The Cincinnati Reds still don’t have a shortstop for the 2021 season. And spring training is merely weeks away at this point. The rumor over the weekend was that the team was signing Jonathan Villar, but that has not happened as of the writing of this article. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Reds are still looking for a shortstop today, and they’ve been considering the trade market to find an answer.
On top of considering signing Jonathan Villar, Jon Heyman is reporting that the team has also considered trades for Amed Rosario, now with Cleveland after being traded from the New York Mets in the deal for Francisco Lindor, and Willy Adames of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Amed Rosario or Willy Adames would likely represent a true step up from the current in-house options at shortstop. Both have upside that only Jose Garcia has from the current crew, but Garcia almost assuredly isn’t ready to reach that upside out of the gate in 2021 if what we saw in 2020 was an indication. That’s not a knock on Garcia – he was making the jump from Advanced-A and was simply being asked to do something that in normal circumstances just wouldn’t be asked of other players in his position.
Unlike signing Jonathan Villar, acquiring Amed Rosario or Willy Adames would lock up a shortstop for several years. Villar, coming off of a very poor season in 2020, isn’t likely going to land more than a 1-year deal (and that’s what the rumors over the weekend suggested he was going to sign). Rosario, who did struggle quite a bit in 2020, is locked up under team control through the 2023 season. Adames has an extra year of team control beyond that and is coming off of a season in which he hit .259/.332/.481 for the Rays at age 24.
Making a trade is going to be more expensive than simply signing Jonathan Villar. Adames won’t reach arbitration until the 2022 season, so he will make less money, but he’s also going to require giving up valuable players in trade to acquire. While Tampa Bay may be looking to move him in order to make room for Wander Franco, the number one prospect in baseball two years in a row, they understand how good Adames is and won’t just be giving him away. Cleveland has a little bit less leverage in trading Rosario, but they don’t have to move him to clear a spot for someone like Franco, either. They’ve got a glut of middle infielders, though, and Rosario could bring back some quality in trade.
If the organization could land a trade for Willy Adames or Amed Rosario it would probably put a little more faith into the team from the fan base. Between the internal options the team has now, or even including Jonathan Villar – none of those players has been an every day shortstop in the big leagues in years, and some of them have never been that. Adames or Rosario are true shortstops who have played there on a daily basis for years in the big leagues.
We’re all still in a wait-and-see mode with what the Reds will do with the shortstop position. One thing is pretty clear, though: Cincinnati missed the good options in free agency and if there’s going to be an acquisition for a shortstop that represents a true upgrade it’s going to have to come via a trade.