Few things have invigorated the Cincinnati Reds fanbase the way that Derek Dietrich’s start to the season did just last spring. His pinch-hit 3-run dinger brought home an Opening Day victory in his very first game with the club, and his May - dear lord, his May - was the kind of brilliant baseball anyone who watched will remember ‘til their dying days.
Things turned sour quickly after his 12 dinger May, however, as shoulder problems sapped almost everything out his swing. Despite the Reds having team control over him still for the 2020 season, he was placed on waivers, cleared them, and became a free agent at season’s end. And while we all thought that might be the end of his tenure with Cincinnati, apparently the Reds had other ideas, announcing today that they’d agreed on a reunion, a minor league pact with an invitation to spring training.
Dietrich, now 30, is an Ohio native who obviously brings ample power to the plate from the left side when healthy, and while he’s mostly a 2B by trade, he has covered the outfield corners, 3B, and 1B at times in his career. That’s a pretty perfect bench bat, really, though this certainly has to be the kind of signing that puts a bit more pressure on say, roster spot-haver Josh VanMeter.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the Reds roster as a whole looks when camp officially gets going this weekend in Goodyear, AZ, but the versatility and various injuries among the group will help define some of where this goes, too. Obviously, how healthy 3B Eugenio Suarez looks will be the biggest domino, as if he’s not ready to begin the season that could mean the likes of Mike Moustakas and/or Nick Senzel - if he’s fully healthy - get temporarily moved around the diamond. And if Geno’s banged up while Dietrich looks 100% again, that could make for an opening on the roster - at least to begin the season.
If nothing else, this gives a familiar landing spot for Dietrich to show the rest of the league he’s still a capable player. There weren’t hardly any rumors around him this winter after his odd, inimitable 2019 season, so perhaps he thought a return to the comfort zone that propelled his early 2019 brilliance was a better option than, say, agreeing to go to a team that might have more readily available paths to playing time open for him. Heck, perhaps at this stage of his career he’d simply rather be a bench bat on a team hell bent on contending than getting 500 PA for the Baltimore Orioles, and for that I wouldn’t blame him for a minute.
Welcome back, Derek. Let’s just hope it’s all Maximum Derek this time around.