The last time we saw Nick Senzel in a Cincinnati Reds uniform was one of the more surreal baseball memories I’ll hold in my brain for the rest of time. That’s mostly because while it’s technically a baseball memory, it’s also one of the clearest examples of how the pandemic year of 2020 has overlapped with our favorite pastime.
A celebration of a Reds victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 14th became awkward when Senzel, then in CF for the game’s final out, came running towards the infield for the usual post-win celebration, only to be met by coach JR House before he could get there. A visibly upset Senzel later threw his glove into the stands in anger as he was escorted off the field, and in the hours that ensued, we learned that the Reds had a positive COVID case.
We don’t know if it was Senzel, because that’s not ever been confirmed publicly. What we do know is that he’s been on the indeterminate Injured List from that very moment, and that no other Red hit the IL in the wake of the positive test. He’s been out for 17 full days now, and the Reds have struggled mightily in his absence.
Today, though, we got some reassuring news, as Senzel is set to report to the team’s Prasco practice facility to get back in game shape, as The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans relayed.
#Reds Nick Senzel will begin working out at Prasco Park today, David Bell said— C. トレント・ローズクランズ (@ctrent) September 1, 2020
How long it will take him to be ‘ready,’ we do not know. We do not know in what shape he’s in relative to August 14th, nor do we know just what he’s been through.
What we do know, though, is what we can read through the tea leaves. With just 25 games to play and the Reds playoff hopes hanging in the balance, it seems the front office opted for what, on paper, might seem like an over-insurance plan yesterday in their pickup of OF Brian Goodwin, but if you squint that move makes a bit more sense.
Goodwin, 30, can play all over the OF. On a given, healthy-roster day, the Cincinnati Reds had in mind to roll out an OF of Shogo Akiyama, Nick Senzel, and Nick Castellanos, with Jesse Winker mashing as the DH. When acquiring Goodwin yesterday, however, it seems clear this is what the Reds have on their plates:
- There’s no guarantee Senzel is back to 100% at any point in the next 3 weeks, and it might take him another week to even get back to game shape. There’s no time to just wait for that.
- Shogo, for all his promise, simply hasn’t hit well enough to just lean on for the final 3+ weeks. He might well end up a shrewd investment at some point in the next 2 years and a month, but there’s no time to keep waiting on him, either.
- Aristides Aquino has been summoned to replace the lack of production from Mark Payton, Travi Jankowski, and Phil Ervin, all of whom struggled mightily in the OF rotation. Aquino, for all his promise, might end up more of the September-struggle version we saw last year than the breakout August star, and there’s not enough time to simply let that sort itself out, either.
So, insert Brian Goodwin into what will likely be an everyday spot in the OF, at least against RHP. At just the double-prorated salary of $2 million bucks (and Packy Naughton), the Reds thought losing a LHP prospect was worth picking up a steady veteran, one who with team control beyond 2020 will let them maximize their options this year and get to sort out the future down the road.
Hopefully, Nick Senzel returns at 100% ASAP to make those decisions for David Bell tougher, and today is certainly the first step in that direction. If it takes longer, however, at least they’ve backfilled with something proven to add to the volatile, if potentially potent, OF mix.