Mike Moustakas was a career 3B who had started a grand total of 40 games at 2B before the Cincinnati Reds signed him to a record contract to, well, be their 2B for awhile. Nick Senzel was drafted as a 3B/2B before being switched quickly to the outfield. Eugenio Suarez plays 3B after a career spent as a SS, and we’ve even seen Jesse Winker - long lauded as a defense-last corner outfielder - get reps on purpose in CF.
If there’s an organization out there in Major League Baseball that appears willing to give players roles on the field that don’t exactly fit the back of their baseball cards to date, it’s the Cincinnati Reds. So if there’s a glaring hole in their roster and on their defense, who in their right mind competing for a job would say anything other than ‘hey, that’s where I want to play?’
That brings us to Dee Strange-Gordon, who the Reds picked up on a minor league deal with an invite to spring camp in Goodyear, Arizona. Strange-Gordon, 33 in April, has had a pretty damn fine career all told, the active MLB leader in career steals with a batting title, two All Star appearances, a Gold Glove, and a Silver Slugger on his ledger to date. He’s earned some $52 million plying his trade to date, and while his fizzled trio of years with the Seattle Mariners might have indicated the best of his baseball playing days were behind him, he’s dedicated to keeping things going despite no guaranteed deal from the Reds, or anyone else, so far.
Strange-Gordon broke into baseball as a shortstop, you’ll recall, and it’s where he spent the bulk of his playing time through his first trio of seasons. Of course, he’s only started a grand total of 14 games at the position since the end of the 2013 season, which you’ll also recall is a very, very long time ago. Despite that apparent rust, though, the 2B/CF/LF of the last eight years thinks that shortstop is something he still can very much do, and he said as much to The Enquirer’s Charlie Goldsmith earlier Tuesday.
Dee Strange Gordon: “Shortstop is my position."— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) February 23, 2021
The part of your soul that groaned when reading that is surely tied to the dreams we had for these Reds just a few months ago. Earlier this winter, it became readily apparent the Reds a) were in the market for a new shortstop and b) each of Francisco Lindor, Marcus Semien, Ha-Seong Kim, Didi Gregorius, and Andrelton Simmons would be needing new homes, the kind of cosmic alignment for both parties involved that was going to make for some big, smiley kind of news. And when none of that, absolutely none of that materialized, it’s easy to be incredibly cynical about the resulting state of affairs.
All that aside, I’m frankly damn glad this is the attitude taken by Dee. While he’s seemingly the perfect fit for a bench role on an NL club that has a manager who loves double-switches in a non-DH format, a late-inning Swiss Army knife who can be the band-aid for all other moves, expecting any player to simply aspire to those goals given a career of his so far would be foolhardy. Expecting that from a player of his ilk that has also a) played shortstop before and b) is on a team with no incumbent shortstop is even more ridiculous.
The issue here, obviously, is not whether Dee Strange-Gordon sees shortstop as his position, it’s whether the Cincinnati Reds see shortstop as his position. And given that the Reds saw Kyle Farmer play catcher and everywhere on the planet other than shortstop before throwing him into the shortstop mix, staking a claim to the most obvious source of regular playing time seems downright prudent of him.
It’s worth emphasizing here also that ‘shortstop is my position’ is not Dee saying ‘the shortstop job is mine,’ as that’s a completely different angle. As a non-roster guy, doing everything possible to show you can fit into as many different roles as possible is probably the clearest path to a roster spot, and that’s what he’s doing in words here today. And given that his competition at shortstop is a converted catcher, a 3B/2B off a major knee surgery, a Rule-5 pick with no big league experience, and a rookie who seemed in over his head during the 2020 season, who could fault him if he was even implying the latter, too?
Whether we like it or not, it seems that our eyes will be fixed firmly on the shortstop battle in Reds camp this March, with Strange-Gordon doing everything he can to be the focal point.