Since the end of the Cincinnati Reds season some eight days ago, there have been a pair of snippets that have easily been the most prominent bits of intriguing information in their neck of the baseball world. One is tangible, one is rumor. More importantly, they’re somewhat related, which is good for blogholios like us in the calm after the storm.
First, the tangible fact: the Reds claimed IF/OF Arismendy Alcantara off waivers from the Oakland A’s last week, adding a versatile young defender with a once-promising offensive upside to their roster. Still just 24 years old, Alcantara was once a Top 100 overall prospect while in the Chicago Cubs system, though after somewhat stalling at the upper levels of the minors was traded to Oakland for Chris Coghlan earlier in 2016. He’s able to play competent defense all over the diamond - he’s seen big league time at CF, RF, 3B, 2B, and SS at the big league level - but the fact that he’s been traded once and waived once with such a spread-thin spate of big league appearances is largely why he was on waivers in the first place: he’s out of options heading into 2017. Signed as a 17 year old back in 2009, he’s faced many of the same issues that so many international signees face when signed so young, namely being young at every level and being expedited to the big leagues. That means his MiLB numbers haven’t always reflected the true amount of talent he possesses, but it also means the ability to be patient with him going forward is contractually complicated.
Paralleling Alcantara’s signing were a pair of rumors surrounding incumbent Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart. Jon Heyman casually dropped that the Colorado Rockies had kicked around the idea of trading for Cozart once their stud rookie SS Trevor Story was hurt prior to the deadline, while Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune suggested the Seattle Mariners will likely revisit the trade talks with the Reds about Cozart that nearly materialized into a trade prior to the August 1st deadline just months ago.
Are these two developments exactly related? Not entirely, though Alcantara can certainly step into the SS spot if a massive void is created. They are linked in one significant regard, however: they’re both moves designed to get the Reds’ roster significantly younger with a lot more team control. Though Alcantara has burned options at the ready, he’s not accrued hardly any service time yet, meaning he’s not even arb-eligible until 2019. Cozart, of course, is entering his final year of team control in 2017, and he’ll turn 32 during that season.
Both fit the mold in the same way as the acquisitions of Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera: revamping the team’s middle infield while getting cheaper and younger. A Cozart trade would open the door for Peraza to be the everyday SS in 2017 (and beyond), something he pretty well earned the chance to show with his play in 2016. Alcantara isn’t necessarily in line for a major role, but his addition likely will end the time of Ivan De Jesus, Jr. with the Reds - a move that would swap a versatile 29 year old for an even more versatile 24 year old. Herrera’s addition fits that very mold, too, even if 35 year old Brandon Phillips continues to exercise his 10/5 rights to block a potential trade (and at least that’ll be sorted out in no more than one more year one way or another).
The reboot of the Cincinnati infield has not been linear, nor has it been as swift as many would have liked, but both this actual move and the rumored one seem to be almost the finishing touches on that aspect of the rebuilding roster overhaul.
In other news, John Roegele took an interesting look at the number of Tommy John surgeries performed on MLB players in recent seasons for The Hardball Times, with some seemingly interesting results. The one that jumps immediately off the page is that the 13 players who have had TJ surgery at some point in their past used by the Reds in MLB games in 2016 was the most in all of baseball; however, that’s just as much an indictment of a bad pitching staff rolling out anyone they can find as it is a reflection of any specific trend, in my opinion. It’s also worth noting that the 15 MLB players who needed UCL replacement in 2016 isn’t completely representative, since guys like Jon Moscot - who made 5 starts for the Reds, was originally penciled into the Opening Day rotation prior to an unrelated injury, and tore his UCL while in Louisville, not Cincinnati - isn’t included in that number. Still, it’s an interesting dive into one of the more debilitating injuries plaguing in modern baseball.
Amir Garrett and Aristides Aquino took home the Reds’ organizational pitcher and hitter of the year awards, respectviely, according to MLB Pipeline. It’s hard to really argue with either of those selections.
Finally, read this and get the heck up off Joey Votto’s contract.