The Cincinnati Reds need a shortstop. We’ve now known that for years.
Since letting Zack Cozart walk in free agency a few years back, the Reds have turned to a number of potential replacements for the position, with the likes of Jose Peraza, Jose Iglesias, and Freddy Galvis each getting some run. They have even invested heavily in the international window to help augment things, with millions doled out to sign both Alfredo Rodriguez and Jose Garcia.
While Garcia, at least, still holds some promise for the future, there’s a great urgence for immediacy at that spot on the diamond given the way the Reds have moved into win-now up and down their roster. And as MLB Network’s Jon Morosi relayed on Monday, the Reds appear to be swinging for the fences in their pursuit of a shortstop upgrade, with top names from across the game on their list.
Sources: #Reds are prioritizing the addition of one starting shortstop and are pursuing multiple options to address that need: Francisco Lindor and Trevor Story in trade; Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons, and Didi Gregorius via free agency. @MLBNetwork @MLB— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 30, 2020
In Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons, and Didi Gregorius, you’ve got five name-brand shortstops, each of which would bring an on-paper upgrade to what the Reds currently have in house. That said, while ‘gimme any of them’ somewhat applies here, each comes with their own distinct pros and cons.
Lindor and Story, for instance, would need to come via trade, and each would cost a pile of prospects to acquire. Both have been All Stars on more than one occasion, yet both are also a) pricey for the 2021 season and b) set to reach free agency after just the 2021 season, so the Reds would have to weigh exactly how much they’d be willing to give up to get them for just a lone campaign. On top of that, Lindor is coming off a down year by his lofty standards, while Story’s career splits detail just how tremendous he’s hit in the high-altitude of Colorado while struggling relatively in games played elsewhere.
Like Lindor, Semien has been an MVP-caliber player in recent memory, but is coming off a down year in 2020. In fact, while his 139 OPS+ and stellar 8.9 bWAR production in 2019 was fantastic, that season stands as the lone time he’s posted an above-average OPS+ in any of his eight years in the bigs. That’s not to say he can’t still provide value for the Reds, but he’s also already 30 years old and fresh off his worst season since 2014.
Simmons, meanwhile, has been perhaps the single greatest defensive shortstop of his generation in stints with both the Los Angeles Angels and Atlanta Braves. With four Gold Gloves and a Platinum Glove in his trophy case already, he’s shown that he can be immensely valuable despite owning just a career 91 OPS+ in his 9 years in the bigs. And while his bat came a live for a time with the Angels, that has dipped to just an 82 OPS+ over the last two seasons while he’s battled ankle injuries that have kept him sidelined more than anyone would like. On top of that, he’s already 31.
In Gregorius, the Reds would be pursuing more of known quantity of sorts, as he first broke into the bigs with Cincinnati before being moved in a series of three-team deals. First to Arizona, then the Yankees, and last year as a free agent to Philadelphia, Didi eventually developed into a power threat, too, bopping 20+ homers for three consecutive seasons before an elbow injury set him back. He rebounded to a 119 OPS+ with the Phillies last year, but like Semien and Simmons is also now on the other side of 30.
It’s safe to say the Reds would be a better club in 2021 with any of these additions, but finding the best fit at the best cost is going to take a distinct combination of research and luck. That said, it would appear to be quite clear that the Reds are serious in their pursuit of a significant upgrade at the position, and perhaps are making it clear that’s going to be their primary goal this winter.