Last season the Cincinnati Reds called up Jose Barrero – then known as Jose Garcia – as they were making a run at the playoffs. Barrero had been playing at the alternate site for the Reds, but had never played above the Advanced-A level in the minor leagues. There was no question that defensively he was ready to play every day in the big leagues. But his bat showed rather quickly that he wasn’t ready for that side of the game just yet.
During the offseason the Reds seemed to at least be involved in rumors that revolved around acquiring a shortstop on the free agent market, and a little bit involved in some rumors on the trade market around some shortstops. None of that ever came to fruition, though, and the Reds ultimately decided to give a shot to Eugenio Suárez at his former spot after he got into better shape in the offseason and looked lighter on his feet than he has in a while. A combination of poor defensive play and injuries led to Suárez sliding back to third base and inserting Kyle Farmer into the lineup at shortstop for the last few months. Farmer’s shown the ability to play quality defense there, but his bat leaves something to be desired – hitting just .224/.293/.343 this season. His 74 wRC+ ranks 166th in baseball out of 178 players with at least 250 plate appearances this season.
The trade deadline is approaching and will be here in two weeks. Cincinnati’s general manager Nick Krall has said that if the opportunity presents itself to improve the team that they are open to it. There are a lot of opinions on this, and you can have at it in the comments, but we’re going to leave that be on it’s own within the article. What we want to talk about is whether or not what Jose Barrero is doing right now will leave the team hesitant to try and acquire a shortstop for the final two months of the season.
When the big league season began, the minor league campaign wasn’t ready to get going. For April, the big leagues had alternate sites once again. This year the Reds used Louisville as their site and that’s where Jose Barrero was. But once the minor league season began on May 4th, Barrero headed down to Double-A Chattanooga to join the Lookouts. The shortstop performed well there, hitting .300/.367/.481 with a 9% walk rate and a 22.2% strikeout rate. That was the best walk rate he had ever shown, his strikeout rate was in line with his past rates, and his power output was up a little bit.
After two months of that he was promoted to Triple-A Louisville. He had a bit of a slow start in the first week he was there. But then he went out to Colorado for the Futures Game and homered and walked. Since he returned to Triple-A this past week he’s been on fire. He’s homered the last two nights and has gone on a tear and is now hitting .265/.381/.531 with a 14% walk rate and a 23% strikeout rate.
The sample size is small in Triple-A, but on the season we are now looking at 244 plate appearances in the upper minor leagues between Chattanooga and Louisville, and if we want to toss in what he did in the Futures Game, too, he’s hitting .295/.376/.510 with an 11% walk rate and a 22% strikeout rate. That’s premium production from a top prospect in the upper minor leagues at a position of need, and one that he plays well defensively.
He’s the type of player teams are trying to acquire, not the type of player many teams are looking to move. So where does that leave Cincinnati? Do they allow Jose Barrero more time in Triple-A to see how pitchers adjust to him and what he does to adjust back? Do they let things roll with Kyle Farmer a bit longer?
Perhaps the biggest question is what would they do if and when Mike Moustakas returns? With an infield that would then have Mike Moustakas, Eugenio Suárez, Jonathan India, and Joey Votto – all players who it’s tough to see being benched whether some of you hate that idea or not – where would that leave Jose Barrero? What would it mean for shortstop?
Acquiring a stop-gap shortstop that wouldn’t cost much to bring in would potentially upgrade the spot over Kyle Farmer in the short term, but also allow the team to send whoever that player is to the bench if and when Moustakas were to return. That situation becomes a lot more complicated if you hand over the job to Jose Barrero and he comes up and performs anything remotely close to the way he’s performed in the minor leagues this season.
Of course the question also would be: What’s the best team you can put on the field? Right now the Reds are within striking distance of a playoff spot. But they are in striking distance and not leading the way. That means they’ve got to perform better moving forward. There are a lot of potential options on the table. What happens in the next two weeks will probably tell us the direction the team is heading in.