t make his major-league debut until he was 24 in 2017. Slater was largely a part-time player during his first few years in San Francisco, collecting just 544 plate appearances in the majors between 2017 and 2019. In that limited playing time, he put up a respectable .254/.335/.368 slash line good for a 92 wRC+ while splitting time between all three outfield spots, first base and even making brief cameos at both second and third base.

The shortened 2020 season saw Slater break out in a big way, as he posted a stellar 150 wRC+ for the Giants while appearing in 31 of the club’s 60 games that year while primarily playing right field and DH for the club. That offensive explosion earned Slater an expanded role in the years that followed, and while he still faced left-handed pitching for the majority of his playing time, he carved out more of a platoon role for himself as opposed to the backup outfield role he had previously been utilized in. Slater took to the increased responsibilities quite well, and between the 2020-2023 seasons, the left-handed masher hit a solid .259/.352/.421 (118 wRC+).

That streak goes from solid to sensational when you look at just his production against lefties, against whom he posted a .285/.380/.486 line with a wRC+ of 141. That production against left-handed pitching was good for 17th in baseball over that four-year span, on par with star hitters like José Altuve And Xander Bogaerts.

While the Giants relied heavily on Slater as a platoon partner for a mostly left-handed outfield featuring sluggers such as Mike Yastrzemski, Michael ComfortableAnd Joc Pederson In those years, Slater’s playing time was further curtailed by injuries. Since the start of the 2020 season, Slater has been on the injured list seven times due to groin, hamstring, wrist and hand issues, as well as multiple concussions. Slater also required elbow surgery last offseason to remove a bone spur and relieve nerve pain.

It’s possible that the long list of injury issues has contributed to what has been a difficult 2024 season for the 31-year-old, as he’s hit just .200/.330/.244 in 112 trips to the plate this season following a month-long stint on the IL because of a concussion earlier this year. Those struggles have ultimately paved the way for young players Heliot Ramos And Luis Matos to squeeze Slater out of playing time in the Giants’ outfield as Ramos has emerged as a fixture in center field, while Matos serves as a right-handed bench complement to Yastrzemski and Conforto.

In acquiring Slater, the Reds are surely hoping that they can coax some of that left-handed-mashing ability he’s shown in previous years out of him to make him a good platoon partner for the club’s many left-handed outfielders. Slater’s biggest competition for playing time in that role will likely be Stuart Fairchildwho has hit a mediocre .224/.298/.347 (81 wRC+) in 189 trips to the plate this year. In the short term, however, Fairchild and Slater are likely to get plenty of reps alongside Will Benson And Spencer Steering Wheel in the club’s outfield mix thanks to the absence of Jake Fraley, TJ FriedlAnd Nick MartiniFraley is currently on the family’s emergency medical list and will likely return within a few days, but both Friedl and Martini are on the injured list and could face potential extended absences.

In exchange for Slater’s retirement, the Giants will receive some left-handed bullpen help in the form of Young. Once a second-round pick by the Diamondbacks in the 2015 draft, the left-hander made his major-league debut in 2019 and generally struggled at the major league level in a swing role with Arizona and Cleveland. That changed in 2022, when Young was acquired by San Francisco in a cash deal with the Guardians and began pitching full-time in short relief. The lefty performed quite well during his first stint with the Giants, posting a 2.39 ERA and 2.96 FIP in 26 1/3 innings of work before being non-tendered by San Francisco the following November.

Young ultimately landed with the Reds on a minor league deal for the 2023 season and has remained with the club ever since. He was solid in middle relief with the club last year, posting a 3.86 ERA despite a mediocre 4.99 FIP. While Young’s 21.2% strikeout rate and 8.5% walk rate were both solid, he allowed a whopping ten home runs during his 53 2/3 innings with the Reds last year.

Young has spent the majority of the 2024 season at the Triple-A level for the Reds, though he has put up impressive numbers in both his two scoreless innings at the majors and in his more extensive work in the minors. In 23 appearances with the club’s Louisville affiliate this year, Young has posted a sparkling 1.19 ERA while striking out a solid 25.3 percent of batters he faced. Unfortunately, the left-hander hasn’t been able to get much playing time in the majors with the Reds this year thanks to the club’s deep bullpen, which has seen each of Justin Wilson, Sam MollAnd Brent Suter as high-quality left-handed options.

That made Young so interchangeable that the Reds were willing to part with him, and it’s easy to see how the left-hander could make an impact on the Giants’ bullpen that relies heavily on Erik Miller to act as a second left-handed reliever behind a high-leverage arm Taylor RogersMiller, a 26-year-old rookie with a 3.51 ERA and 4.49 FIP in 41 innings this year, has a much stronger platoon split than Young has had in recent years. Plus, Oracle Park’s spacious outfield should be a good fit for Young, as it should limit his tendency to give up home runs.

San Francisco is also sending money to Cincinnati in the deal along with Slater, a fact that could play a role in the club’s final luxury tax calculation later this year. Before the trade, RosterResource reported that the Giants have a luxury tax payroll of just under $254 million, or just over $3 million below the luxury tax’s second threshold. Slater is making $4 million this year, while Young is making $1.16 million. Depending on how much money the Giants include in the deal, it’s possible the trade could have the added benefit of freeing up the club’s financial headroom under the luxury tax’s second threshold.

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