The Cincinnati Reds spent the 2021 and 2022 seasons gathering as many shortstop prospects as possible. They drafted Matt McLain with their 1st draft pick in 2021, signed shortstop Ricardo Cabrera to one of the biggest international signing bonuses they’ve ever handed out in January of 2022, traded for Noelvi Marte, Edwin Arroyo, and Victor Acosta at the trade deadline in 2022. All five of those guys are rated among the Reds Top 25 prospects and none of them are the guy at the top – Elly De La Cruz. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic is now reporting that the Reds are shopping some shortstop prospects, trying to land trades to fill other holes that they have.
The report specifically says that Cincinnati’s front office is targeting outfielders. That makes sense given that the big league outfield currently doesn’t have a single guy on the 40-man roster that can be penciled into the starting lineup every day, and the minors are filled with outfielders who have a ton of unanswered questions about them without any clear answers in the near future.
It’s great to have a strong farm system, but it’s not just great because in theory it can help you build a future big league lineup and rotation that can get you where you want to be – the playoffs – but that you can also use your farm system to help you acquire talent outside of the organization to fill needs. Cincinnati’s got legitimate shortstop prospects at every single level of the farm system next year if they don’t make any moves. And while all of those guys could slide to other positions if they’re blocked at shortstop, at some point it just doesn’t make sense.
Most shortstops slide to second or third base. At second base the Reds have Jonathan India right now. At third base there’s probably an opening at the big league level, but in the minor leagues there’s also recently acquired prospect Christian Encarnacion-Strand. He split his season between the Twins and Reds organizations and hit .304/.368/.587 with 32 home runs and 114 RBI in 122 games in 2022, getting over 200 plate appearances at the Double-A level. So even if the plan was to try and find other spots for all of these shortstops, there’s still other players that are in the equation and potentially “in the way”.
This isn’t the first time that the Reds have been in a situation where they felt they may need to move a shortstop. You’ve probably heard about how difficult of a decision it was for the Cincinnati front office of the 80’s to figure out what to do with Barry Larkin and Kurt Stillwell. Looking back it’s kind of hard to understand why it was a question at all – Larkin hit .329/.373/.525 with 51 extra-base hits in Triple-A as a 22-year-old, while Kurt Stillwell was hitting in the .230-.265 range with absolutely no power in the minor leagues while being slightly younger. And it’s not as if there was some huge “upside” difference between the two guys. Larkin was the 4th overall pick in the draft in 1985. They wound up making the correct decision in that case.
The decision here could be a little bit more difficult because the Reds have multiple guys who have actually hit quite well in the minors who have strong upsides. It seems like Elly De La Cruz would be off the table in a trade, though stranger things have happened I guess. Noelvi Marte, who came over in a trade with Seattle at the deadline, put up a .279/.371/.458 line with 19 home runs and 23 stolen bases as a 20-year-old in High-A this year. Edwin Arroyo, who also came over in a trade with the Mariners at the trade deadline, hit .293/.366/.480 with 14 home runs and 27 stolen bases as an 18-year-old in Single-A. Matt McLain didn’t hit for much average in 2022, but in his first full season he hit .232/.363/.453 with 17 home runs and 27 steals in 103 games while in Double-A.
Who to keep among that group may not be entirely up to Cincinnati. What the other teams are asking for will come into play – as will what they are offering in return. What’s clear, though, is that the Reds have a whole lot of options if a team is looking to acquire a young shortstop for the future, and that Cincinnati could make a big prospect trade without moving their top shortstop prospect.