Previous installments in the “Contracts for the New Core” series:
Billy Hamilton | Eugenio Suarez | Jesse Winker

As most of you reading this article know, the 2018 Cincinnati Reds season is basically over. After the worst start to a season in franchise history, and without a roster built to dig out of such a deep hole, many fans are writing off the season as lost. But even in the midst of the darkest time this team has seen in the last decade or so, there have been a few bright spots worth mentioning. One of those bright spots has burnt brighter than ever as of late, and has gotten Redleg Nation in a tizzy. I speak, of course, of Ryan “Scooter” Gennett.

We all know the story by now. Scrappy utility infielder claimed off the waiver wire turned Cincinnati folk lore legend after an out-of-nowhere massive power season, featuring one of only 18 instances in MLB history of a player hitting four home runs in a single game. In a city that lives for stories worth telling, Scooter Gennett became an overnight sensation.

But Scooter’s 2017 season had fluke written all over it. Studies found that the baseball used was “juiced”, aimed to increase the amount of power hitting in the game. Boy, did that ever work. Early reports in 2018 say the ball is no longer juiced, and naturally, we’re seeing some of the big names who “broke out” in 2017 turn back into pumpkins.

But not Scooter.

Currently, Gennett is leading the National League in Batting Average, and is top five in Slugging, wOBA, wRC+, and *shudders* RBI. He’s not only passing the stat test, but it seems like every time I tune in to watch the Reds, Scooter is hitting a ball, and hitting it hard.

What was meant to be a stopgap plan for second base in the Reds long-term plans has turned into something a little more complicated. Anyone who follows baseball knows the production is about to fall off; Scooter’s .401 Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) is ridiculously high, and therefore we can assume he’s been pretty lucky so far. And for all of those top-of-the-leaderboard offensive statistics, Scooter still represents only an average major league regular when you factor in his awful defensive metrics. While Scooter may pass the eye test with the bat, he resoundingly fails the eye test with the glove. And, of course, the defensive stats back that up.

The internet has been waging this war for a few weeks now – Do you sign Scooter Gennett to a long term deal, or do you try to flip him to a contender for a missing rebuild piece? I’m not going to try to answer that question, mostly because any answer will be refuted by 50% of the fanbase. Instead, today we’re going to envision a scenario in which Dick Williams and Nick Krall decide that Scooter Gennett is a must-have player for the future success of this team. What would a fair contract look like?

As we’ve done with all the other entries in this series, we’re going to try to find a few comparable cases, and see what kind of money those players got. Of course, there hasn’t really been a situation exactly like Scooter’s, but we’re going to try to get close. I’m only looking at players older than 28 years old signing contracts extensions at least three years in length.

So, let’s dive in!

The High End: Brandon Crawford

We’ll start with the player maybe least similar to Scooter Gennett, and that’s the defense-first shortstop of the San Francisco Giants, Brandon Crawford. In 2015, entering his age 29 season, Crawford agreed to sign a six-year, $75MM extension, locking him up for two arbitration seasons, and four free-agent years.

Crawford is known for his slick glove, but signed the extension after a 2015 season in which he had a 113 wRC+, which you’ll take every single day at short. He was worth 4.3 fWAR during the 2015 season, mostly due to his defense. Since the signing, Crawford has been a solid contributor, putting up a career high 5.4 WAR in 2016 before seeing an offensive slide in 2016, which resulted in 2.1 WAR. He seems to be back on track in 2018, currently hitting to the tune of a 122 wRC+. Like most middle infielders, the defense has taken a hit after age 30, but Crawford is still above average defensively for the Giants.

Let’s take a look at the contract details:

Let’s call this the high end for Scooter. There would be quite a few Reds fans pretty irate if Scooter’s extension were anywhere close to this. Both the money and the guaranteed years are pretty high. With the value Crawford brings with his glove, and the negative value Scooter brings with his, the Reds would need to hope Gennett’s May 2018 numbers become the new normal. Since only four players in MLB history have had a .401 BABIP over an entire season, I think it’s safe to say that won’t be the case.

Scooter’s fantastic 2017 resulted in 2.3 fWAR, which Crawford nearly matched (2.1 fWAR) even with his 86 wRC+. If 2+ wins is all we can expect from Scooter’s total value — and, to be fair, Scooter has already posted 2.3 fWAR in 2018 — Crawford’s contract is probably a little rich.

The Low End: Justin Smoak

In the middle of the 2016 season, the Blue Jays and first-baseman Justin Smoak agreed to a two year, $4.125MM extension with an option for a third year at $6MM. The deal was signed during Smoak’s last arbitration season.

It was a pretty surprising move at the time for the Blue Jays. Smoak hit just .217/.314/.391 in 2016, good for 0.1 WAR, which followed up a 0.7 WAR 2015 season. The Blue Jays must have seen something in Smoak though, because like Gennett, he exploded in 2017. He earned every dollar in his contract, hitting .270/.355/.529 with 38 home runs in the year of the juiced ball. Smoak has continued to hit at an elevated rate in 2018, owning a 127 wRC+.

Let’s take a look at those contract numbers:

I think even the most hesitant of Reds fans could probably live with this extension. It’d be giving Scooter the security to finish out the rest of his prime years wearing Red, and giving the team a little bit of security with the back-end option in case things go south in a hurry. Of course all of these numbers will need to be increased, as Scooter is currently making just over $5MM in his second year of arbitration. But the structure is something I could get on board with.

The Sweet Spot: Martin Prado

At the end of the 2016 season, the Marlins signed third baseman Martin Prado to a three year, $40MM extension. Prado was 32 at the time of the signing, and was coming off a 3.7 WAR 2016 season. That followed a 3.4 WAR 2015 season. In fact, Prado had at that point just wrapped up his eighth season with a wRC+ over 100, meaning that he’s been an above-average hitter for most of his career.

The mistake here is exactly the mistake the Reds don’t want to make with Scooter Gennett. After the ink dried, Prado’s body fell apart. He played in only 147 games in 2017, and had a Hamilton-esque 67 wRC+, ultimately finishing the season with -0.1 fWAR. Things aren’t getting any better in 2018, as he’s already “accrued” -0.5 fWAR through 100 plate appearances. Now we need to keep in mind that Prado was 32 at the time of the extension, which is four years older than Scooter Gennett is right now. But let Prado be the cautionary tale of signing a player, especially aninfielder, into his 30’s.

Despite Prado not living up to the contract he signed, the numbers are actually quite close to what I’d expect a Scooter Gennett contract to look like. Here are the numbers:

Again, none of these three scenarios exactly matches what the Reds have on their hands with Scooter. The money in the Prado deal seems about right, given Gennett’s current arbitration salary. You could argue that Gennett might want more years on his deal, but he hasn’t come close to proving his value over as many full seasons as Prado was able to before signing his deal.

Deja Vu: Brandon Phillips

You knew it was coming, didn’t you? It’d be impossible to talk about an extension for a Reds second baseman without mentioning @DatDudeBP. In the early stages of the 2012 season, the Reds signed Brandon Phillips to a six-year, $72.5MM contract extension. Here are the details, in case you’ve blocked them from memory:

As we all know, the extension was the beginning of the end for Phillips in a Reds uniform. While he’d stay in Cincinnati through 2016 before being traded, those years were hardly Phillips’ best for the Reds. Brandon failed to hit above 100 wRC+ in any of those seasons, although he hovered close (his lowest in that span was 88 wRC+ in an injury-riddled 2014).

What really made this a bad deal was the fact that BP was 30 when he signed the contract. That makes the second example in this article alone of an infielder tripping over the 30 year old age line and declining rapidly. Baseball history has many, many more examples of this occurrence.

I remember there being a very similar case for a Brandon Phillips extension back in 2012 as there is for re-signing Scooter Gennett today. If you were in charge of the 2012 Reds, and you could re-do the Brandon Phillips extension knowing everything you know today – would you?

Signing Scooter

After looking through all of these scenarios and comparing to Scooter Gennett’s specific case, as well as the past few extensions the Reds have offered to players, here’s how I think a potential Gennett extension could shake out:

There’s a little bit of everything here. Ultimately, the Reds tack on an extra team option to make the deal a year longer than Prado’s. The money doesn’t really come close to the Crawford extension, but is still significantly more than Scooter’s fellow 2017 breakout companion Justin Smoak. The Reds have quite a bit of leverage here, mostly because Scooter’s track record isn’t all that lengthy. The past two years (should he keep it up) do warrant some serious dollars, though. 

There’s no getting around the fact that, barring a disastrous second half, Scooter is going to get paid eventually. Whether the Reds should be the one paying him is obviously a different question. Reds fans have seen a post-prime, fan-favorite second baseman get extended in the not-so distant future. If signed, is Scooter Gennett doomed to the same fate as Dat other Dude? Sound off in the comments.

30 Responses

  1. Mason Red

    If the year for potential success is now 2021 as many are saying then I say trade him. If the franchise is willing to actually spend some money to bring in talent (doubtful but we can dream) then keep him.

    • Ghettotrout1

      I agree with Mason Red…. scooter is good and I would sign him if we really thought next year we would compete but I truly can’t see the reds being competitive for minimum of 2 possibily 3 more years. You kinda have to trade him if that’s the case right?

  2. BigRedMike

    Hopefully, the Reds are not considering a contract of $12-15 million for an aging player when they have replacements at the position at team control money.

    The Reds will likely need that money to sign a Starting Pitcher when they are closer to contending.

    Great article by the way

    • CP

      Is 28 considered aging now? He literally just turned 28 on May 1. I am comfortable paying a guy for his age 29-33 seasons if he doesn’t depend on speed.

      I agree with you though, the Reds have to be smart in how they allocate resources. There probably isn’t a position they are more deep in than 2B, particularly if they end up drafting Mandrigal Unless they plan on moving Suarez or trading Senzel, it doesn’t make sense to extend Scooter. Sell high, and use the resources to fill or partially fill one of the organization’s many holes (SS,OF,SP).

      • BigRedMike

        28 is not aging, just that the Reds would be signing Gennett for his age 30 and after seasons. That is the risk. He is already signed for the age 29 season.

        Crawford and Phillips are good examples and Gennett is nowhere near those two on the defensive end.

        The decline with Gennett will likely be steep with no defense to fall back on.

      • CP

        I understand what you’re saying, but that age 29 season would likely be baked into the extension. Obviously there will be substantial risk of decline, but the risk is probably less than either the Prado or Phillips deals. I’d be more concerned with the risk that Scooter’s two big seasons are just statistical aberrations, whereas Prado and BP had extensive track records.

      • eric3287

        Depending on the skill-set of the player, 28 can be considered aging. For instance, Billy Hamilton’s sole skill is speed; speed is one of the first “skills” to go, especially if that’s all you can provide.

        Generally the players that age well are good defenders (if you’re in the NL) and those with good control over the strike zone. Scooter is unfortunately neither of those.

  3. KG

    Give him a 3-year deal and move him to the outfield. Schebler in CF, Scooter in left, Winker in right. As Bill Cunningham would say, “That ain’t bad!”.

    • Jeff Reed

      I assume you’re referring to ‘The Great American.’

    • Jeff Reed

      With such an atrocious defense, the infamous outfield rotation, provided it had been discontinued, would have to be reinstated.

  4. Wizeman

    Hard no. Realize he is only 28 but he is in the way. Try to
    Flip him to someone other than Seattle who has lose to
    Nothing in the closet

  5. RedWard

    Agree with Wizeman. Too many holes to fill at this point to keep him. The starting rotation is a black hole and the OF is disappointing. Don’t know if it’s realistic, but I would hope for a couple of decent prospects who may be MLB ready next year or in 2020.

  6. Streamer88

    So we’re gonna create another hole hoping to fill two other holes?

    This guy murders right handed pitching. He plays 4 positions (poorly). Is it possible those wanting to trade him are setting their bars just a bit high? Who you want in return? Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve?

    • Jordan Barhorst

      I wouldn’t be mad at that return

    • BigRedMike

      Yes. In addition, Senzel will cost 600K a season and the difference between that and Gennett’s extension can be used to upgrade other positions.

      The game is trending younger and towards players on team control contracts, good teams are not signing players to extensions that are approaching their decline years.

      The Reds need more flexibility not less, which is what long term extensions create, see Bailey, Mesoraco, Phillips, etc.

      • Streamer88

        Finding value in the opposite direction of what everyone else is doing is how you compete with less resources. If no one is interested in aging veterans who still can play then the Reds better be there to extract value.

  7. Kap

    I would say during this off season (if they don’t trade him July), Approach him with an extension of about 40 or 50 million for 3 or 4 years, buying out arbitration. Immediately notify him that he is moving to the outfield to make way for Senzel so he can work on his outfield defense this off season. As long as they are okay with this plan, then I am on board. If not, trade him. He can not be a second baseman past this season for the Reds.

  8. TurboBuckeye

    Either trade him this year or wait till the end of NEXT year to sign him…if you must. But trading him now makes by far the most sense. The reality is that this “rebuild” has failed and the FO needs to look 3 or 4 years down the line to see the NGRT (Next Great Reds Team).

  9. CP

    I have to admit, I thought the idea of moving Scooter to the OF was crazy at first, but truth-be-told, could he really be worse than Jesse Winker defensively?

    Not to understate that there would almost certainly be some “oops” types of moments out there at first, but Scooter’s bat does open some doors for him. The Reds would have to think hard about the remaining OF construction, but the organization needs to be thinking of creative ways to get MLB ABs to guys like Senzel.

  10. SultanofSwaff

    For the record, given the value of WAR at the time, Brandon Phillips provided full value for what he was paid. Still, 6 years was too long.

  11. Keith

    Honestly, the only contract I’d be open to is a front-loaded one, unlike the other contracts. I wouldn’t want to tie up payroll flexibility in years we might actually be good with someone i don’t have a spot for in the field.

  12. Davy13

    Scooter is not an elite player. He would be fine to offer an extension if he was a final chip of a contending team. He is not! Let another team pay Scooter that salary and pay the Reds with good young players (see Wesley Jenkins’ blog post “Second Baseless in Seattle”

    I would rather see the FO be bolder and make a leap forward with the rebuild by saving that potential salary of Scooter’s +Bailey’s salary when it comes off the books and sign a young elite free agent or trade for an elite player. I am tired of seeing the team’s money going to pretty good players.

  13. Jack

    Here’s a thought. STOP PUTTING SCHEBLER IN THE OUTFIELD! He is almost 28 and he isn’t as good as your mind thinks he is! I would take Scooter, Hamilton and Winker over Schebler. At least Hamilton covers the other 2’s mistakes on defense. This team won’t be good until 2021 probably because the sorting hasn’t even started yet. Trade Scooter for something that is major league ready. Please no more Scheblers, Perazas , Finnegans, lambs and other organization crap.

  14. james garrett

    I like it Cossack but this team is guided by the good ole boy network which has done so well over the last 5 years I am sure they are just full of ideas to throw against the wall to see if it sticks.You know like the one with Billy where he is just about to turn the corner in year 5 or the one where they continue to play him and Peraza at the same time and take bets on the side as to which one will finish as the worst hitter in the league.I was really impressed today when upon awakening from their nap they got a back up catcher from the Rays that has an MLB career average of 199.These guys never miss an opportunity to show just how foolish they have become.I would hope Tucker never gets hurt.

    • Aaron Bradley

      The catcher has power and is an upgrade over Cruz. He is def. backup material, but he is an upgrade from what they had. It is funny to me how this organization has made the same mistakes over and over, from even before Bob took over… remember the Willy Taveres signing… they were gonna teach him to hit more grounders… and then Corey Patterson … I am sick of valuing speed to the detriment of hitting. Winker is like the anti-Billy, the guy can hit but not run or play defense. Fuse them together and you would have a gold player. I really think they benched WInker because Petco is a big park and his lack of range will be exposed there. He will get back in the mix after San Diego, but in the meantime a message has been sent — he needs to improve his defense to lock in a lineup spot.

  15. james garrett

    Easy buddy you know Billy and Peraza are fast and Billy smiles a lot.It makes no difference if Winker gets on base more by accident then either one of these guys do while trying to hit.I mean they could have sent Winker down to work on throwing strikes.OOPS sorry that was Bob or was it Reed oh heck I give up.

  16. Tom Haxby

    First, let me say that I genuinely like what Scooter has done for the Reds in 1+ seasons. He seems to have found a home in front of a hometown crowd. However, Scooter is not the biggest problem the Reds have.

    It is the current roster and lack of majors-ready minor league talent. The current outfielders are in a word, uninspiring. Shortstop is a black hole. The pitching staff is a disaster. Suarez, Votto, Barnhart and Scooter (offensively) are all good now. Can they fill the 5 holes (SS, CF, LF, and RF and perhaps 2B) and and yet have Votto, Suarez and Barnhart as significant contributors in 2019 or 2020? Pitching is the real issue and the Reds have not had a good track record with developing young pitchers. Most of the Reds talent is in the lower levels of the minor leagues – several years away. Is it just me, or am I the only one having a hard time seeing all of the missing pieces coming together at the same time?

    One thing unrelated to the roster is I would be seriously considering moving back the fences in GASP, or raising the fences – I am leaning towards moving back the fences. This would help tremendously with the psyche of the pitchers and give more room in the outfield for line drives and gap hits.

    Finally, one last suggestion, could the Reds please try to find/develop a reliable clean up hitter. It is all well and good that the Reds have a bunch of toolsy players, but they need one guy to anchor the lineup and drive in runs.

    • Jeff Reed

      For the next few years, at least, the Reds have their cleanup hitter, Eugenio Suarez.

  17. Jason Linden

    This might be said elsewhere already, but the BP deal was NOT a bad deal. Phillips ended up being worth almost exactly what he was paid. It was a fair deal with the value front loaded. As all extensions are.

  18. Ghettotrout1

    Cossack is right on basically everything said above.