Addressing The Needs: Tyler Stephenson
Through 1/4th of the season the Yankees are playing great. However, there are concerns for some positions. Are fixes available now?
Who is Tyler Stephenson?
Tyler Stephenson began his professional baseball career after being drafted 11th overall in the 2015 MLB First Year Player Draft by the Cincinnati Reds out of Kennesaw Mountain High School (Kennesaw, GA). He would start playing in rookie ball with the Billings Mustangs that same season and slowly make his way up the minors. Stephenson spent the 2016 season mostly with Dayton Dragons (Class-A)- sans a short rehab stint with the Arizona Reds (Rookie), spent the whole 2017 season again in Dayton, spent the whole 2018 with the Daytona Tortugas (Class-A Adv.), and the half of the 2019 season with the Chattanooga Lookouts (Double-A).
During that 2019 season, Stephenson suffered a season-ended wrist injury in the middle of July while sliding into a base during a game. Due to the injury, Stephenson then spent the fall after his recovery with the Glendale Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League. It was easily his best season to date. However, with the 2020 season stopping minor league play, Stephenson did not have a chance to showcase his skills much. He was called to the alternate training site of the Cincinnati Reds and made his MLB debut on July 27th which was notable as he hit a home run in his first MLB plate appearance.
In 2021, Stephenson played catcher in a platoon role with Tucker Barnhart, while hitting to a .286/.366/.431 (.797 OPS/104 OPS+) extended triple-slash over 132 games. He also came 6th in the National League rookie of the year voting.
So far in 2022, he is hitting to a .303/.357/.506 (.863 OPS/133 OPS+) extended triple-slash over 28 games. He did miss 2 weeks while on concussion protocol earlier this year.
Why the Yankees Could/Should Get Him:
To put it lightly, the Cincinnati Reds are not having a good season. They hold the worst record in the MLB at 12-28 (.300 WP) and are 13.5 games back in their division and 10 games back of the last wild card spot...behind every other team in the National League. To say their season is over already is not to understand the absurdity of baseball- remember: The Washington Nationals won the 2019 World Series after starting the year 19-31 (.390 WP). However, the Cincinnati Reds are likely not to make any serious contention this year. This should mean they would be willing to part with players.
Tyler Stephenson is one of the more valuable players that the Reds could move, if they so choose to do so. According to BaseballTradeValues, he's the second most valuable player they have (behind Jonathan India) at a value of +37.3 MTV. He would also be under team control for the next 5 years and address one of the main areas of need for the Yankees (they have the 3rd worst catcher offense by wRC+ his season).
The Yankees also have pieces that they could easily trade- without getting rid of their best talents (i.e. Volpe, Dominguez)- to match up well with the Reds.
In theory, a trade for Stephenson (+37.3) could be met with a base offer of Oswaldo Cabrera (+21.2), Austin Wells (+8.3), and Luis Medina (+6.9), which would be just under the value for the Reds at +36.4. In other words, this would be a near Top-50 prospect, an additional Top-100 prospect, and another Top-10 prospect in the Yankees system. For 5 years of a catcher who should stay near the top in the game, it looks good on paper.
Why the Yankees Couldn't/Shouldn't Get Him:
Well, just because the Cincinnati Reds are having a tough season doesn't mean that they are going to sacrifice everything all at once. For a team in their shoes, it doesn't make sense to trade away young, controllable talent. There is no need to do so currently as Stephenson could continue to improve and add more value in his early career. (The way BBTV works, because he's still unproven his value could floor easily, but if he shows consistency at the MLB level his future floor will increase and add more total value.)
Thus, it makes more sense for the Reds to keep around their homegrown, developing catcher to support the future of the franchise than to dish him away too early. It also doesn't make sense for the Yankees to overload a deal for Stephenson because there are other options out there. The match-up between the two teams doesn't make a lot of sense. While a trade of pieces could work out, it's not a logical move for the Reds to make at the current time.
For that same point, it's also not in the Yankees best interests to take a risk on a player who hasn't yet stabilized at the MLB level. (And especially more if his past concussion was actually his reported 3rd major one as a catcher.) The Yankees have talent to move, but have more than one area of need and could better spread that wealth to address players on shorter deals for the immediate NOW for a team that is doing phenomenally instead of taking a risk on good production for the future for a cheaper salaried player.
Ethan's Major Take:
I'm hesitant to push Stephenson as a piece the Yankees want to pursue, and they need catching help now. The timeframe doesn't work well here for either team. Pass for now, but consider for the future.