We have run through the storyline several times at this juncture. Only after Eugenio Suarez was traded, after starters Mike Moustakas and Jonathan India fell with injuries, after backups Max Schrock and Donovan Solano were sidelined for months, and after uberprospect Jose Barrero needed surgery on his list did the Cincinnati Reds turn to Brandon Drury, the journeyman infielder whose career bWAR entering the 2022 season sat at -0.5 through 7 seasons of work at the big league level.
For all that has gone wrong this season for the Reds, it’s been this long chain of command that has paid off in spades so far. Such was the case again on Monday night, as Drury swatted a huge 3-run homer for the Reds in the Top of the 5th inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks, in the process digging the club out of a 4-1 hole and propelling them to what became a 5-4 victory.
Drury has upped his season OPS+ to 127, far and away a career best, and the changes to his game we wrote about earlier this season continue to appear to be working incredibly well for him. In fact, he’s putting himself in the position to not only get a decent payday at season’s end - he’ll be a free agent as soon as the World Series concludes - but he might well be rocketing up the trade charts of many teams who will be in the market for upgrades across the infield.
Exactly how valuable he can be was on full display last night, as Drury was originally penciled in to start at 2B on the night prior to the late scratch of Aristides Aquino. Once Aquino was scratched, however, the Reds were able to quickly pivot with their overall lineup, and Drury ended up socking his tater as the team’s DH on the night - all while having logged more games at 3B than anywhere else so far this season. That versatility paired with each and every team in the game now having a DH everyday means that pretty much every contender in the game could find a way to elbow him into their plans.
That’s the rub here, I’m afraid. Drury was barely even in the Reds plans for 2022 before the cavalcade of other misfortunes opened the door for him, and since he’s set to be a free agent this winter, it’s hard to envision even his excellent first two months having changed that long-term. And given that India is back (he was activated when Aquino hit the IL last night), Barrero is healthy again, and both Schrock and Solano are close to returns, it would appear the perfect scenario for the last-place Reds to cash in on their unexpected find is upon them.
Ozzie Albies hitting the shelf with a broken foot in Atlanta could open an opportunity. The struggles of Leury Garcia (and the White Sox as a whole) could prompt them to seek an infield upgrade. Considering that Drury is only making $900K this year after signing a minor league contract, his price won’t be prohibitive for any team in the game, making the possibilities increasingly endless.
It’s a terrible position in which to be as trade season looms, as obviously it’s infinitely more fun to watch a team add than subtract, but this is the same Cincinnati Reds club that started the season three-and-a-billion after trading away half their roster to save cash. So, if you think about it another way, this is exactly the position in which these Reds were always supposed to be, and they’ve stumbled into said position with an unexpected scratch-off ticket that says they’ve won something cool. And when you’re rebuilding and in last-place, that’s not something you just hold on to.