As we reported in February, the Cincinnati Reds were unsure if three of their players would qualify for a 4th option year. Outfielder Aristides Aquino and pitchers José De León and Cionel Pérez were all up in the air with regards to their qualifications for that additional option year due to the 2020 season and how it played out with regards to how a specific clause in the option rules work. These decisions are usually finalized in November, but 2020 led to so many strange things with rules and regulations that this one wasn’t clear and the MLBPA and MLB had to go to arbitration to get it settled on an individual basis. Today the Reds officially got the answer: Aristides Aquino is out of options. José De León and Cionel Pérez both have an option for the 2021 season.

This feels far more important to a player like Aristides Aquino. His spot on the roster doesn’t feel quite as certain as the spot for the two pitchers. With Shogo Akiyama on the injured list when the season begins, that does help out Aquino’s chances. But when Akiyama returns, if Aquino were on the 26-man roster and had options, it’s possible that he could be sent to either the Alternate Site or Triple-A depending on exactly when Akiyama were to return.

Of course, Aquino still may not make the 26-man roster. The 26-year-old outfielder is having a solid spring at the plate, hitting .241/.353/.448 in 15 games and 34 plate appearances. But he’s had a few gaffes, too. Last night the game ended with him being thrown out at third base in a 1-run game, and he lost a ball in the sun last week that led to multiple runs coming across the plate. If Cincinnati decides that he’s not the best fit, then he would have to be placed on waivers and freely available to be claimed by another organization who would be willing to give him a 26-man roster spot this year. That, of course, could also play into his roster spot. As a non-starter, the question could come down to “is the difference between Aquino and another extra outfielder worth losing Aquino to if we can option the other outfielder?”

While teams don’t tend to say out loud that one player was kept over another because one had options and the other doesn’t, we all know and understand that it does indeed happen, particularly when it comes to bench and non-back end of the bullpen decisions.

With the pitching staff still up in the air with some uncertainties about whether Tejay Antone, Michael Lorenzen, and Sonny Gray could be ready to begin the year on the roster or if they will need an extra week or two before returning, pitchers with options work out well due to that flexibility. Cionel Pérez has been good this spring, posting a 0.93 ERA in 9.2 innings with nine strikeouts. He hasn’t allowed a home run yet, but he has walked five hitters – his lone wart on his resume thus far. The hard throwing lefty could step into more of a “faces upcoming lefties” out of the bullpen role now that Amir Garrett is moving more to the back end of things along with Lucas Sims.

For José De León, his results haven’t quite been as strong. His ERA is 6.39 this spring in 12.2 innings. It’s been his control that’s really gotten him into trouble at times – he’s walked nine batters and hit three others. But he’s also struck out 17 hitters and at times he’s been flat out dominant. Toss in the fact that he can give you multiple innings as a reliever, and could also fill in as a starting pitcher – something the team may need early on, really helps his case.

We’ll start to get a better feeling for everything soon. But at least now the organization knows what kind of decisions that they can make with these three players.

44 Responses

  1. jim walker

    Who plays RF this year and provides RH hitting power if Castellanos goes down with an injury? Who plays RF in 2022 to provide the same if Castellanos opts out at the end of 2021?

    I don’t think the Reds can afford to expose Aquino to waivers unless they have a solid answer to those questions which at this point isn’t apparent.

    If the Reds could get an immediately helpful piece for AA versus just a body to say they didn’t lose him on waivers for no return, that might be a different matter.

    • Doug Gray

      Winker and Akiyama would fill in at the corners before Aquino would.

      • jim walker

        And the lineup would be very overloaded with LH hitters. The RH power is Suarez and Castellanos then maybe Senzel/ India. It is a big risk to not have another legit RH power bat for the OF.

      • Doug Gray

        RH power bat only matters if they’ve got more to offer than just power (when speaking of the bat), right? It’s that stuff that keeps Aquino as a bench guy and not a starter.

      • VaRedsFan

        Aquino can run circles around Winker and Castellanos on defense, He is most likely the best outfielder of the 5. You’ve mentioned 4 times now, that he lost a ball in the sun, and it cost poor Sal Romano some runs. If you’ve ever played outfield in the sun, you would know that losing a ball in the sun is a helpless feeling…there is nothing you can do about it. You can squat, turn sideways, use your glove, but the ball disappears. These are spring stadiums that aren’t as tall as MLB parks ( that will block out sunlight at many of the angles).
        Keep Aquino.

      • Doug Gray

        Aquino is probably the 3rd best outfielder behind Senzel, for sure, and probably behind Akiyama. He’s unquestionably better than Winker or Castellanos. I’ve also mentioned Aquino losing the ball in the sun, twice. But there’s a reason Aquino’s playing for a job right now, while none of the other four guys are: The Reds believe that those four guys are better and those four guys are going to play over Aquino whether any of us think they are wrong in that assessment.

        On zero planet have I suggested to get rid of Aquino. He’d be on my team if they let me make the decisions. They don’t let me make the decisions, though. They’ve got my number in case they want to ask for my input, though (they’ve never asked).

    • Roger Garrett

      I agree for the reasons you mentioned and a couple of others.I would imagine we are in the minority on this one so it will be interesting to see what happens.

      • greenmtred

        People are probably being too influenced by Aquino’s one remarkable month . His professional career has been otherwise undistinguished.

    • Greenfield Red

      While I agree with you, if the Reds were willing to go into Spring Training this year without a starting shortstop, there is little reason to believe they are concerned about who will be the back-up rightfielder this year or who will start next year if Castellanos opts out.

    • DaveCT

      Heineman > than Aquino. Yes, he was sent down, somewhat unexpectedly, but he also plays CF and 1B.

      Aquino is likely shucks out of luck once Shogo returns. They will assumedly try to sneak him through the DFA wasteland then and, hopefully for him, get a shot somewhere else either by trade or eaiver claim. Life goes on.

      His Reds epitaph will read ‘couldn’t lay off the breaking ball.’ One month does not an All Star make.

      Fifth OF’s are a dime a dozen.

      • Chris

        Just curious, how do you conclude that Heineman is greater than Aquino? In two partial seasons in the show, he’s been horrible, and has numbers that don’t even remotely compare to those of Aquino. Yes, Aquino has issues, and maybe he’s not even a starter, but in his career he’s a .462 hitter coming off the bench, and that’s in 13 games. No reason in the world that this team should just let this kid walk.

      • MBS

        The Aquino hate is real on this site. I hope the Reds do expose him so a team that might give him a legit shot can pick him up. With regular playing time he would put up good power numbers with very good defense. Will he ever be an OBP guy, no, but 30+ HR’s a year is very possible.

      • DaveCT

        One, slider away. Two, Heineman is much more versatile defensively and is not a significant downgrade offensively. Outside of a very short period during 2019 and the juiced ball, Aquino’s contact issues are profound. Even in 2019, ML pitchers exposed his weakness after a month. He hasn’t developed since. Dude hits it a long way when he does connect, no question. I just no longer put much stock in his value. I’ll take the guy who plays center and first. Actually i’d take both Payton and Naquin over Aquino at this point.

      • DaveCT

        No hate on Aquino. I’ve followed him for years through the minors. There’s just a reason why he hasn’t stuck, snd its due to his inability to make contact. He’s not a guy to dream on at this point.

      • MuddyCleats

        I think AA has more upside than most give him credit for? For his size, he runs very well in the OF and on the bases. SB n game tonight; that’s a missing component for this team which has trouble scoring runs sans the dinger. However, he was charged w/ another error. Not sure what or how?? Kid has a cannon of an arm. Arm strength and ++ power R not a dime a dozen. I think he could play CF n a pinch @ GABP ( I think he has in the past?) and certainly 1st base w/ his height. Unfortunately, I think his time in Cincy is over? Only way he improves is to go somewhere he may be wanted and can get some playing time. Maybe he becomes the next Didi, Grandall, Konerko or EE ?

  2. Jimbo44CN

    Aquino should get the nod. As I have said numerous times, his upside could be spectacular. I understand the hesitation from a lot of people on these threads, but you have to remember he did something NO ONE else has ever done . I know it was only one month, but believe he has to get the chance.

    • Roger Garrett

      I agree Jimbo44CN but others will throw out and its true about that he has been with the Reds I believe since he was 17 and was released a time or two I believe and his numbers were never good.Yes he had that great month and others will bring up he was just awful the next month which he was.He is only 26 years old and his negatives far out weigh his positives for sure but I would love to see what he could if given regular playing time to the tune of 400 or 500 at bats.It will not happen in Cincy but I hope he does get the opportunity some where else.

      • jim walker

        Guessing AA runs and throws better than any other OF on the team not named Senzel (or Lorenzen on those rare occasions). And no, I didn’t forget Akiyama.
        His slash line for 282 MLB PAs is .241/ .312/ .526; good for a 109 OPS+
        I am not sure what he doesn’t do better?

    • burtgummer01

      Take away the only good month AA has ever had and his numbers are drastically different

      • VaRedsFan

        Take away his bad month and he has HOF numbers. His “good” is better than the other backups.

      • burtgummer01

        His whole career has been a bad month.Theres a reason why no one wanted him when he was non-tendered

    • DaveCT

      This is Aquino’s 11th year as a pro. He’s probably had more opportunity with the organization than anyone else in the system.

  3. AllTheHype

    Doug – saw that mlbtraderumors credited you with first reporting on the Aquino option earlier this year. Pretty cool.

    • Doug Gray

      That is pretty cool of them to do the deep dive on that one. Thus far it’s led to three people clicking the link and coming to the site. I’ll set the over under for referrals for the day at 25. Not taking any real bets, but wanted to set the line just for fun.

      • JB

        +1000 young man. You provide an amazing amount of information with your articles and should get credit for your work.

  4. David Baumgartner

    Take away August of 2019 and you have a .188/.259/.536 and a OPS+ of under 80. At 26 and already released once I just don’t see why everyone is so enamored with him. Great power yes but there is more to the game than that. Maybe someone else will see the glass half full also and trade us something for him. If want our best team he doesn’t make it.

    • Roger Garrett

      Will the real AA please stand up?I wonder if we would be talking differently if the just awful bad month has been followed by the record setting great month?Nope because he would not have got the chance to have that record setting month.I hope India starts off well but if he doesn’t watch what happens.Everybody except the Reds know that all young players struggle,even the can’t miss guys and Senzel and now India are the closest thing we have to that right now.They will struggle but until we make a commitment to them to find out if they can or can’ we will never ever know.Its not like we are the Dodgers or the Yanks who win every year and don’t have to bring up young guys but they do even when they don’t have to.We all know they can just buy what they need but they know young talent is cheaper and people come to see them.We are so foolish as an organization.

      • greenmtred

        His entire minor league career is part of the calculation. He played two months in MLB–one otherworldly and one terrible–but his lengthy minor league career points strongly to the bad month being the norm. Probably we’d all look at this differently if, as you suggest, he’d had the bad month first: it would suggest that he’d finally figured things out. But he had the bad month second, and that suggests that the pitchers figured him out. I’m rooting for him anyway, of course.

    • MBS

      Well that’s silly. Take away his September stats, and they’d skyrocket. He didn’t get playing time last season. His August stats are roughly 40% of his MLB stat line.

    • TR

      Aquino not only has potential offensive power but also good defensive skills with some speed. At age 26, AA is not going to get a real chance with the Reds so give Aquino and everybody else a break and trade him.

      • jim walker


        Potential largely unexplored yes; but, he has shown enough to quite possibly be a major mistake if lost for nothing worthwhile in return.

        Recall when Walt Jocketty said “We’ve got Jack for that.”? Among a lot of other strange stuff deeply ingrained in this team’s organizational DNA, there seems to be a tendency toward having a set pecking order.

        Guys get put in a spot; and, for good or bad, it takes a heck of a lot to move them up or down. If you don’t fit whatever criteria is used to set the order, eventually you go. If you do, they find a reason you stay and get chance after chance after chance in many cases.

      • DaveCT

        The Reds have had 10 years to evaluate Aquino and, IMO, shouldn’t spend an 11th year doing the same. I’d say they know exactly what they have or , more specifically, do not have.

      • TR

        The comment by Jim that the Reds seem to have a pecking order is right on. Whether that happens in other MLB cities, I don’t know. I would guess Cincy is prone to that because it is one of the smaller ML places and the spotlight is easier placed on the players.

  5. Sliotar

    We will never “know” … but it feels like two probabilities … either:

    1) Aquino is a AAAA guy, and the crazy month he had took the Reds off-guard


    2) The Reds executives mismanaged the roster in RF/OF, whether through trying to end the 90-loss seasons, or “being emotional”, which we now know can be a thing.

    Williams/Krall signing Akiyama to a 3-year deal continues to haunt this team.
    $7 million in 2021, $8 million in 2022 … for a age 33 OF with no starting spot.

    A very bad piece of business.

  6. Roger Garrett

    Jim Walker,
    I am on your side and the numbers do speak for themselves but it won’t happen.I listed all the things I expected to hear from others as to why he wasn’t been given a chance.The list should have included he has one great month and one awful month and together as you posted they look pretty good.I have said he never got a legit shot and he didn’t and again if it were my team I would have stuck him out there for 400 or 500 at bats more to see what happens.The Reds thought different and went out and got Shogo and Big Nick along with Moose and threw all their chips in the pot.Aquino got threw under the bus right there and barring multiple injuries in the outfield he is done.Shouldn’t be but is.The money plays every time.

  7. SoCalRedsFan

    Would the Indians trade Rosario for Aquino, straight up? Probably not, but they need outfield help, if I’m not mistaken and the Reds need a shortstop if the Suarez experiment goes kaput.

    • west larry

      I’m a Aquino, but i would do that trade in a heartbeat. I don’t think Cleveland would.

  8. Gonzo Reds

    Aquino’s never been given a real chance. This will clearly, thx to our tightwad owner, be yet another lost season. Why not see what we’ve truly got or not got? Not saying I wouldn’t include him in a package with Hunter Greene for Trev Story tho. Aquino in Colorado… imagine that…

  9. AllTheHype

    Aquino had a few months of good production in 2019 in a career that has spanned 10 years. Other than that, he’s been mostly a below average performer overall. His overall minor league slash is below average, and aside from one great month in MLB, he’s been the same rather dismal performer at the MLB level too.

    He’s not an answer for the Reds and they know that. He also has limited trade value. Without options, he won’t finish the year in the Reds org, nor should he.

  10. ClevelandRedsFan

    Reds likely will, and should, add Aquino to the 26-man. Aquino provides a lot of value in multiple ways.

    Defensive replacement: Akiyama, Senzel, Aquino is the best defensive outfield Reds have. In close games, Bell should bring in Aquino for Castellanos. I fear a Castellanos misplay in the 8th or 9th could cost games.
    Pinch-running: Strange-Gordon is your first pinch runner off the bench. Who’s next? Akiyama? Aquino could easily be the 2nd or 3rd best pinch runner. In extra innings, that could be key.
    RH power bench bag: biggest value right here. Without Aquino, who is the Reds RH pinch hitter? No DH this year, so this will be necessary.

    With Akiyama out, Aquino should make the opening day roster.

    • AllTheHype

      It should be Payton, but due to the fact he can be optioned, it will probably be Aquino.