Not only was this year’s World Series a hotly contested 7-game set between the powerhouse Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, it featured some of the game’s premier free agents to-be playing well on the biggest stage. The likes of Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and the recently opted-out Stephen Strasburg all had playoff runs for the record books, and now each figures to help headline what has the makings of a historic class of big money free agents.
Trying to sort through where they, and the rest of the star-studded group will sign is an endlessly fun thought process, especially when you’re a fan of a team that legitimately has eyes on signing some of them. For the first time in recent memory, it certainly appears as if the Cincinnati Reds are ready to dive back into the free agent market, something they’ve avoided almost completely since signing Francisco Cordero over a decade ago. And if the fine folks at MLB Trade Rumors are correct, the Reds might end up with a pair of their own former prospects who have carved out All Star caliber careers since being shipped out in a pair of blockbuster trades years ago.
In their 2019-2020 predictions for where the Top 50 free agents in the game will sign, MLBTR has the Reds as the landing spot for both Yasmani Grandal (#7 overall) and Didi Gregorius (#12), which would undoubtedly transform the potential for the long-awaited playoff push in 2020. They’ve got Grandal pegged to sign for 4 years and $68 million and Didi for 3 years and $42 million total, deals that would sandwich around the Cordero contract as the franchise’s largest and third largest in history, should they materialize in that financial fashion.
That’s certainly a large dollar outlay, especially considering the Reds have both consistently ranked among the game’s lowest spenders on player payroll and have also used just the trade and waiver markets to bolster their roster. That said, it’s not as if they’ve shied away from doling out big contracts to players - those players, like Joey Votto, Homer Bailey, Brandon Phillips, and Eugenio Suarez, just happened to already be Reds when they inked their large deals. So, it would certainly be fitting if the Reds finally dipped into the deep end of the free agent market, but did so again on players who were once Reds to begin with.
You’ll remember, of course, that Didi broke in with the Reds back in 2012 as a slick-fielding SS out of Curacao. But with Zack Cozart already around and the team looking to bolster itself after a 97 win season in 2012, Didi was shipped out with Drew Stubbs in the 3-team deal that brought in Shin-Soo Choo from Cleveland. Later moved to New York, Gregorius broke out with the Yankees as the heir to Derek Jeter at SS, discovering a promising power stroke to pair with his defense while earning some down ballot MVP votes in back to back years in the process. Unfortunately, an elbow injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery sapped most of his 2019 season, and he slumped in the process - something Cozart conveniently went through before his offensive breakout, too - but that also led to him not having a Qualifying Offer issued to him prior to reaching free agency.
Grandal, on the other hand, was the 1st round pick of the Reds out of the University of Miami back in 2010, but the 12th overall pick from that year never played a game for the Reds before being sent to San Diego in the massive Mat Latos deal. He, too, was later dealt to a contender, shining with the Los Angeles Dodgers before a frustrating trip to free agency a year ago. He turned down a few lower AAV offers before signing with Milwaukee for 1 year and effectively $18.25 million (with his buyout), and re-enters free agency this year with no QO stigma attached. His combination of power, plate discipline, and pitch framing behind the plate has made him consistently rate as one of the game’s absolute best overall catchers, and his potent switch-hitting ability might even make him the perfect option to spell Joey Votto against some tough LHPs as they age.
It’s exciting to see that it’s not just the homers who think the Reds have legit shots at signing both of these guys, and it’s certainly not out of the question to consider them as legit contenders for both. Last winter, the Reds obviously sought an upgrade behind the plate in their pursuit of J.T. Realmuto on the trade market, and they’ve obviously got an opening at SS this winter after Jose Iglesias reached free agency, too.