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The Reds have an Eugenio Suarez-sized decision to make

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He is having an amazing year and keeps getting better. So whattaya do about that?

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

I know it’s strange, but rebuilding is some of my favorite kinda baseball. It allows me to watch the game in a variety of different ways, all of them interesting and remarkable in their own right. Rather than checking the RR recap first thing in the morning and immediately looking to the final score, I get way more into the individual performances and developments of particular players.

So the breakout of Eugenio Suarez has my sugars all the way up ons right now. Not only has he developed into a strong defender at third base, but he is putting up All-Star-caliber numbers at the plate, as well. He has amassed about four wins above replacement so far and has another month of baseball yet to play. As the baseball scribes of yesterdays yon might pen, “he is good.”

My favorite part is that it is pretty much a surprise. In the grand plan of this here rebuild, Eugenio Suarez was never really considered a critical piece by anybody. When the Reds got him from the Tigers in exchange for Alfredo Simon all way back at the end of 2014, he wasn’t even the headliner piece of the deal. The Reds certainly thought he was an interesting prospect (I mean, they did ask for him) but the real value of the deal was considered to be former first-round pick Jonny Crawford. But, you know, there’s a thing they say about pitching prospects.

As the rebuild got into full swing, the Reds pursued the likes of Jose Peraza from the Dodgers and drafted a stud infielder in Nick Senzel. They traded for infielder Dilson Herrera from the Mets. They were considered the future of the infield, as far as that goes. Where Geno might fit into all of this was a “eh, whereever” kinda question.

But things have changed. Senzel is methodically purchasing real estate all across the American Southeast, owning the hell out of the Florida State League and the Southern League. Jose Peraza has mostly struggled with the Reds this season. Dilson Herrera has been either injured or uninspiring all season in Louisville. Something about plans and the devil.

And so Suarez’s development is both unexpected and a huge relief. But it also means the Reds have to figure out what the hell they are going to do with him and they have to figure it out pretty soon.

They could sign him to an extension

It might not have been the plan all along, but when a player is producing like a franchise cornerstone, it’s a good idea to pay him like one. As Wick wrote yesterday, the Reds’ payroll is pretty flexible right now. If they were inclined to offer him a long-term contract extension, they have the guap to make it happen.

So how much are we talking here? Odubel Herrera, Ender Inciarte, Kevin Kiermeier, Wil Myers, and Jean Segura all recently signed long-term contract extensions that bought out some arbitration years and some free agent years.

Young Dudes and Extensions

PLAYER $$$ YEARS YEARS OF SERVICE DATE
PLAYER $$$ YEARS YEARS OF SERVICE DATE
Jean Segura $70 mil 5 4.13 6 7 17
Kevin Kiermeier $53.5 mil 6 2.131 3 14 17
Oudabel Herrera $30.5 mil 5 2 12 15 16
Ender Inciarte $30.525 mil 5 2.157 12 23 16
Wil Myers $83 mil 6 3.104 1 17 17

This offseason, Suarez will have accrued about 3.061 years of service. He will be arbitration-eligible for the first time. Given what we know about the market based on the information we see above, I think something like five years and $60 mil would be about right. But that’s a rough estimate.

Given how well he has transitioned to 3B, I would be comfortable locking him in there for the long haul and finding somewhere else for Nick Senzel when the time comes. He played some 2B in college and some scouts think he could be just fine there. Also, Suarez could still handle SS or even move to 2B himself. His glove is versatile, which is another point in favor of locking him up.

They could trade him

Players like Eugenio Suarez aren’t traded very often: they usually sign big extensions, if anything. So there isn’t as rich a collection of reference points as there is for the extension thing. But there have been a few trades recently that could serve as rough parallels in the event the Reds decide to sell on Suarez.

Jean Segura is yet again a decent reference. Last winter, the Diamondbacks sent him (and others) to Seattle in exchange for Taijuan Walker (and others). The Reds would certainly look for established rotation pitching in any trade that would involve Suarez, so there’s that. I think they need to go hard after Chris Archer, if the Rays are even inclined to trade him. But this is way more speculative than even the speculative contract extension thing, so you can probably just consider this whole section as word count.

They could let him go through arbitration and defer the big decision-making for a while

For me, I think this is the most sensible approach. 2017 is pretty far and away Suarez’s best season. And if I was a general manager of a major league baseball team, one of my most solemn guiding principles would be “never sign a player to a long-term contract extension immediately following a career year.” I’d call it the “Vernon Wells Rule” for short. Sometimes you end up paying a guy like he will be an All Star for the next five years or so when there is a distinct possibility that he never will be again. It’s what happened to Homer Bailey and Devin Mesoraco.

Considering how up in the air a number of the moving parts are in this rebuild (happy mixed metaphors day!), it might be smart to defer on the Suarez question. They can’t defer it forever, but perhaps they should wait until July of 2018 to see if anything is cleared up.