After watching Freddy Galvis reach free agency earlier this winter, the Cincinnati Reds became one of several MLB franchises with serious question marks at the shortstop position. Conveniently enough, however, there were a plethora of high-caliber options either in free agency or on the trade market for them to window-shop, the only question being which one they’d choose.
Well, Tuesday afternoon helped their decision process significantly.
Weeks after Cleveland dumped Francisco Lindor to the New York Mets, a pair of the highest profile free agent options found homes. First, Marcus Semien headed north to the Toronto Blue Jays, while Andrelton Simmons later signed with the Minnesota Twins. ESPN’s Jeff Passan is perpetually the purveyor of this type of news, and purvey he did earlier today.
Infielder Marcus Semien is in agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays on a one-year, $18 million contract, a source familiar with the deal tells ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 26, 2021
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons and the Minnesota Twins are in agreement on a one-year, $10.5 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 27, 2021
With that depth now thinned from the shortstop market, a reunion between Didi Gregorius - Philadelphia’s shortstop last year - and the Reds begins to pick up even more steam, in theory. And in a winter where the Reds seem committed to not-committing money to players at an austere rate, at least they have the tandem 1-year contracts for Simmons and Semien to use as leverage if they were to truly pursue Didi.
In theory, that’s the best move for the Reds front office and ownership. While Gregorius rebounded with a solid surface season with Philadelphia in 2020 after Tommy John surgery derailed his 2019 season, several metrics - including a weak exit velocity and very low hard-hit rate - suggest that may not be something that the Reds can count on continuing deep into the future. On top of that, each of Simmons and Semien now project to re-enter the market next winter alongside a star-studded shortstop class that also includes (as of now) Javy Baez, Lindor, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, and Trevor Story, among others. So if Didi is the best option for 2021 and not beyond, getting him on a 1-year deal now wouldn’t prohibit the Reds from making another splash again next winter for a longer-term option.
(Of course, that all assumes Jose Garcia doesn’t take a massive leap forward in 2021.)
This is all operating under the general consideration that the Reds intend to actually spend the money it takes to sign Didi, which should fall somewhere in between the amounts landed by Simmons and Semien. It remains to be seen if the frugal Reds will do so, however, after they’ve repeatedly shed salary since the 2020 campaign and still have other holes on the roster. On top of that, the Phillies still need to address their shortstop position, and showed today with their signing of J.T. Realmuto that there is plenty of money left in their coffers.
Regardless, it does appear the Reds have waited out the market into something of a corner, with Didi the last standing free agent option that projects to be an impact player in 2021. Otherwise, we’re looking at some combination of Garcia, Kyle Farmer, and Alex Blandino for the position this season, which doesn’t exactly ooze with confidence.