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Updating the All-Time Reds List: Zack Cozart

In which a player who was almost gone may soon be gone again for the first time.

Take that, Cubbies
Take that, Cubbies
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

When we last checked in on Zack Cozart in this space, we were scratching our head about what to make of Cozart's very short 2015 season (just 53 games played), which saw him set (or be on pace to set) career highs in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS+.  This was definitely an encouraging response to Cozart's disastrous 2014 season, albeit tempered by the thought that maybe we shouldn't read too much into less than two months worth of data.

For 2016, Cozart mostly solidified his 2015 gains, with some anticipated regression built in.  Cozart improved his walk rate for a third consecutive season and maintained his line drive rate to be equal to 2015's rather impressive 28%.  His defense slipped a tad, perhaps the fruit of being a 30 year old with a rebuilt knee, but is still above average.

What strikes me as most interesting about Cozart has relatively little to do with him as an individual player, but more having to do with the context of the team.  The pattern of non-contending teams trading away players who are nearing free agency is tried and true strategy.  That I might suggest that the Reds' incumbent shortstop will not be playing for the good guys ten months hence is not particularly interesting.  Indeed, the rumor mill is already swirling on Cozart being a trade target for various teams.

I guess what's got me wondering is if Cozart's trade is the most probable future trade in Reds history.  The likelihood of the team being in contention in late July next year is...low.  The team has a pair of possible replacements at the position in Peraza and Suarez (who is potentially being pushed by Nick Senzel).  And Cozart should present as a financial bargain to potential suitors, provided he continue his run as a more-than-adequate shortstop.  It's not to say that other past trades were not predictable, just that Cozart's future trade probability must sit somewhere north of 90%.

Even so, it's perhaps not quite time to finish the postscript on Cozart, but even then it will also focus on context: The Reds shortstop, limited in natural ability compared to some of his teammates, is an outstanding complementary piece when surrounded with a solid team, as in 2012.  When he's one of the more recognizable and dependable pieces on the field, as in 2016, it's a little less interesting.  He's mostly the same player either way.

Cozart has appeared in 621 games for the Reds, hitting .246/.289/.385 (82 OPS+) and playing plus defense at shortstop.  He has accumulated 573 hits and 119 doubles in his tenure with the team.  His positive contributions in 2016 have raised his ranking on the all-time list from #214 to #156 and he jumps from #14 to #9 on the team's list of shortstops.

Top 15 Shortstops in Reds history


Barry Larkin


Dave Concepcion


Leo Cardenas


Roy McMillan


Tommy Corcoran


Germany Smith


Billy Myers


Eddie Miller


Zack Cozart


Buck Herzog


Larry Kopf


Eddie Joost


Hod Ford


Felipe Lopez


Ike Caveney