The Cincinnati Reds outfield is crowded as the offseason begins. Nick Castellanos elected to remain in Cincinnati for the 2021 season. Along with him, the Reds also have Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Shogo Akiyama, and Brian Goodwin under contract for next year. There’s also Aristides Aquino – though it seems that for right now he’s viewed more as a 5th outfielder type by the organization.
With all of that said, that doesn’t mean that the Reds won’t, or shouldn’t be looking at outfield options in free agency. Just because they have everyone under contract for 2021 right now doesn’t mean that will be true on December 5th. Trades can take place. The non-tender deadline is December 2nd, and it’s certainly possible that the Reds could non-tender Brian Goodwin due to the crowded outfield as well as the fact that they are likely going to be trying to trim as much payroll (like it seems every team in baseball is trying to do this offseason) as they can. Goodwin is projected to make somewhere between $2.7-3.6M in arbitration if he’s tendered a contract according to MLB Trade Rumors.
That non-tender day could play a big role in free agency, as it’s expected that many players of quality will be non-tendered and become free agents rather than the typical non-tender day which sees more fringy big leaguers finding their way to free agency.
While we don’t know who will be non-tendered yet, we do know who the other free agents are. For the Cincinnati Reds, as the roster stands today, if they are going to look at outfielders, finding one who has the ability to play center field seems to be key. Adding someone who can’t would just create more of a corner outfield jam.
Shogo Akiyama can play center if asked, but it seems that he’s more of a good corner outfielder than a good center fielder at this point in his career. Brian Goodwin fits the same mold.
The biggest name in the market among the center fielders is George Springer. He would clearly make the Reds a better team – he’s a multiple time All-Star. But he’s also going to be expensive (at least by comparison to the current market), and he’s a starter. Unless the Reds have a plan to revisit the Nick Senzel can play shortstop option, Springer simply doesn’t make a ton of sense given the current roster.
When we start to look at guys who may fit the 4th outfielder/occasional starter role there could be some good options. Brett Gardner isn’t quite the same guy he used to be, and at age 37 most of us aren’t, but he’s still a quality big leaguer. In 2020 he hit .223/.354/.392, good for a 108 OPS+. He spent more time in left field than in center in 2020 with the Yankees, but he’s still a plus runner and can cover some ground in the outfield.
Mallex Smith stole 86 bases between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, but only played in 14 games during 2020. He’s a career .255/.325/.361 hitter. There’s not much power to speak of in his game, and he’s struggled to hit since 2018 ended – he hit .227 in 2019 with a career low .635 OPS and then just .133 in limited action in 2020. If the belief is that he can return to his career norms, he’d bring some speed to the team and could provide a little backup center field depth.
You can see the entire list of current free agents at MLB Trade Rumors. When it comes to center fielders the crop of free agents this year isn’t deep. There are some corner guys out there, but unless the Reds make trades to open up spots on the roster it doesn’t seem they will even consider a corner-only player.
If the Reds stand pat on their outfielders as they head into 2021, they have a solid start cast with upside, and plenty of depth. Outfield is one spot where they shouldn’t feel the need to make a move. If there’s one there that will clearly improve the team, that would be something that makes sense – but there’s not a hole that needs to be filled with their current outfield looking towards the 2021 season.