We hold these truths to be self evident, that the Cincinnati Reds shortstop position is not created equally, that shortstops are endowed by their Creator with inalienable sights, that among these are power, speed, and the pursuit of all balls hit into the hole.
From Roy McMillan to Leo Cardenas, Davey Concepcion to Barry Larkin, there has been a long and storied history of All Stars, Gold Glovers, incredible bounce-throws off knee-buckling astroturf, an MVP, and Hall of Fame caliber play at the position. Well, there had been, at least - since Larkin’s retirement at the end of 2004, the shortstops of the Cincinnati Reds have combined to post 32.8 fWAR, ranking 25th out of 30 MLB clubs in that time.
Since the departure of Zack Cozart after the 2017 season - Cozart himself with an All Star appearance under his belt prior to leaving - the amalgamation of Cincinnati Reds shortstops have combined for just 4.9 fWAR, the 3rd worst mark at the position from any franchise. The two teams below them on that list are the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates, and while the Pirates are just an unmitigated disaster, the Brewers just addressed that issue with the addition of Willy Adames this year to be their future at the position.
The 2021 season there was far from a disaster, or anything. Kyle Farmer acquitted himself competently as the primary option there despite few expectations, accruing 1.6 fWAR personally in the 147 games in which he played all season. In total, though, the 1.3 fWAR mark by the Reds over the course of the season ranked 25th among MLB teams, and that’s clearly an area where the Reds must improve if they’re to catch the Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals within their division.
Can that come purely through even better work from Farmer? MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon spoke with Farmer at the end of last week about the expected battle for playing time at the position in 2022, with top prospect Jose Barrero having climbed through AA and AAA at a blistering pace during the 2021 season and made it clear he deserves a shot to play in the bigs. Dear god, I’m assuming it’s been made readily evident that Eugenio Suarez moving back there isn’t part of this equation, too.
Point is, at age 24 and with the physical tools he owns, Jose Barrero needs the opportunity to play and play regularly next season, though it became somewhat clear at the end of last season that the club might consider him as an option in CF. Given the turmoil at that position (and the rest of the Cincinnati OF with Nick Castellanos likely a free agent and none of Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Tyler Naquin, or Shogo Akiyama with healthy full-seasons on their resume), that could be an option that works, too, provided Farmer can give the Reds another adequate season.
Fact is, the Reds could do much worse than another season in 2022 of what Farmer provided in 2021. He was steady, he was trusted, and was certainly not the team’s problem. Fact also is, the Reds could do a lot better there in 2022, and it’s hard not to acknowledge that with the uber-talented class of free agent shortstops available this winter - Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Javy Baez, etc. Believe it or not, I’m predicting the Reds play it conservative, don’t spend much money, and hope things just are better in 2022 than they were last year with what they’ve got.
In other news, Dusty Baker is headed to the World Series at the helm of the Houston Astros, and while almost everything else about the Astros is yucky as hell to think about, I’m incredibly excited for him to get this chance. Ken Rostenthal of The Athletic detailed Dusty’s return to baseball’s biggest stage after a 19 year absence, and it’s well worth your time to read.
MLB.com’s Bill Ladson highlighted just how much the Atlanta Braves have meant to Dusty over the course of his lengthy time in the game, as the Astros and Braves will begin play for the World Series title on Tuesday. Dusty’s big league career began as an 19 year old with Atlanta back in 1968 alongside Hank Aaron, among others, and he spent the better part of 8 seasons with the Braves to begin his career.
In more Reds news, Baseball America named Jonathan India their Rookie of the Year over the weekend. Not just their National League ROY, their MLB ROY. After an initial major move from 3B to 2B and another from the tail-end of the lineup to leadoff, India not only had a pair of major changes to factor into his play during the 2021 season, he also did so as part of a rookie class that had no professional baseball to play during the 2020 pandemic that shut down minor league play altogether. While an emergence from his was expected last year, that kind of impact kinda came out of nowhere, however, and he now looks the part of a franchise cornerstone around which the Reds can build for a decade. That’s cool as heck, y’all.
Over at The Enquirer, Bobby Nightengale spoke of the need for the Reds to improve their bullpen this winter, something that will take either money or a miracle, neither of which I’m certain the Reds possess at the moment.
Finally, the Cardinals will name Oliver Marmol as their new manager, the 35 year old who served as bench coach for the recently fired Mike Shildt for the last two seasons. Everything about that entire series of events has been awkward as hell, and Reds fans will get a front row seat to see how it plays out within the division going forward.