With inimitable glovework and a penchant for picking up big singles with runners on-base, Jose Iglesias has certainly become something of a fan favorite on the Cincinnati Reds. The fact that he came to Cincinnati on merely a minor league deal and effectively won the starting shortstop job early this year certainly helped him gain his cult status, and there’s absolutely nothing he’s done that hasn’t been worth every penny the Reds are paying him in 2019.
That said, a quick glance at FanGraphs’ fWAR leaderboard among starting shortstops shows there are 26 qualified players at the position this season, and only two rank lower than Iglesias’ 0.4. Those two are Milwaukee’s Orlando Arcia, who has already lost playing time at the position due to his struggles, and 32 year old Brandon Crawford of San Francisco, who is due some $30.5 million guaranteed over the next two seasons. In other words, while Iglesias has been a good find and a nice band-aid, the reality is that he hasn’t been a strong point for the Reds this season, and has slumped to just a .267/.296/.353 mark over his last 52 games dating back to May 7th. Factor in that he’s set to be a 30 year old free agent after this season, and that doesn’t exactly look like a key cog on the team.
Someone that is, though, is Jose Peraza, who for the second time in three years saw his starting spot overtaken as he struggled to get going offensively. In 2017, it was at 2B, as Scooter Gennett’s emergence relegated him to a utility role. This year, his struggles and the proven ability of Iglesias sent Peraza largely to the pine, and he’s started just 56 of the Reds 90 games this season.
The thing is, Peraza has quietly begun to find his offense again. In 30 games dating back to May 31st, he’s hit an impressive .312/.337/.455, albeit in a somewhat limited 83 PA. That, of course, is after he posted a punchless .199/.260/.321 line in 169 PA to begin the year, which means his overall numbers in 2019 don’t look like much to write home about.
It’s a story that’s beginning to look quite similar to the one year in which he didn’t lose his job after a slow start. That was just last year, of course, when he hit a stellar .310/.347/.465 from May 27th through the end of the season after an ugly .597 OPS through his first 52 games played. Perhaps the guy is just a notoriously slow starter.
The thing about these particular Reds is that they’ve failed to hit at all over the first 90 games of the season despite boasting a roster that should, at least according to their histories, be rather decent at hitting the baseball. And if you try to identify where around the diamond is the best place to upgrade, the most obvious spots are behind the plate and at shortstop. Given that catchers are rarely moved mid-season due to their need to get on-board with entire pitching staffs, that makes a shortstop upgrade the most likely spot where the Reds could add value.
That said, the jumbled standings and lack of a clear shortstop upgrade that’s on the trade block means there isn’t really a realistic fit. There’s the pie in the sky scenario that Cleveland tries to cash in on Francisco Lindor the way they’re apparently willing to do with Trevor Bauer, but the odds of that happening paired with the price it would cost make that largely ridiculous. The same can be said for the likes of Ketel Marte, who is in the midst of a breakout campaign in Arizona and on what now looks like one of the better long-term deals in the game (while also playing several other positions). Even the teams that appear to be obvious sellers at the July 31st trade deadline don’t offer obvious help at shortstop, as Chicago’s Tim Anderson is out injured and Kansas City’s Adalberto Mondesi is a young player around whom the Royals intend to build.
So, perhaps the upgrade the Reds should really pursue is a player who’s already on the roster, one who has been a rock solid option for them in previous years. In fact, when you consider how little there is behind Peraza in terms of prospect depth, it’s probably time for the Reds to figure out whether they think he can be the shortstop of the near future anyway, especially when you consider that as a Super Two player he’s already earning some $3.5 million in his first trip through arbitration this season and is only going to get more expensive from here.
Maybe that means Jose Iglesias sticks around as a bench bat for the rest of the season, a role in which he was originally brought in to fill. Perhaps that means he’s a player the Reds try to move at the deadline, though, getting what they can for him while not even fulfilling the lable of ‘seller’ if you consider that Peraza playing already gives them the potential upgrade.
It might look like a minor move on paper, but it could be a very easy way to finally spark this offense.