It was reasonably well known at the non-waiver trade deadline this past summer that the Seattle Mariners held interest in trading for Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart. At that point, the Mariners were over .500 and still in range of challenging the Texas Rangers for the AL West crown (as well as a Wild Card spot), and while they were getting spectacular years from the likes of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager, once promising young shortstop Ketel Marte was struggling. In fact, he'd posted just a .601 OPS in his previous 171 PA before he landed on the 15-day DL on July 23rd with a mononucleosis diagnosis, which meant an upgrade at SS was being sought by Seattle, and Cozart was firmly in their crosshairs, according to Tacoma News-Tribune reporter Bob Dutton at the time.
Nothing came of the deal, of course, but despite contradictory reports of the deal's collapse - one from Dutton saying the Reds were too preoccupied with trading Jay Bruce to get the deal done, another from Cincinnati with quotes from Reds' brass saying that was an exaggeration of the case - it appears there's still mutual interest, at least according to Dutton once again. His post details Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto mentioning that Seattle doesn't "need a shortstop," but also has him mentioning that Marte, who just turned 23 years old, could probably use a bit more seasoning in AAA if the right fit emerged. Considering Marte slumped to just a .525 OPS in the 166 PA he picked up to finish the season after returning from the DL, it's a pretty safe assumption that Seattle will still be shopping.
The question then becomes whether Cozart, who will likely make around $4 million his final year of team control in 2017, will still demand close the kind of return rumored to be heading Cincinnati's way when this particular deal previously materialized. LHP Luiz Gohara was the rumored centerpiece of the deal, but that comes with the obvious caveats that a) it was a deadline deal when one team was probably willing to overpay in a stretch-run, and b) Cozart's now got less team control than he did then, decreasing his trade value. For his part, Gohara did nothing but increase his prospect status, spinning 25.2 innings of 1.40 ERA ball after the trade fell apart, and the 20 year old Brazilian currently sits as the #5 prospect in the Mariners system. Cozart, of course, also finished the season on the DL as achilles issues plagued him (as did pain in his surgically repaired knee), and the Reds' acquisition of Dilson Herrera has further shown to every other MLB team that the Reds need to clear middle infield room for both he and Jose Peraza, likely meaning the Reds don't have the bargaining power they once did.
Still, it's an assembly of the obvious, and one worth watching: Seattle needs a shortstop, there aren't many quality shortstops available on the market, and the Reds clearly have a quality shortstop on the trading block.
In other news, Joey Votto isn't going anywhere, at least if Dick Williams has his say. MLB.com's Mark Sheldon caught up with the Reds' GM and asked him about his superstar 1B, and Williams reiterated that he sees Votto as a cornerstone then, a cornerstone now, and a future cornerstone of the Cincinnati organization, which is enough to talk me back from the ledge a bit. Add-in Votto's full no-trade clause, and hopefully this is a topic we can put to rest for another winter.
Sheldon answered a similar Votto question, among many others of note, in his most recent Reds.com Inbox, too, in case you're interested in seeing what other Reds fans have running through their minds.
The Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans also spoke with Williams last week, and the conversation revealed that the Reds' front office didn't have a problem with Billy Hamilton being asked to join Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, should he be asked. There was a preliminary 50-man roster submitted in October, but that will be trimmed, substituted, thrown in a woodchipper, and re-glued by January, at which point in time it may look nothing like what it did last month. Neither Mike Trout nor Bryce Harper were on that preliminary list, for instance, though obviously Jim Leyland, Joe Torre, and the WBC powers that be would make room for them if they so desired. Hamilton, with his defensive ability and absurd basestealing, would profile as a perfect bench/complementary piece on such a team, so it'll be interesting to see if he actually gets a roster invite.
Finally, in Podcast land, Rosecrans and Zach Buchanan dropped the latest edition of their Reds Beat Podcast today, and it's worth a listen as they discuss the current lay of Redsland.