There was a time when the idea of the Cincinnati Reds being unsettled at the shortstop position was complete nonsense.
By ‘a time,’ I really mean ‘a half a century.’
Roy McMillan won a pair of Gold Gloves and made a pair of All Star games for the Reds and Redlegs in the 1950s. Leo Cardenas made five All Star teams as the club’s shortstop of the 1960s. Davey Concepcion took the reins in 1970, and he effectively held them until Barry Larkin took over in the mid 1980s, himself manning the position for nearly twenty years before heading off to Cooperstown.
Since then, though, it’s been a much less settled situation. There was the lone freak season from Felipe Lopez over a decade ago. Zack Cozart was steady for a handful of years, but only had the one true career season of elite level production. We’ve seen the likes of Edgar Renteria, Orlando Cabrera, Jolbert Cabrera (!), Ramon Santiago, Wilson Valdez, Jeff Keppinger, and a cavalcade of others get turns there, with Jose Peraza the latest in a long line of ‘maybe he’ll be the one(s)’ to not exactly pan out.
Peraza’s failings last year gave rise to a year of glovey brilliance from Jose Iglesias, of course, but he’s now a free agent again, leaving the Reds again in the position of trying to solve their shortstop plans for both now and into the future. So, it’s no surprise that they’re reportedly interested in the single biggest SS free agent on the market this winter - one whose name just so happens to already be one of those post-Larkin guys who’ve spent at least a little time as the Cincinnati shorstop: Didi Gregorius.
So sayeth MLB Network insider Jon Heyman over the weekend, at least:
It’s an idea that makes almost perfect sense, at least on paper. Gregorius is still young enough to have a few prime years left in his tank, the Reds need offensive upgrades while not sacrificing defense, and Gregorius wasn’t tagged with a qualifying offer from the New York Yankees (meaning he won’t cost the Reds a draft pick if they sign him). In other words, the only real red flag in all of this would be money, but that’s something the Reds brass has repeatedly insisted won’t be an issue this winter as they finally, finally try to make a push for the playoffs in 2020.
Hell, we even made Didi our biggest signing in last week’s SB Nation GM simulation.
It’s an idea that seems to make good sense to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, too, who took a closer look at the pros and cons of the Reds making a run at signing Didi - as well as where they could turn if that marriage doesn’t pan out.
What’s becoming increasingly clear early in this Hot Stove season is that the Cincinnati Reds sure are showing interest in many of the best and brightest available players, as Didi’s name gets thrown in the same category as the likes of Yasmani Grandal and Howie Kendrick. On the heels of bringing in Kyle Boddy to help refine the franchise’s overall pitching philosophy, that sure sounds like the Reds are set to be very, very proactive all winter, which is the best thing we’ve had to look forward to around these parts in quite some time.
That seems to suggest the club is rather intent on going for it for 2020, which is a concept the folks over at Redleg Nation addressed over the weekend.
Over at FanGraphs, Brendan Gawloski looked for homes for six of the top-tier free agents in this winter’s class. While he profiled Grandal - and ultimately picked a club other than the Reds as his landing spot - he does make a case for him as a good fit with the Reds, and even lobs out what kind of contract it might take to sign him.
Also from the Graph of the Fans comes some goodness from our own Tony Wolfe, who looked at how players over the age of 30 impacted some of the best teams in baseball last year, a concept that seems to run counter to the prevailing movement towards younger players over the last decade. It’s interesting as a concept in its own right, but when you consider the Reds’ reported interest in Gregorius (30 in 2020), Grandal, (31 in 2020), and Kendrick (36 in 2020), it does add an additional fan-flavor to the discussion.
The most recent FanPulse results are out, this time with their focus on the chances for each team in the NL Central to contend in 2020 (as you can see in the graphic below).
That’s one way of saying roughly 2/5ths of you fine FanPulse contributors think the Reds, as currently constructed, have a shot in 2020. That means there’s some work to do in your minds, I suppose. (And if you want to participate in these FanPulse polls, sign up here and do just that.)
That’s it. Them’s the links.