The 2017 season saw Zack Cozart go HAM. The veteran shortstop had long been a well above average defender at shortstop, but his offense picked up in a huge, huge way in what would end up being his walk year, as he hit a robust .297/.385/.548 for the Cincinnati Reds, setting career-best marks across the board with his bat.
That 68 win ballclub held on to Cozart, you’ll recall, opting against trading him for whatever they could get. Cozart, as he was well wont to do, inked a huge contract with the Los Angeles Angels that winter, and the Reds have still been trying to replace his production at shortstop ever since. In fact, after Cozart posted a 5.0 fWAR campaign in 2017, the entirety of production the Reds have received from all shortstops in the three years since has amounted to just 3.8 fWAR, combined.
Last year, the Reds limped through their 62 regular and postseason games with a combination of Freddy Galvis and Jose Garcia, and the result was the 4th worst overall shortstop production in the game. Galvis is now a free agent, while Garcia - who still has a very bright future - is most likely suited for some more minor league seasoning in 2021, assuming there is actually a minor league season (more on that in a bit). As a result, it’s pretty easy to pinpoint SS as a spot where the Reds need a major upgrade, and that’s certainly what pundits have begun to do.
MLB Trade Rumors pounced on that idea in their recently released list of Top 50 free agents (with predictions), suggesting former Red Didi Gregorius will land in Cincinnati on a 3-year deal. You can find his write-up at #8 on the list, though you’ll probably want to scroll quickly past #1 and #2, since they represent the best Red of 2020 and a player the Reds tried hard to land, and did not, two winters ago. Didi, when healthy, can bring the kind of offense the Reds have sorely missed, though many of his Statcast numbers from 2020 are uglier than you might imagine.
Finally replacing Cozart with Didi would certainly be a full-circle move by the Reds, as it was Cozart they chose over Didi back in the early half of the decade. Gregorius was eventually moved in the 2013 deal that landed Shin-Soo Choo in Cincinnati, a 3-team deal that included #1 on that list I just linked to above. There will be no shortage of shortstops on the market this winter - both in free agency and via trade - so the Reds will certainly have options to fix things, though given the high-profile nature of many of the names in that mix, it would be a really, really bad time to pick the wrong one.
In other news, Mike Petriello took a closer look at all 30 MLB rosters as they currently stand, using a premise based on projected production for the 2021 season. The Reds, as you might imagine, have a lot of work to do on their roster before next season gets underway.
Speaking of the 2021 Reds roster, Reds.com’s Mark Sheldon took a closer look at where it stands right now, highlighting exactly where the Reds will need to augment from outside the organization before getting back on the field.
As for our earlier allusion to the 2021 minor leagues, well, let’s just say it’s not going to look anything like what we grew used to prior to the 2020 MiLB campaign being quashed altogether. The financial constraints that resulted paired with MLB’s intervention will mean ample reclassifications of league and MiLB franchises alike, and we’ve already learned of the effective dissolution of professional ball for certain locations. Doug Gray has a good breakdown of the latest developments over at RedsMinorLeagues.com, including which leagues might be in transition heading into next year.
Doug also has a recently updated list of former Reds minor leaguers who have become free agents, a list that includes notable Farmers Only stars like Narciso Crook, Ibandel Isabel, and Wyatt Strahan, among (/checks notes) 16 others.
Hey, it’s Adam Dunn’s birthday! Happy birthday, ya big donkey!
Happy birthday to "The Big Donkey" Adam Dunn! pic.twitter.com/e4ZR14GnUh— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) November 9, 2020
Finally, The Athletic’s Eno Sarris has some great insight into something I think all of us would readily acknowledge is a part of the game of baseball - pitchers finding ways to ‘cheat.’ Sarris explores how foreign substances support pitchers’ abilities to move and spin the ball, and has done the due diligence of getting insight from multiple major leaguers in the process. Featured prominently is #1 on that MLBTR free agents list again, unsurprisingly, including how he’s worked deliberately on the very concept.