Free agency is set to kick off any day now. Once the World Series is over there is a 5-day period in which impending free agents are only allowed to negotiate with the team that they last played for. After those five days are up, they can then talk to anyone and everyone that they’d like to. This is also the day in which teams must decide if they will or will not pick up options on players who have them for the following season.

The Cincinnati Reds, as currently constructed, project for the 2020 season according to ZiPS to be in that 82-85 win range. That’s a good place to start as was noted over the weekend. But it’s also not likely to be enough to make the playoffs. And that is the Reds stated goal for 2020 – as it should be. They’ve reportedly got plenty of money to spend, too.

Yesterday we took a look at how the Reds could possibly look at the catcher market to improve their project win total for 2020. Today we are going to take a look at the middle infield. Currently the Cincinnati Reds middle infield is a big question mark. Jose Iglesias started most of the year at shortstop, but he’s a free agent. Freddy Galvis came over on waivers in August – but he’s got a team option that we aren’t certain will be picked up yet (it seems likely that it will, though). And then there’s the group of younger guys in their mid-20’s with Jose Peraza, Josh VanMeter, and Alex Blandino. The wild card option could be sliding Nick Senzel to second base if the team finds a bonafide center field option that could force him back to the infield.

You can make an argument for any single one of them to have a solid role on the team, perhaps even a starting role in some cases, shortstop and second base are areas that could certainly be a place where a real upgrade could be made for Cincinnati.

MLB Trade Rumors has the entire list of available middle infielders on their website if you want to check it out. But there aren’t exactly a lot of inspiring shortstop options. At second base there could be more options for the Reds to explore.

When it comes to shortstops the only real player to look at would be Didi Gregorius. Yeah, the same player that the Reds traded away years ago in a deal that also included Trevor Bauer, bringing Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati. Gregorius had a strong 2018, and an above-average 2017 – but his 2019 saw him miss about half of the year and have a down season. He hit just .238/.276/.441 on the year. That was good for an 87 OPS+. The previous two seasons saw his OPS+ sitting at 106 and 124.

If the Reds believed that it was the injury that held Didi Gregorius back on offense and he could return to 2017/2018 form, that’s a decent upgrade over what they got in 2019 out of the shortstop position. The Reds were 26th in baseball in OPS+ at 84 during the year. But if they get the version from 2019, well – it’s not an upgrade at all, really. This is why you pay your scouts – to tell you what to expect. And whether that’s going to be worth it if you could just play Freddy Galvis there for $5.5M.

Second base has a lot more options than shortstop does, but there doesn’t really appear to be a true difference maker at the position either. Among the guys who played every day you’re basically looking at Mike Moustakas, who hit .254/.329/.516 this past season with 35 home runs. That would be a significant offensive upgrade over what the Reds got in 2019. Cincinnati second basemen hit .221/.288/.390 on the season – the second worst line of any position they had among the starting eight.

But there could be some rather useful options. Howie Kendrick has been on fire in the playoffs, and he’s missed time over the last few years – but he’s also a guy who hit .344/.395/.572 this season in 370 plate appearances in the regular season. He’ll be 36-years-old, so you probably don’t sign him to a longer deal. But if you can get him in a deal that makes sense for both sides, he’s probably a pretty big upgrade when he’s on the field. And you’ll still have solid options to go to at second base to give him rest, or if he does get injured and has to miss time.

Could there be a reunion with Scooter Gennett? After trading him at the deadline to San Francisco his struggles continued with the Giants. They released him four weeks later. No one picked him up. After his injury in spring training the 29-year-old just never got his bat going in 2019. Between Cincinnati and San Francisco he hit just .226/.245/.323 with just two walks in 139 plate appearances to go with 41 strikeouts. In the previous two seasons he hit .303/.351/.508 for Cincinnati with 52 doubles, six triples, and 50 home runs in 295 games. And given that his 2019 season went as poorly as it did there very well could be plenty of upside on a no-risk contract for 2020. If the 2017-2018 version of Scooter Gennett shows back up, that’s a decent sized difference maker for one of the worst offenses in baseball.

Then of course there’s the guy that is almost assuredly out of the Reds price range, Anthony Rendon. He hasn’t actually played second base since 2015, but he’s likely more than capable of still doing it. Of course he is going to get a very long, very expensive contract – something the Reds haven’t really been involved with when it comes to free agency. That said, our own Chad Dotson may have fired off a very angry letter to me had I not mentioned Rendon as a possibility here. Perhaps Bob Castellini has finally invented that new fruit that Brandon Phillips was talking about earlier this decade and the money is there to make it happen. It would certainly dramatically change the division – but don’t expect it to happen.

26 Responses

  1. Justin

    Scooter on a cheap, one year deal is interesting. If they could get him on a contract that can be dumped if he doesn’t make the starting spot, I’m all in.

    Kendrick seems like Donaldson lite. If he doesn’t fall off, there could be valuable production. But he’s also at the age where it can, and often does for players, completely dry up all the sudden.

    If Didi gets the QO, I don’t see why he wouldn’t take it. Getting on a one year deal to rebuild his value seems smarter than taking offers that may be skewed by a injury plagued season.

  2. Kap

    Mike Moustakas is another guy I would consider for 2nd base. His left handed power would play well at GABP

    • Doc

      Like Puig’s power played well at GABP?

  3. Doug Gray

    His free agency quest is going to be interesting. On one hand, I’d hesitate to offer him a guaranteed deal given how poor his 2019 season was. On the other hand, if I’m Gennett, why the heck would I accept a minor league deal? In my mind I got hurt and it busted my season, but I was an All-Star caliber player the two years prior to that.

    If I were a team that had options at second base, like the Reds do, I’d consider something small on the guaranteed side – maybe like 1 year, $2M base – and then have performance bonuses tied in that could push it to like $10-12M if he reaches them.

    The market here could be real intriguing to see how it plays out.

  4. lost11found

    I’d be willing to roll the money Grandal would be asking for into a ‘blow the doors off’ offer to Rendon. He’s younger and doesn’t have the pharmaceutical history. I’m not convinced that all is on the up and up in MIL.

    • Redleg4life

      I would love it if we could get Rendon however our current third baseman hit the second most homers in the league and had over 100 who’s this season and I can’t see either third baseman playing at any other position besides first base. Since Joey votto is locked up I we there we might as well throw that money at bumgarner or another ace.

  5. Steve Schoenbaechler

    It’s the same thing. Sure, there are FA players out there who can help our offense. But, that those prices, is it worth it? I have to question it. At those ages? I have to question it.

    That would mean “trade” then. But, we don’t have that much to trade with in the first place. To get anything of quality back, I’m afraid we are going to have to give up a couple of higher prized chips than we gave to the Dodgers last season.

    The Reds are going to have to be creative, I believe, to improve this offense through FA or trades.

    I’m not saying “do this”. But, as an example, sign Rendon. Payroll-wise, we have plenty of money now. And, Votto will be coming off the books soon, I believe. Position-wise, however we can make it work. I proposed Rendon at 3rd and Suarez at SS? Fine. Someone else proposed Rendon at 2nd. Fine. Someone proposed Rendon at 3rd and Suarez in LF. Fine.

    • Bigbill

      Suarez is not anything close to being a Shortstop anymore. Let’s kill that thought.

  6. jbonireland

    I also like the thought of Moustakus for 2b, but it would take an overpay to come to Cincinnati probably. I would certainly offer him a short multi year contract say 3 years at the age of 31. Thanks but no thanks on Scootie, his time in Cincinnati has come and gone. Didi’s stardom is a product of the short RF fence in Yankee stadium. In most places I doubt it would play well, but Cincinnati might be one of the few places. Again I suspect that it will take multi years to get him. If we do I’d certainly want to get rid of some of the clutter in the infield……Galvis, Iglesias, and possibly Peraza. Iglesias if we decide we couldn’t get Didi would be my fallback position for a shortstop.

  7. Daytonnati

    If the Nats end up winning tonight, I don’t see how the fanbase would let Rendon walk? He, Soto, and Strasburg are the heroes of that franchise! With Scherzer getting a chance to add his name to the list tonight.

  8. Redgoggles

    I would prefer ownership to spend FA capital rather than player capital. I’m skeptical of how deep our farm system is anyway (consistently horrible records, which I realize isn’t everything, but it’s something), and we will need to keep our development going to avoid the cratering that happened after trading our farm jewels for our last winning team.

    • Redgoggles

      And by FA capital, I mean cash.

    • wes

      the reason they have to use player capital is bc no big name FA has been willing to sign in cincy they were linked to nearly everyone last year yet only got guys who all other teams passed on. Reds know this and act accordingly so be ready to see more of these guys traded.

      If they can establish a credible franchise in next couple seasons than tides will shift and free agents will consider. fingers crossed!

      • Redgoggles

        They may need to overpay a bit, but I still prefer the FA cash to trading prospects as they need to cultivate a fertile farm system as a foundation for sustaining a winning franchise. I’m happy to see them put resources into the organization, but I think the time is come to spend on talent at the big league level and I’ll remain skeptical to their commitment until they do so.

  9. Roger Garrett

    The Reds need a couple of bats period.I would prefer it be at catcher and in the outfield but they could sort all of that out.Who knows what Winker,JVM,Senzel or Aquino could do in a full year and until they actually get that chance nobody knows.Health and playing time tells the story.Aquino played almost every day and JVM did not while the others were injured.Get the bats and the rest will work out.Maybe just one bat gets it done but just can’t have Tucker,Peraza and pick a short stop playing 140 games next year.Moustakas is the only guy I would consider but do you throw away JVM at what 24 years old?

    • Jefferson Green

      JVM would not be getting thrown away if Moustakas were to sign with the Reds. He only hit above average one month, and he did get regular playing time in August into September (no, not quite everyday, but 94 PA in August is almost every day and enough to get into a rhythm). He could season/develop more in AAA and be available for call up when there is injury or non-performance at 1B, 2B, 3B, LF, or RF.

      • Roger Garrett

        I see your point of regular playing time is a little different then mine.Aquino was brought up and played every day at a spot he played in the minors.JVM was brought up and was platooned in left and at second and even at first when Joey went down and set against lefties.Reds tried to make a platoon player out of him at various positions at the major league level which he had never done in the minors and expected him to hit.He just needed to play every day at second and if Moustakas is signed he will never see the field.He was tagged as platoon guy and he will forever remain

  10. Jefferson Green

    Spotrac says that Moustakas’ option is mutual, so he can declare himself a FA if he would like a bigger or longer term payday.

  11. Armo21

    Maybe the Reds saw JVM for what he was this season, a rookie who was not on the radar until he tore the cover off the ball starting in 2018 and early this season in AAA … part of the problem with fans like me is we really want the narrative to be the best case scenario for young players (see Nick Senzel). The reality is he is a rookie adjusting to MLB as was Senzel, somewhere between our high expectations/hopes and what they did this year is probably reality for these rookies next season. I like both these guys a lot, but until they show they are impact players, the Reds will evaluate them more objectively. You can say they need more opportunity, but a lot can be learned just being in the league and taking advantage of the opportunities they get.

  12. Sabr Chris

    I’d have to image that Seagers would be part of the return for Lindor. Or if the Indians could pry Galvin Lux then Seagers shifts to 2nd.

    To me Seagers is available if the Dodgers sign Rendon. Turner shifts to 1st, Muncy at 2nd, then Lux at Sport.

  13. Ed

    how do we get Anderson and Moncada from the Sox?

  14. AMWills

    I’m gonna float out there a new option I haven’t seen yet in this thread: Jonathan Schoop. Had a nice bounceback year last year in Minnesota. An average defender with legit 25-30 HR power. Not sure what he would require at 28 years old, and play pretty similar to Suarez, but I’d say it’s at least worth a look on the market this winter.

  15. JB

    Trade for Marcus Semien. They have 2 prospects at shortstop and Jorge Mateo is out of options. He will be picked up if exposed to waivers and I believe is number 4 prospect for A’s. He has to make the team and Semien only has 1 more year left before free agency. Wont have to trade a lot with only a year left. Try to get one of their outfielders (as well and move Senzel to 2nd.

  16. Monty Farmer

    If Senzel doesn’t move back to 2nd, and the Reds dont sign a FA for 2nd, what would be bad about giving a chance to Kyle Farmer? He actually played terrific there in his starts or coming in late in the game. Jose Peraza needs to go! He can hit, but his defense is below avg! He ole’s the ball at times instead of getting in front of it!? JVM I like his hitting, but he was atrocious in LF! We havent had a legitimate LF in awhile as an everyday starter. Probably since Dunn or Duvall(which I still thought was a mistake letting him go). Bring back Iglesias for SS! His D and clutch hitting is solid!

  17. Redleg4life

    I like didi at short. Him paired with Freddy at second could make a good defensive combo up the middle. As for Grandal yes he has great power and would boost our lineup but Barnhart has played great defense this year. Our real lack of offensive production came from Votto at first. If all our young talent I like Aquino and vanmeter the best. The reds should focus on a cheap five hole innings eater and lefties for the pen.

  18. Redleg4life

    I completely agree about scooter gennett however I think that we should give Nick senzel a shot despite his injury. This is all assuming we get Grandal healthy, productive,and behind the plate. If we don’t get him, we should invest in a proven lefty for the pen or another solid bat.??