Zack Cozart is in the midst of the best season of his career. The first time all-star and donkey owner is currently batting .312 with a .403 OBP and .983 OPS. He’s on pace to hit more home runs and RBIs than he ever has and has continued to show the rock solid defense that we have grown accustomed to over the years. He’s been arguably the best shortstop in the National League this year. Zack Cozart is making the game look pretty simple, what’s not so simple is how to handle his contract situation at the end of the 2017 season.

Since the Reds failed to trade Zack  Cozart by the trade deadline they basically have three options when it comes to his contract:

  1. Don’t make him a qualifying offer or contract extension and let him walk in free agency.
  2. Make him a qualifying offer of around 18 million dollars. He can either accept this or reject it. If he accepts it he will be a Red in 2018. If he rejects it and signs elsewhere the Reds could get a first or second round draft pick.
  3. Offer him a contract extension.

I am in favor of the Reds keeping Zack Cozart. How they keep him though, is the key. I would not offer Cozart a qualifying offer. If the point of extending him a qualifying offer is to keep him on the team (and not get a draft pick) then it just doesn’t make sense. With the Reds most likely not being all that competitive next year in 2018, what good is one extra year of Cozart’s services for such a hefty price tag? Keeping him on the team is all about having his stability at shortstop and in the lineup when the next window to win opens. The qualifying offer doesn’t guarantee this.

What I would do is offer Cozart a reasonable contract extension. If the trade deadline showed us anything, it showed us that there just isn’t a huge market for shortstops right now. Keeping that in mind, it’s kind of hard to imagine his value being driven up all that high in free agency. I think if the Reds sat down with Cozart they could hammer out a multi-year extension that would make sense for both parties. The Reds could even use what happened at the trade deadline as leverage. The whole point of signing Zack Cozart to an extension is to guarantee his production on the next winning Reds team. A multi-year extension does this.

There are some concerns when it comes to extending Zack Cozart. Age, injury history, and performance history are probably the biggest three. This is where I think the Reds need to be careful in just how much they offer Cozart when it comes to a contract extension. The single most important thing when it comes to extending him is the dollar amount. The Reds need to invest in Cozart and his entire MLB body of work and not just his gaudy 2017 numbers.

Extending Zack Cozart makes sense for a team that doesn’t have a lot of pieces in the middle infield that make sense. Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera have done nothing this year to show they are the middle infield of the Reds’ future. Extending Cozart will give the Reds infield stability on, hopefully, their next winning team and can even provide a stop gap to give younger guys like Peraza and Herrera more time to develop.

Zack Cozart is having the best year of his career at the age of 31 and I think he has a few more really good years in him. He can be a valuable asset and a good player on the Reds’ next winning team. The Reds’ everyday eight has actually been very good this year and by bringing Cozart back you solidify the lineup and eliminate another question that the rebuild asks. At this point, the rebuild is about going forward. If you part ways with Zack Cozart at the end of this year you are moving backward.

Another important factor to consider when thinking about if the Reds’ should resign Zack Cozart is to look at the Reds’ actual payroll. They are currently ranked in the bottom five in payroll in all of baseball. The Reds don’t have many players coming up for contract extensions and have money to spend. Bringing back Zack Cozart for a few years on a reasonable contract isn’t going to kill their payroll and limit the future of this team. It’s a solid investment at this point in time.

Zack Cozart has been a solid player for the Reds over the years. By resigning him you give him a chance to be a part of the next Reds’ team that enjoys success. Hopefully Zack Cozart will be a big part of that success.