It is the afternoon of Sunday, February 7th, 2021. The puck drops in the Super Bowl later this afternoon, and pitchers and catchers are set to report to spring training camps for the Major League Baseball season in barely over a week. With that in mind, it’s probably worth checking in on the Cincinnati Reds in their offseason quest to fill perhaps the single most key position player spot on their roster.
How it started:
Sources: #Reds are prioritizing the addition of one starting shortstop and are pursuing multiple options to address that need: Francisco Lindor and Trevor Story in trade; Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons, and Didi Gregorius via free agency. @MLBNetwork @MLB— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 30, 2020
How it’s going:
Source: 2B Dee Strange-Gordon has a minor league deal in place with the Cincinnati Reds.— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) February 7, 2021
FWIW, it may be SS Dee Strange-Gordon?— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) February 7, 2021
As ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel relayed this afternoon, Dee Strange-Gordon and the Reds have themselves a minor league pact for the 2021 season. Strange-Gordon, it should be noted, is a two-time All Star who is the owner of a batting title, Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove, and four steals titles, and his 333 career steals stand as the active leader in the game today.
Of course, past accomplishments are just that - things that happened already, and in Dee’s case most all of those happened long ago. The last trio of seasons have seen his production decline precipitously, as he’s posted just a .636 OPS (77 OPS+) and a total of 0.9 bWAR in that time, all served as a member of the Seattle Mariners. And as McDaniel referenced in his tweets, Dee has done almost all of that work as a regular 2B, with the former shortstop regular logging just 11 games started at shortstop in that time.
While long a high-contact, low-walk player - and while that approach worked well for him early in his career - he has become something of an anti-hero in the modern game. His exit velocity has ranked among the absolute lowest in the game for most of his career, exacerbated more so in recent seasons. Add-in that his experience at shortstop (and overall defensive metrics) have slipped in recent years, and it’s worth wondering just how this move meshes with what the Reds are trying to accomplish at the moment.
It’s clear they swung and missed (or never swung at all) at the litany of excellent shortstops that were once available this winter, a list that Jon Morosi detailed in the months-old tweet linked above. Had this signing of Strange-Gordon happened earlier in the winter as a mere depth move with those loftier goals still on the market, the reaction would’ve been much difference, I assume. As a bench bat, pinch-runner, and LIDR, Dee can likely still be a solid bench piece at a bargain rate. But given that there are still no proven shortstops in-house and perilously quality options still out there to be acquired, it’s absolutely worth wondering at this juncture if this is the best option the Reds think they can still land right now.
Jonathan Villar is still out there, and still linked in rumors to a potential Reds signing, though he, too, is much more of a 2B by trade at this point of his career. It’s an unenvious position to be in for the Reds at the moment, since that means the likes of Jose Garcia, Kyle Farmer, Kyle Holder, and Alex Blandino are the only in-house options to whom the Reds can otherwise turn.
Maybe this is just a cheap, low-risk bench move. The time to assume there’s much more in store for this Reds offseason has long since passed, though, and the benefit of the doubt is no longer there.