The Cincinnati Reds are reportedly interested in Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Willy Adames and free agent shortstop Dee Strange-Gordon according to C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic. One of these players is not like the other.
Willy Adames is a 25-year-old shortstop for Tampa Bay who has a career .262/.329/.426 line to his name in 291 big league games. Last season, as a 24-year-old he hit .259/.332/.481. He also struck out more than 36% of the time he stepped to the plate. When he made contact, he made sure it counted – but there was a lot of swing-and-miss happening in 2020 for Adames.
The massive increase in strikeout rate should be concerning. But that’s probably not the reason that he’s potentially available in trade. Tampa Bay’s #1 prospect, and the top prospect in all of baseball, Wander Franco, is also a shortstop and he’s ready to step into the big leagues as early as Opening Day – though with how they operate, that seems unlikely. Adames could possibly move to another spot on the field for the Rays, but he also serves as a good trade piece for them, too, given that he hasn’t yet reached arbitration and is under team control through 2024.
Dee Strange-Gordon will turn 33-years-old in April. He’s hit .266/.293/.343 over the last three seasons for Seattle, and once a threat to steal 50+ bases, he’s only stolen 53 in the last three years combined. With Cincinnati looking for a shortstop, Strange-Gordon seems like a bit of an odd choice. The last time he made more than a handful of starts at the position was back in 2013 with the Dodgers. He’s only played 114 innings at the position since the start of 2014. He’s spent most of his time at second base, but also has played some center and left field.
To acquire Dee Strange-Gordon it would only take cash. To acquire Willy Adames it would require trading away value of some kind, whether that’s big leaguers or prospects, or a mix of both. And you’d also have to pay him, of course. Adames has upside as a hitter, though there are some areas of concern – mainly the incredibly high strikeout rate he had in 2020. Strange-Gordon is a tough one to make sense of given that he hasn’t hit in years and doesn’t exactly fill an area of need for the team unless they believe he can still play shortstop. But if that’s the case, is he an upgrade of Kyle Farmer, Alex Blandino, or newly acquired Kyle Holder?
The Reds are still looking to find their starting shortstop for 2021. Are one of these two players the answer? Do they continue to pursue Amed Rosario from Cleveland, as reported by Jon Heyman of MLB Network on Saturday? Maybe they believe that Jonathan Villar is more likely to be the 2019 version (109 OPS+ with 40 steals) than the 2020 version (64 OPS+) and could look at him on the free agent market. Time hasn’t run out yet, but the clock is ticking and the options are growing fewer by the day.