2018 has been a really, really weird season for Reds baseball. I admit to not knowing what to expect after the lost weekend of 2017, but I sure didn’t expect this. April was a ruthless crucible that chewed off Bryan Price’s face and extracted a pound of flesh from each and every one of us. And then everything got awesome. Just like they drew it up.
Not everything got awesome of course, but enough things have gotten awesome that it is now legitimately fun and exciting to be a Reds fan. They swept the Cubs out of GABP a few weekends ago and then played three one-run games in Wrigley this past. It’s a really strange feeling after the disastrous siege of April, but I really do think this is a good baseball team now.
And that’s not lost on the organization, of course. Recently Dick Williams discussed their approach to the coming trade deadline and remarked that the recent streak of strong form has definitely changed things. Aside from Matt Harvey, basically every notable player in the organization is locked in for at least next season, too. It gives them the option to play it cool at the deadline, only entertaining the trade offers that look really appealing. Guys like Raisel Iglesias, Billy Hamilton, and Scooter Gennett could all fetch a little something on the market, but all three could just as easily play a role on a 2019 Reds edition that makes a legit run at the pennant. No joke fer serious, yo.
Among all those awesome things is the emergence of Scooter Gennett, NL leader in batting average and first-time All Star (read this for some context). The organization has had some fair luck of late finding and developing some players that have surpassed their assumed ceilings. Eugenio Suarez is the Tigermetric coverboy of this right now, but Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, and Anthony DeSclafani (ignoring his injuries) have all beaten their mean projections. Go back a generation and Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, and Brandon Phillips did the same, providing the backbone of the last Reds division winners. Great teams are built by hoarding as much top-end talent as you can, but also by turning some of your B-sides into top-40 hits.
So that’s the context in which I find myself looking at Scooter Gennett. I’ve been a vocal proponent of trading him at his peak value (like right goddamn now) since the past winter, but my steely resolve on the matter has begun to waver (only creeping doubt can melt steel beams). And a lot of that has to do with Eugenio Suarez.
Nick Senzel was the Future of the Franchise at Third Base when he was drafted just two years ago. (Can you believe he was drafted just two years ago? My lord how things have radically changed for this team since the summer of ‘16). But plans have changed. Suarez earned himself a seven-year contract and the future at the hot corner, precipitating a position change for Senzel. Of course, he didn’t even get a chance to settle in at second before Scooter played himself into the conversation. So here we are.
The pertinent question, which has been discussed by many of late and at great length, is what the hell do we do about Scooter? Do you trade him in the next few weeks, hold out and trade him this winter, or sign him to a Suarezian extension? Like I said, I’ve been a vocal #trader up to about now, but lets talk about what an extension would look like and how it would change The Plan.
What is a reasonable contract offer to Scooter? In keeping with the themes of this here piece, I propose that Suarez is a damn good place to start. He is averaging $10 mil per season over the next seven, which is looking like it might be a criminal bargain if things continue as they have gone the last few months. The deal takes care of his three arb seasons and buys four free agent seasons. Scooter is further along the arb process, currently playing in his second arb season and earning $5.7 million. But a contract that pays him $10 million per and buys four free agent seasons sounds well within the bounds of reason. A five-year, $50 million contract extension could satisfy all sides.
It is absolutely worth mentioning the unique conditions surrounding Scooter Gennett and the Reds and their perhaps paralleling futures. You may not know this, but Scooter is from the Cincinnati area. He’s a local kid! That has some cache with a fair slice of the fanbase, and his fan-favorite status is absolutely an important element of this discussion. But more than that, it seems like he is a very positive clubhouse presence, too. He is a genuinely good dude and not only do the fans love him, but it seems most everyone in the organization does, too. Who knows what exactly that is worth, but it’s not nothing.
But now I hear you all saying, “Whither The Plan, Charlie?” And then I grumble something like “Jesus the worst thing about you people is all of it.” But yeah, so what do you do with Nick Senzel? Well, I think postitionlessness is a made-up problem. I’m really interested in trying Senzel out in center field. Contra their glut in the infield, the Reds have very little clarity on the future of center field.
He clearly has the arm and athleticism to be successful, but it sure does look weird when you try to move your best young prospect to a position he has never played in his entire life. But of course, it is a transition that countless ballplayers have made successfully. Our own Billy Hamilton was a shortstop for most of his career before he tried center field. Now he’s one of the best on the planet out there. Dee Gordon moved to the grass this spring (and then back to the dirt when Robby Cano got hurt / busted) and wasn’t an embarrassment. Adam Duvall, Ryan Braun, BJ Upton, and Craig Biggio are / were all good outfielders who used to be infielders. It’s worth noting that moving out is way easier than moving in.
And Senzel has the benefit of a good number of low-pressure months to make it work. He’ll be recovering from a finger injury on his throwing hand for perhaps the rest of the season (though he might actually recover quickly enough to return to game action before it is through) so he’ll have plenty of time to shag some flies in Goodyear and maybe get some good reps in the Arizona Fall League. I guess my point is that it is not the dumbest idea in the world, unlike most everything else I crap out of this here bloghole.
Maybe the riskiest option is trading him. And again, it is worth examining precedent here. Back before the 2012 season the Reds traded a few top prospects facing roster redundancy for a valuable player at a position of weakness. Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Brad Boxberger, and Edinson Volquez all proved successful to varying levels in the aftermath, but Mat Latos undeniably proved a necessary element of the best Reds teams of this century. But it is frightening as all dark hell to consider the possibility that a stud like Nick Senzel turns into a Hall of Famer for someone else while the Reds get a few middling seasons from a guy like Joe Blanton or Erik Bedard.
But, I mean, that’s basically it. The future is a hard thing to predict. Nick Senzel was the Future of the Franchise at the Hot Corner back in the summer of 2016. A lot of weird shit has happened since then. And however the Scooter / Senzel situation (add in Dilson Herrera and Alex Blandino for good measure if you like) plays out, there is bound to be a robust helping of weirdness served alongside.