Way back in December of 2012, the Cincinnati Reds were coming off their best season in over a decade, a 97 win campaign that saw them win their first few postseason games since (roughly) the first Roosevelt Administration. With much of their core returning for another run, they chose to address the single most glaring weakness on the current squad - the leadoff position - by swinging a three-team deal to land Shin-Soo Choo from Cleveland.
The deal looped in the Arizona Diamondbacks, and in essence it cost the Reds the services of Drew Stubbs and young shortstop Didi Gregorius. The former's loss was addressed by Choo as the return, while the latter's loss was a direct result of the club settling on Zack Cozart as the team's shortstop of the future.
In an odd, love triangle sort of way, now it's Cozart being linked to a trade rumor that would have him fill-in for Gregrorius, as NJ.com's Brendan Kuty reported this morning.
Gregorius suffered a shoulder strain over the weekend while on duty with Team Netherlands at the World Baseball Classic, and it'll have him sidelined some 4-6 weeks, perhaps more. The question has now become whether the New York Yankees - where Gregorius ultimately ended up after a stint in Arizona - truly need to go outside their organization to bring in another shortstop, or whether some of their in-house options can carry them until Gregorius is healthy and returns.
Furthering the odd connections resurfacing in this rumor is the likelihood that Ronald Torreyes could fill in for Didi until his return, since both players came up in the Cincinnati system and were teammates on the Dayton Dragons prior to Torreyes being shipped to the Chicago Cubs in the deal that brought Sean Marshall to Cincinnati. Kuty's full report also includes current Diamondback Nick Ahmed on the list of players who could be traded for by New York, which adds odd connection number three to this scenario considering it was Ahmed who claimed Arizona's shortstop job well enough to allow them to trade Gregorius to the Yankees for Shane Greene (et al) after the 2014 season in the first place.
Joining Cozart and Ahmed as reported targets in Kuty's report is Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias, who Detroit liked enough a few years back to allow them to trade their other potential shortstop of the future - Eugenio Suarez - to the Reds for Alfredo Simon, and we all know how Suarez has at times filled in for Cozart since then. Odd, odd, odd, odd, odd.
If the overlapping stories here haven't confused you enough, perhaps a bit of irony may actually be the buried lede here, at least in the Morissettian usage of the term. The Cincinnati Reds entered the winter with a logjam in their middle infield, what with Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera making up the future-is-now duo while Cozart and Brandon Phillips stood entrenched in their way. With the overall shorstop market in complete stasis and Phillips rejecting all trades, just a few months ago we all grew frustrated by the team's inability to move players and turn the page.
Then the Reds managed to dump Phillips to the Atlanta Braves for essentially nothing, and since that time we've barely seen Dilson Herrera, as a shoulder injury has kept him from playing the field at all during Cactus League play. In other words, just as an injury finally opened up the market for Cozart to be tradeable again, the Reds now find themselves in a bit of a pickle, since trading him would leave perhaps too large of a hole in the team's middle infield for even a team at this stage of rebuilding. Would Arismendy Alcantara get the nod as the everyday shortstop? Would Peraza move back to short after finally settling in at 2B? Would the team really turn things over to Zach Vincej despite him not having played at all in AAA? Would they move Suarez back to SS full-time and turn things over at 3B to, I don't know, Hernan Iribarren?
The likelihood of any Cozart-to-New-York deal going down seems slight, even if Gregorius' injury is worse than initially reported. With Torreyes in the fold, Starlin Castro "capable" of sliding back over to short for a small time, and the presence of top prospect Gleyber Torres likely at AAA at some point in 2017, the Yankees should be able to weather Didi's absence well enough to not need to trade for an established, starting-caliber shortstop. That might well mean they dip into Ahmed's market, since he's not exactly owning a stranglehold on Arizona's starting spot, but it seems they'd be over-insuring themselves to pay market price to bring in a guy like Cozart, all told.
Still, it's an interesting web being woven by this rumor, one that connects a lot of dots with previously distinct connections from deals of yore.