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Jeff Stevens: 34th Dragon in the Major Leagues

February 1, 2013 - Midwest League (MWL) Dayton Dragons

In recent years, the Cincinnati Reds have utilized the talent in their Minor League system to orchestrate trades for Major League players who have become key components of the Reds. In 2009, former Dragon Zach Stewart, a blue chip prospect at the time, was sent to Toronto as a key ingredient in a deal that brought Scott Rolen to Cincinnati. In 2011, the Reds made two big trades involving prospects, first sending a group to San Diego for Major League starting pitcher Mat Latos, then trading former Dragons Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt, and Ronald Torreyes to the Cubs for big league reliever Sean Marshall.

Of all trades involving prospects, the one that has had the greatest impact on the Reds took place on April 7, 2006, when the Reds traded a player to be named later to Cleveland for a talented middle infielder who had spent the previous year in Triple-A and had struggled in his previous big league opportunity. The player acquired from Cleveland, who had hit .208 in 112 games in 2003 for the Indians before going back to the minors for 2004 and '05, joined the Reds after the trade and immediately began paying dividends. That player, Brandon Phillips, has since become an all-star, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger Award winner, and the second most prolific second baseman in Reds history, falling in line behind only Joe Morgan, one of the top second sackers in the history of the game.

Who was the player to be named later?

While Phillips went on a hot streak almost immediately after the trade, winning National League Player of the Week before the end of his first month with the Reds, the completion of the deal took several weeks, and when it was finally formalized, it had to be a shock to the player chosen as the infamous "player to be named later." On June 13, more than two months after the Reds got Phillips, Dayton Dragons pitcher Jeff Stevens was informed that he would be moving to the Lake County Captains. He was the player who completed the deal. While Stevens has certainly not approached the impact of Phillips, he did go all the way to the Major Leagues, three years after the trade, becoming the 34th Dragons player to reach the big leagues. And in 2013, he will be back in the Reds organization for the first time since the trade.

Jeff Stevens was drafted by the Reds in the sixth round in 2005 out of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He opened his professional career that summer with Billings, going 4-4 with a 2.98 earned run average to earn a spot in 2006 with the Dragons.

Stevens began the 2006 season working out of the Dragons bullpen. About two weeks into the season, he was moved into the starting rotation and remained there into late May. The results were generally positive. Stevens allowed three runs or less in 12 of his 14 appearances with the Dragons in 2006. His best game came at Wisconsin on May 15 when he earned a win with five and two-thirds shutout innings, walking only one and striking out five. His last outing with the Dragons came on June 10. His record at the time was 2-4 and his ERA stood at 4.43 in 14 games including six starts. Three days later, he became a member of the Cleveland Indians organization and was assigned to Lake County in Eastlake, Ohio, then a member of the South Atlantic League. Stevens made 15 starts for the Captains and went 7-3 with a 4.42 ERA. Those 15 starts turned out to be the last of Stevens' pro career to date. He has been strictly a reliever since 2006.

Stevens moved to Double-A in 2007 and by the middle of 2008, he had progressed to Triple-A. At the end of the 2008 season, Stevens was traded by the Indians with two other Minor League players to the Cubs for Major Leaguer Mark DeRosa.

Stevens opened the 2009 season with Triple-A Iowa and pitched his best baseball of his career. In early July, his ERA stood at 2.18 and opposing batters were hitting a combined .171 against him. The Cubs, a .500 club at the time but in the divisional race under manager Lou Piniella, called him up. Stevens made his Major League debut on July 10 against the Cardinals, working a perfect ninth inning in a Cubs loss. Stevens did not allow a hit until his fourth big league appearance, and did not give up a run until his fifth outing. Still, he was sent back to Triple-A after five games, called back up for one outing, sent back to Triple-A, and then called back up in September. At season's end, his big league line included 11 games, a 1-0 record, and a 7.11 ERA.

Stevens split the 2010 season between the Cubs and Iowa, getting into 18 big league games and posting a 6.11 ERA without a win or loss. In 2011, he was limited to four games with the Cubs and actually spent half the season back in Double-A. He signed with the Mets and spent most of 2012 with Triple-A Buffalo, going 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA.

On November 19, 2012, the Reds signed Stevens as a Minor League free agent, allowing him to re-join the organization that drafted him. Perhaps at some point in 2013, Stevens will be called up to Cincinnati and stand in the same dugout as the man he was traded for, whose career accomplishments have made Stevens the answer to a trivia question: Who did the Reds trade for Brandon Phillips? It was Stevens, the 34th Dayton Dragons player to reach the Major Leagues.

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