The Cincinnati Reds have a deal with infielder Dee Strange-Gordon for a minor league deal for the 2021 season according to ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel.
This signing probably isn’t going to do much to help the shortstop position that the Reds are still looking to fill. And on a minor league deal, it’s more of a hope-and-see kind of signing than anything else. The soon-to-be 33-year-old could be a valuable bench piece if things go right for him. In his big league career he’s played second base, shortstop, center field, and left field. Defensively, he’s got the ability to fill in at multiple spots on the field. He last played a real amount of time as a shortstop back in 2013, but has seen some limited action there in each of the last four seasons.
Offensively there’s been a lot of up-and-down from Dee Strange-Gordon. He’s led the league in average, back in 2015 when he hit .333 and led the league with 205 hits. He’s led the league in triples when he had 12 of them for the Dodgers back in 2014. And in 2014, 2015, and 2017 he led the league in steals. But when you look at his OPS+, you can really see the inconsistency in his hitting. As a rookie in 2011 he posted a 92 OPS+. That was followed up by a dreadful 56 OPS+ and a 75 OPS+ in the next two partial seasons. Then in 2014 he was an All-Star with a 101 OPS+. Traded to Miami in 2015 he was again an All-Star and posted a career best 116 OPS+. That was followed up with a 77 OPS+, a 97 OPS+, a 79 OPS+, an 80 OPS+, and then last year in just 33 games, a 39 OPS+.
Dee Strange-Gordon needs a lot of things to go just right for him to provide value at the plate. He doesn’t walk with any sort of frequency, and he’s probably providing the least amount of power in the league – he’s never been remotely close to posting a .100 Isolated Power (SLG-AVG). He needs to make a ton of contact and have a high batting average on balls in play to lead to a solid average that will carry his low walk rate and no power. While he doesn’t have strikeout issues, for a player who shows no power at all, he’s not exactly a high contact guy, either.
On the bases is where he can shine. He’s not quite the base stealer that he has been in the past when he was a true 60-steal threat, but the wheels are still there when he gets on. In a utility/bench role, this kind of thing can be of value in key spots.
A minor league deal is a minor league deal. Dee Strange-Gordon is going to have to go out in the spring and show something to get a job with the big league club. Over the last three seasons he’s hit a combined .266/.293/.343 – that’s a .636 OPS and a 77 OPS+ for those keeping track at home. Even for a bench player, that’s not good. The defensive flexibility and the baserunning do help a little bit, but that only goes so far.