All chances of a reunion between Zack Cozart and the Cincinnati Reds were officially squashed on Friday afternoon, as the veteran infielder agreed to a 3-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal was on the news early, reporting that the deal will guarantee Cozart $38 million for his services.
Source: Cozart deal with #Angels is for three years, $38M. LAA just announced signing.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 15, 2017
I called Cozart a “veteran infielder” on purpose, since it appears obvious that he’ll now be manning 3B full time thanks to the presence at shortstop of Andrelton Simmons for LA. That’ll be a significant change for the now 32 year old Cozart, since each and every one of his 6207.2 career defensive innings in the big leagues have come as a shortstop.
Two things about this development stand out specifically to me on the Reds’ end of things.
First, it means they’re now committed to Jose Peraza as their everyday shortstop, something that they’ve maintained they’d do publicly since Cozart became a free agent at season’s end. And, in a somewhat fitting way, that happens thanks to the presence of Simmons, whose own presence as the one-time shortstop of the Atlanta Braves caused Peraza to largely move to 2B as he advanced through Atlanta’s system. (Simmons blocked Peraza, who was then blocked by Cozart, who is now blocked by Simmons - ya follow?) Defensive statistics are always wonky in any sample size, but the -8.7 UZR/150 Peraza posted in limited time there in 2017 seemed to echo the eye-test there, as he never looked like an elite-level defender at the position. That said, he’s obviously still young enough to show that’s an aberration as he matures, but for the time it’s a step-down from Cozart’s elite defense at the position.
Second, the 3 years and $38 million Cozart’s contract guarantees suggests it might well have been a bit of a miscalculation to not extend a Qualifying Offer to Cozart at season’s end. Given the amount Cozart received and the reduced compensation the Reds would have received under the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, I suppose it’s not the largest of potential mistakes, especially when you factor in the risk that he’d have accepted the 1 year, $17-ish million contract. However, if anything it speaks resoundingly to how good of a player Cozart was and is and that the the club couldn’t get anything for him - not via QO declining, or via trade - before he walked away from the organization as a free agent. And it’s that, I think, that will truly be what stings the most.
For his time in Cincinnati, Cincinnati’s 2nd round pick from the 2007 draft made a bit over $12 million, posting an impressive 16.5 bWAR for the club in the process. He bonked 82 dingers, made an All Star team, earned himself a complementary donkey, and was genuinely viewed as one of the absolute good guys on the roster. For that, he’ll be missed.
Congrats on the payday, Zack, and best of luck playing alongside Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.