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Cincinnati Reds 2019 Positional Recap - Shortstop

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Shortstop offense was a struggle for the Reds in 2019, and even more questions surround the position for 2020.

Cincinnati Reds v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The MLB hot stove has definitely been warm, especially considering we’re just now to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and plenty of decent sized moves have been made. The White Sox stole catcher Yasmani Grandal from your favorite team, then locked up their own first baseman for the foreseeable future.

In the National League, the Braves have been busy splashing cash in the reliever market while also snagging Travis d’Arnaud (busy catcher market, huh). And within their own division, the Brewers made a pretty big move, shipping out starting pitcher Zach Davies and toolsy outfielder Travis Grisham to the Padres in exchange for former hot, top prospect Luis Urias and starting pitcher Eric Lauer.

Assuming Luis Urias’s potential at the plate comes around sooner than later, the Brewers have a seriously good (and seriously young) up-the-middle infield, with Urias at shortstop and Keston Hiura at second base.

As it stands currently, the Reds, well... the Reds are lacking at those positions.

Reds SS - Team

WAA (MLB Rank) wRC+ PA AVG OBP SLG ISO wOBA BB/K
WAA (MLB Rank) wRC+ PA AVG OBP SLG ISO wOBA BB/K
-0.8 (25) 77 (26) 651 (27) .277 (12) .311 (25) .384 (25) .107 (29) .295 (27) 0.3 (21)

Today we’re here to talk about shortstop. Despite it being the position with the least amount of roster churn this season (only three players received plate appearances as a shortstop), it’s probably the position at most need of an upgrade, as you see it consistently ranked as one of the league’s worst across the board.

Jose Iglesias, as always, played fine in the field and piled up singles but, generally speaking, the offense was just not there, relative to their peers.

Reds SS - Players

Player PA AVG OBP SLG ISO BB/K wOBA wRC+ UZR/150 Innings (Defense)
Player PA AVG OBP SLG ISO BB/K wOBA wRC+ UZR/150 Innings (Defense)
Jose Iglesias 524 0.287 0.317 0.402 0.114 0.3 0.304 83 7.6 1169.2
Jose Peraza 107 0.238 0.262 0.297 0.059 0.1 0.241 41 11.2 226
Freddy Galvis* 19 0.200 0.400 0.400 0.200 1.3 0.357 117 -9.4 41.1

The only player with a reasonable lock on a 2020 roster spot that appeared at shortstop for the Reds is Freddy Galvis, as the team has already picked up the veteran’s contract option for the 2020 season. It’s an affordable one (only $5.5 million), so there’s a non-zero chance that he could still be moved before the season begins, depending on how the rest of the offeseason shakes out for the Reds.

Galvis played primarily at 2B after being claimed by the Reds in August, mostly because of the solid glove work of Jose Iglesias, but also because of the same type of depth dearth that presented itself at second base after injuries and poor performance ravaged that position.

Overall, Galvis had the best offensive season of his career, but he didn’t really bring it with him to Cincinnati from Toronto. With the Blue Jays, Galvis managed a 93 wRC+ in 473 plate appearances, compared to only 76 wRC+ with the Reds. Fangraphs has his entire 1.4 WAR being compiled north of the border. Still, at only 5.5 million dollars, Galvis gives the Reds fine glove work at short and also the positional flexibility he showed in 2019.

The aforementioned Jose Iglesias was generally fine for the Reds in 2019 and, depending on the price, is a candidate to be retained for the 2020 season. He piled up a career best 145 hits this season, the vast majority of which were singles. He hit a career high 11 dingers, too, but as everyone took advantage of the flighty baseball, it didn’t quite translate when looking at league-adjusted numbers.

Igelsias’s season long offensive numbers are boosted by what was a really good May, where he slashed .311/.336/.481 with 10 extra base hits in 110 plate appearances. Through his final 336 PA in 2019, however, he slashed only .276/.304/.386 with 20 extra base hits. For the vast majority of the season he was, essentially, a better version of Jose Peraza.

Speaking of Peraza, there’s no guarantee that he makes the team in 2020. Despite being the heir apparent up the middle for several seasons now, Peraza couldn’t follow up on his mini-breakout of 2018 and had a pretty miserable 2019 season. The Reds played him all over the field to get him looks, and he... just wasn’t very good. Only about a quarter of his plate appearances came at shortstop this season and you can see those numbers. They’re bad. His overall season line (.239/.285/.346) isn’t much better.

Jose Peraza is arbitration eligible for the first time this season, and MLBTR has him projected to earn $3.6 million for 2020. The sum in and of itself isn’t a large one and Peraza will still only be 26 years old for the 2020 season. But it may be $3.6 million better off spent elsewhere considering the season he just had.

What that probably comes down to is what the Reds decide to splash cash on the rest of this winter. The obvious fit (and most relevant to this particular piece) is former Reds prospect and most recently Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius, who the Reds have already been connected to this winter. Gregorius, who will turn 30 in February, has always been slick in the field, but after being traded to the Yankees he really turned on the offense, particularly in the power department. He hit 76 home runs for the Bombers between 2016 and 2018, and ranks 7th in fWAR at shortstop through those seasons, ahead of the likes of Trea Turner, Javy Baez, and Trevor Story.

The move doesn’t come without risks, of course. As I mentioned, he’ll turn 30 before the 2020 season begins, and it’s not been particularly wise to start paying for middle infield innings at such an age. Gregorius also required Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2018 season, injuring it in the ALDS. He didn’t return until June of 2019 and did not enjoy the same offensive numbers he had prior to the injury. That’s to be expected coming off of arm surgery, of course, but it leaves the question of what his expected ceiling is going forward. Especially when the Reds may be paying upwards of $14 million a season for it.

Regardless, should they choose to go in that direction, Didi offers the Reds offensive potential at the position that they simply do not have currently, and that’s even if they bring back the Joses. And, honestly, a team with a good offense could play everyday with Jose Iglesias, Jose Peraza, and Freddy Galvis as their shortstop, as they all bring other things to the table for a Major League baseball team.

The Reds, as currently constructed, do not have a good offense. They simply can’t continue to try and hide multiple bats throughout their lineup. Since it certainly seems like they’ll enter 2020 with status quo at the catcher position, upgrading at other places becomes even more necessary.