- The Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds have made a trade, swapping a pair of right-handers in Jeff Hoffman and Robert Stephenson
- The trade sends Hoffman to his third organization as he looks for a fresh start after struggling with the Rockies
- Stephenson, another former top prospect – has also struggled to make a name for himself in parts of five seasons
Hang onto your hat folks, we have an MLB trade on our hands.
While it might not be the blockbuster-type deal we’re looking for in a painfully slow offseason to this point, we have a deal between the Rockies and Reds that provides a couple of struggling pitchers with a change of scenery as both offer plenty of upside to their new clubs as previously highly-regarded prospects.
Rockies Acquire Stephenson From the Reds
From the Reds to the Rockies goes right-hander Tyler Stephenson and outfield prospect Jameson Hannah, the Reds’ 15th-ranked prospect as per MLB Pipeline.
Stephenson, a 2011 first-round pick of the Reds and No.27 overall, heads to Colorado in need of a fresh start. The 27-year-old right-hander has yet to make good on his prospect billing as he’s worked to a 5.15 ERA/5.24 FIP across 22 starts, 104 appearances and 208 innings for the Reds.
The Reds moved him to the bullpen full-time prior to the 2019 season, and he provided the club with nice work in 57 appearances and 64.2 innings, posting a 3.76 ERA/3.63 FIP to go along with an 11.27 K/9. However, he regressed badly in 2020, posting a 9.90 ERA/12.19 FIP, albeit in just 10 innings while his strikeout stuff remained in the form of an 11.70 K/9 clip.
Newest Rockies reliever Robert Stephenson. pic.twitter.com/oJlIMAMml0
— Nick (@Slam_Hilliard22) November 25, 2020
Home run issues were at the forefront of his struggles in a big way as he allowed 11 earned runs in those 10 innings but also a whopping eight home runs in that time, good for a 7.20 HR/9 clip.
Of course, it’s a minuscule sample size and perhaps the Rockies are more focused on his nice work from the 2019 season as a sign that the upside is on its way, although home run issues and Coors Field don’t mix very well, as is the case with Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. Stephenson had proven to be a fly-ball pitcher to this point, posting an elevated 43.3% fly-ball rate in his career, something he’ll need to work on in his new digs.
As teams get more analytically-focused, the Rockies no doubt checked into his Statcast figures from 2019 which showed he was in the league’s 94th percentile or better in whiff rate, hard hit rate, xwOBA, xBA and xSLG.
Hannah, 23, was a second-round pick of the Oakland A’s in 2018 and was traded to the Reds in the Tanner Roark deal at the 2019 trade deadline. In 110 games at the High-A level between the A’s and Reds’ organizations, he hit two home runs with eight steals while spending time in both right and center field.
Reds Nab Hoffman From Rockies
In the deal, the Reds acquire fellow right-hander Jeff Hoffman, another starter-turned-reliever who would seemingly appreciate a change of scenery and a chance outside the extremely hitter-friendly conditions of Coors Field, although Great American isn’t much easier on pitchers.
They also netted pitching prospect Case Williams, the Rockies’ fourth-round pick of the 2020 draft out of Douglas County High School in Castle Rock, Colorado, about an hour’s drive from Denver.
— Sean McCourt (@THROWformance) May 15, 2020
Hoffman and Stephenson have plenty in common. Like Stephenson, Hoffman is also 27 years of age, has played parts of five big-league seasons and is a former highly-touted former first-rounder who has struggled for consistency at the MLB level.
Hoffman was moved to the bullpen for the 2020 season, but it was disastrous in the form of a 9.28 ERA. That said, take that figure with a gain of salt as he endured plenty of bad luck and his 4.69 FIP and 4.64 SIERA were much more fond of his work.
Hoffman suffered from brutal batted-ball luck in the form of a .414 batting average on balls in play against, although he did allow 42.5% hard contact. His 51.5% strand rate is also a number that was due for serious positive regression moving forward.
In his 230.2 innings pitched between 38 starts and 68 career appearances, Hoffman owns a 6.40 ERA/5.58 FIP with a 7.69 K/9 against a 4.17 BB/9. Many of his Statcast figures were poor, but he did rank in the 71st percentile and 82nd percentile in fastball velocity and fastball spin, averaging 94.7 mph on the heater.
The Blue Jays’ ninth-overall pick from the 2014 draft will certainly look for improved results in his new home, perhaps even as a starter with the Reds likely to lose Trevor Bauer in free agency and with trade rumors now swirling around the head of Sonny Gray.