Putting into an article the phrase ‘is out of options’ one week before Opening Day is a completely normal thing. In fact, it’s precisely at this time each and every year where the eventuality of players’ option scenarios always play out, as it’s annually a deciding factor in how big league organizations shape both their 40-man and, most importantly, their 26-man rosters.
Of course, it’s in normal years that these teams have long known precisely which of their players had options and did not. As is the case with everything in life, the last calendar year has been anything but normal, and that left ample residual confusion about the option status of quite a few players across the game right up until this week.
(Ample Residual Confusion...good band name btw.)
Anyway, the Cincinnati Reds had a trio of players in that option purgatory all camp, but finally found out this week the resolution to those cases. Each of Jose De Leon and Cionel Perez have an option remaining - meaning both can be moved to the minors during the 2021 season without being exposed to the waiver process - and that’s going to add a wealth of flexibility to David Bell’s pitching staff that would’ve otherwise been in quite a pickle. As MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon relayed, however, OF Aristides Aquino has been deemed out of options, meaning the Reds cannot simply send him back to AAA Louisville without the risk of losing him to another franchise.
Bell’s quotes there seem to suggest that ruling won’t fundamentally change the nature of their Opening Day roster plans, which is interesting. Aquino has been quite impressive with the bat in Cactus League play, though we’re all well aware that spring stats are hardly ever the meat behind roster decisions. We’ve seen brilliance at times from Aquino - his August 2019 run will be talked about my kid’s kid’s kids - but he’s also floundered often with the Reds in his limited playing time (and once played himself off the 40-man roster altogether in his minors days because of his streakiness). With the infield bench likely to consist of right-handed options in Kyle Farmer, Tyler Stephenson, and perhaps Alex Blandino, adding Aquino’s righty bat would make for a lopsided bench, and that could tip the balance to the likes of Tyler Naquin or Mark Payton over The Punisher.
It’s one of several questions still resonating through camp in Goodyear, but with Opening Day one week a way regardless, The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans took a final gander at what the Reds roster will look like that day. The OF/bench situation is still muddied, of course, as are at least a pair of spots in the bullpen - though fortunately the returns of both Amir Garrett and Lucas Sims to game action this week has quelled some of the drama down there. Nagging injuries to both Michael Lorenzen and Tejay Antone have also raised some eyebrows, though those are fortunately more due to the proximity to Opening Day than due to their severity.
The lone remaining question mark of note is Joey Votto, who is back in camp after two weeks on the sideline due to COVID but has yet to get back into Cactus League action. Fortunately, though, he went through a pretty thorough practice session yesterday, including BP and some fielding at 1B, later attending the Reds game against the Texas Rangers in workout clothes despite not playing.
C. Trent had some video, which is worth thousands more than my words on the topic:
Over at FanGraphs, they’ve been running through their positional power rankings as generated by objective projection systems, and let’s just say it hasn’t looked very promising for the Reds so far. Today’s group is CF, though you’ll find links to the other positions they have profiled at the top of said post. As it turns out, playing guys out of position all over the diamond and putting very little emphasis on OBP and defense is a good way to tank your projections.
Finally, MLB.com has compiled a pretty thorough list of where the top prospects in each organization stand roster-wise as spring camps wind down in both Arizona and Florida. Much like our roster projections and those of pretty much everyone else, they’ve got Jonathan India making the Reds come Opening Day, which is a pretty damn cool development all around. Of course, none of their ‘experts’ picked Jonny Flow to win the NL Rookie of the Year this year, but that’s because they’re all hopelessly wrong.
Happy Thursday, folks. One week until baseball.