Rockies, Reds swap Jeff Hoffman for Robert Stephenson

In a kind of challenge deal, the Rockies and Reds have agreed to swap two former top pitching prospects. The two clubs agreed on a right-handed deal on Wednesday Jeff Hoffman and minor league right Williams case from Colorado to Cincinnati in exchange for right-handed Robert Stephenson and minor league outfielder Jameson Hannah. The Reds have officially announced the swap.

Hoffman, January 28, was the ninth choice of the Blue Jays in the 2014 draft and went to the Rocky Mountains as the centerpiece of the blockbuster deadline swap that was delivered Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto. The hope at the time of the deal was that the former East Carolina University ace could become a major piece of rotation at the ever-challenging Coors Field, but that just hasn’t changed.

Jeff Hoffman |  John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Hoffman has recorded innings in the Major League for the past five seasons but never lived up to those expectations. In a total of 230 2/3 frames at the MLB level, he put together a 6.40 ERA and a similarly daunting 5.58 FIP. On the way there, Hoffman averaged 7.7 K / 9, 4.2 BB / 9, and 1.79 HR / 9, which equates to a base ball rate of 40.7 percent.

As unattractive as these base numbers are, there is also reason to believe that Hoffman may have another gear to guess. As mentioned here at MLBTR back in May, Hoffman has high-end speed and spin rate on his four-seater and above-average spin on a curveball that generally puzzled the clubs in 2019 – another idea on how Hoffman can maximize that which seems at least a viable two-pitch mix – be it focusing your four-seater more on the top of the zone, changing your release point, or any number of other possible improvements.

Hoffman has run out of minor league options, so he must open the 2021 season on the Reds list. If they are able to successfully exploit his still dormant potential, he would be controllable for another four seasons.

The story of Stephenson in Cincinnati is quite similar. He’s a highly competitive 27-year-old who has run out of minor league options and is one of the game’s elite pitching prospects in various places, but has not yet become a stable producer.

Robert Stephenson |  David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Stephenson recently had success, however, only giving the Reds 64 2/3 frames with 3.76 ERA and 3.63 FIP ball with 11.3 K / 9 versus 3.3 BB / 9 in 2019. Unfortunately, he followed both the Reds as also Stephenson with a terrible 2020 effort, completing 11 runs in just 10 innings – largely thanks to an astonishing eight allowed home runs.

It’s worth noting that, like Hoffman, Stephenson has excellent speed and spin rate on his fastball – both of which contributed to his seeing a swing strike rate of 18.7 percent for the past two seasons. Stephenson’s Whiff Rate was actually in the 99th percentile of all reliefs in the big league in 2019. So there are plenty of reasons to believe that he could perform (or emerge again) as a viable setup piece for the Rockies as well. He has controlled three more seasons – a year less than Hoffman.

23-year-old Hannah was an A’s second round election in 2018, but was traded to the Reds in the 2019 swap, which brought rights Tanner Roark to Oakland. He’s only had a full professional season after this year’s minor league campaign was canceled after cutting 19 on Class-A Advanced .274 / .339 / .369. Hannah currently ranks 15th among Cincinnati Farm Workers on and 23rd on FanGraphs, praising a combination of plus speed, above-average fielding, and an average or better hit tool. Hannah lacks the strength, and scouting reports think his arm is below average as well.

Williams was the Rockies’ fourth pick just last summer. He has yet to play a pro game due to the repeal of the minor league system in 2020 and was at least a surprise as he was not in the top 200 prospect of the draft at or the top 500 in baseball America.

However, as GM Jeff Bridich explained at the time to’s Thomas Harding, Williams was a local product that the club had explored extensively. It is, of course, possible that with a full high school season Williams would have moved up to this rankings prior to the draft. And it’s clear the Rox isn’t the only club fascinated by Williams and its 96-mile heater, as evidenced by the fact that the Reds included it in today’s swap. Indeed, Bobby Nightengale from the Cincinnati Enquirer Tweets Cincinnati GM Nick Krall now says his team planned to move Williams in before the Rockies caught him in the fourth round.

Robert Murray from Fansided first reported that there was a deal and that Hannah was in business. Jon Heyman from MLB Network and Ken Rosenthal from The Athletic added details on the framework (Twitter Left) before Murray reported all names involved.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *