The Cincinnati Reds don’t know who their shortstop will be on Opening Day of the 2021 season. With a stated goal to acquire a shortstop for the season when the offseason began, the organization came up short. Their internal solutions were Kyle Farmer and Alex Blandino. They also acquired Kyle Holder via a trade, but he’s never played a single game in the Major Leagues and largely is viewed as a future glove-first bench player. More recently they also brought in Dee Strange-Gordon, though it has sounded like he’s competing for a utility role more so than the starting gig at shortstop. With reports that Eugenio Suárez has shown up lighter in Goodyear this February, the question had to be asked: Can the former shortstop, now third baseman, slide back over to shortstop?
“I know Geno’s played shortstop, I’ve seen him play a lot of short over the last couple of years,” said manager David Bell. “If you look at where he plays in the shift a lot against a lot of the left handed hitters we faced, he’s basically playing the shortstop position, so we know he could play there. There haven’t been any serious discussions about it yet, but we definitely won’t rule anything out. You’re always open minded. Right now we’re just letting him get acclimated to spring training and settling in. I think he’s been a good third baseman for a long time. I do think the better shape he’s in, he’s going to move even better at third base – especially at that position, it’s such a reaction position, I think being lighter on his feet is really going to help him over there.”
While Bell certainly hedges his bet with the “we won’t rule anything out”, almost everything he says backs up that it’s not something the team is considering or thinking about.
Eugenio Suárez wasn’t the only player that was addressed with regards to the shortstop position on Tuesday by Bell. He also spoke a little bit about prospect Jose Garcia and where he could potentially fit in during the 2021 season.
“Last year was a big year for Jose last year,” said Bell. “There’s really no question, to state the obvious, we rushed Jose to the big leagues. It was out of necessity. It was also knowing that he could handle it and it would be a good experience and it wouldn’t set him back. Even though you look at his numbers offensively, I can still point to many things I saw over the course of his time that made him better. It was a good experience for him, he handled it very well mentally, and it was very mature in how he handled it all. He stepped in and played a good shortstop for us. So, I just don’t know. He was a guy who hadn’t played above A-ball, and then he was in the Major Leagues last year. So we just have to be really thoughtful about doing what’s best for Jose. Obviously our goal is to win as a team, so we’ll have to see how it plays out. It wouldn’t surprise me if he started in the minor leagues, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up being a big part of our Major League team this year.”
In the best case scenario, Garcia is the shortstop on opening day. That would mean that he looked outstanding in spring training and that the issues he seemed to have at the plate last year were things that he improved upon since last season ended. But as things get started, and before games are even being played, it feels like Garcia is on the outside and looking in on the competition over the next five weeks for the spot as the Reds starter at shortstop.