McCoy: Despite lack of star power, lefty Wood key to deal with Dodgers

It isn’t as if fans suddenly are going to refer to the Cincinnati Reds as ‘The Big Puig Machine.”

The Reds acquired Cuban-born outfielder Yasiel Puig on Friday from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade that astounded the baseball industry.

There is the Old West legendary Great Train Robbery. This deal goes down as The Great Drain Robbery, almost as lop-sided as the deal when the Reds sent Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for Milt Pappas and Dick Simpson.

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The Reds drained Puig, outfielder Matt Kemp, pitcher Alex Wood, catcher/infielder Kyle Farmer and $7 million from the Dodgers. And the Reds drained $23 million from their payroll when the Dodgers accepted Homer Bailey in the trade. LA also they accepted a couple of mid-level minor leaguers.

It is one of the great head-scratchers of the last decade in baseball. Not only were the Dodgers left holding the bag, it is an empty bag — all in the name of dumping salaries and reducing their luxury tax.

While Puig and Kemp are the names in the deal, the most important acquisition for the Reds probably is the pitcher, 29-year-old Alex Wood.

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While he is not top-of-the-rotation worthy, with the Reds in 2019 he could be there. And new Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson believes he could be.

What stands out on Wood’s resume is that he has pitched in the postseason in five of the last six years with the Atlanta Braves and Dodgers.

“He throws with the wrong hand (left), which is awesome. You can’t have too many of those guys,” said Johnson, a former pitching coach for Vanderbilt University and the Milwaukee Brewers. “We don’t have a relationship yet, but I’ve spent a lot of time on the other side of the ball against the guy, whether it was with Georgia or the Dodgers.

“It was like with Anthony DeSclafani, when I first got the job with the Reds. I’m glad to be on the same side with those two guys now,” Johnson added. “It seemed like every time Alex pitched against us he stuck it to us. This was a great trade, in more ways than one.

“With Alex and Tanner Roark (signed by the Reds last week), we have two solid pieces who both are still awfully good. It is a little bit early to say it, but I think this guy (Wood) has the status to be a competent guy,” said Johnson.

“There is no reason he can’t fit at the top. He already has pitched from the middle to the top on some really good staffs. When you look at a five-man staff, you want to get them to pitch as many innings as they can,” Johnson said.

Wood seems genuinely pleased to change uniforms, to go to a team that needs starting pitchers and knows there is a place for him. The Dodgers dropped him into the bullpen late last season.

“I’m excited, I’m excited for the opportunity,” he said. “And I think we’ll be a good ballclub. They say they are not done adding yet. We have a chance to surprise some people, for sure.”

And Wood says he is not intimidated or fearful of the challenge of pitching in Great American Ballpark, where fly balls go to die in the stands for home runs.

“I won’t change my mentality or my approach,” he said. “I’ll be the best I can be and work with the other guys in the clubhouse.

“I don’t give up too many homers over the course of my career and I don’t really worry about ball parks,” he said. “You can’t go into any start, no matter where you are, trying to pitch differently or do things differently based on where you are. I keep my same approach, based on the game plan for that night and go from there.”

Wood considers the fact that three teammates from the Dodgers are moving east with him is a plus.

“I don’t have any close ties with any of those guys in Cincy,” he said. “It is like when I was traded from Atlanta to Los Angeles. I went there with a couple of my Atlanta teammates.

“Now I get to go with Puig and Kemp and Farmer, who is one of my best friends and was best man at my wedding,” he said. “I know what they all bring to the table. They are all winners and they want to win.

“Having that for a foundation as a player, to take that to a new clubhouse, is important,” he added.

Wood is the anchor of this trade. The fact that the Reds say they aren’t done, still looking for pitching, makes it feasible that either Kemp or Puig could be flipped.

In fact, the Cleveland Indians were interested in Puig when they talked to the Dodgers about sending them pitcher Corey Kluber. The Reds are interested in Kluber. Are the Indians still interested in Puig?

The Big Puig Machine could be short-lived, but adding Kluber for the top of the rotation would be an awesome and winning proposition for the Reds.

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