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Cincinnati Reds sign Cliff Pennington to minor league deal

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He’ll battle for a reserve infield role.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The shortstop spot on the Cincinnati Reds roster has been in a rather precarious position since Zack Cozart left as a free agent after the 2017 season. Jose Peraza will presumably get the starter’s spot as the 2018 season begins, but the depth behind him at that position is virtually nonexistent. Phil Gosselin was signed earlier in the season to a minor league deal to compete for a bench spot behind Peraza, but with only 5 career starts at short under his belt in his big league career, he’s far from a sure bet at the most important defensive position on the diamond.

That helps explain Thursday’s signing of veteran Cliff Pennington by the Reds, as the 33 year old comes with a pile of experience at the position. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick broke the news, noting that Pennington will make $1.5 million if he breaks camp having won a roster spot with Cincinnati.

Pennington spent the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, but cut his chops with both the Oakland A’s and Arizona Diamondbacks before that in what’s been a pretty solid 10 year MLB career to date. Said career peaked back in 2010 in Oakland, as the switch-hitter posted a .250/.319/.368 line in 576 PA, swiped 29 bags, and that paired with plus defense played exclusively at short was good for 4.5 bWAR on the season. Since then, however, he’s spent the bulk of his time as a bit part utility player and hit just .230/.302/.328 in 2186 PA, which is why the Reds were able to scoop him up on a minor league deal.

It’ll be interesting to see how the battle between Pennington and Gosselin shakes out in spring training, especially since Alex Blandino is both on the roster and has spent time at short throughout his minors career. The hope is, of course, that Peraza takes the job and runs with it, thereby rendering the backup role there rather inconsequential, but given how Peraza quickly lost the 2B job just last year it’s a bit interesting that the Reds aren’t rolling into the season with a more proven option at short should a similar scenario arise.