2019 was supposed to be a big deal for Scooter Gennett. Coming off a two-year stretch where he slashed .303/.351/.508 with 108 extra-base hits and just a season shy of reaching free agency, he was primed to earn himself a big fat expensive baseball contract. In fact, by well-respected baseball measures, Scooter was one of the very best hitters in baseball in that stretch. Just 13 hitters can boast a batting average above .300 and a slugging percentage above .500 across 2017-18. They are:
Mike Trout, JD Martinez, Nolan Arenado, Joey Votto, Justin Turner, Freddie Freeman, Charlie Blackmon, Mookie Betts, Anthony Rendon, Christian Yelich, Jose Altuve, Daniel Murphy, and El Scootro.
Most of those guys are making $20 million a year or pretty well set to do so here right soon.
At this point, it’s tough to say what will happen to Scooter when he wades into the strange tides of free agency. There are two months of baseball yet to play in 2019 and, as unfair as it may seem, they probably count a whole lot more than the last two years do. It’s not unreasonable to say that Scooter can earn or lose himself $50 million in August and September. No pressure or anything, but it is pretty much a career-defining stretch.
To his benefit, there will likely be a robust market for a guy like him this winter. A number of teams with fancies on contention will probably be looking for a medium / long-term solution at second base. The Diamondbacks, Giants, Dodgers, Cubs, Twins, Nationals, and Red Sox are all potential suitors. And, of course, so are the Reds.
Well, maybe the Reds. It is possible that their long-term second baseman is already playing for them out in center field. Nick Senzel has handled his first season out in the grass pretty well, making it easy to forget that he has shown Gold Glove potential at the keystone. I’m of a mind that the Reds would be best served to settle Senzel at second starting next season*, but his versatility offers them quite the luxury. He has shown he can handle center field, and with enough reps, he could even excel out there. So while the Reds will have holes to fill in 2020, it’s kinda up to them and what the market dictates to decide where those holes will be.
*Happy Alliteration Day, everyone!
Brian Dozier might be an informative case to examine here. He took it to another level in 2016-17, slashing .269/.349/.522 with 150 extra-base hits, setting himself up for a handsome contract in free agency. He had to get through 2018 first though, and it didn’t go as planned. He was worth nearly 11 bWAR over those two peak seasons, but eked out a meager one win in his walk year and settled for a one-year, $9 million pillow contract with the Nationals this winter.
Free agency is a mean old bitch.
I dunno. The stars could maybe line up just so and maybe the Reds see fit to keep Senzel in the outfield and find a second baseman elsewhere. And maybe they know exactly who that second baseman is and they already know him really well and he is a fan favorite and a local boy to boot, and maybe that guy had a rough year and maybe the volatility and fickleness of the free agent market scares the bejabbers out of him and maybe he looked at what happened to Brian Dozier last season and maybe he decides to stick around. I dunno, maybe.
Like I said, there is a lot of really meaningful baseball for Scooter and the Reds in the next two months. He has only made 50 PAs thus far with only eight singles and a double, which looks terrible but doesn’t mean a whole lot yet. But it is striking to me just how much the destinies of Scooter and Reds are tied up in his next 250 PAs.
Baseball is weird like that sometimes.