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The Jonathan India trade rumors just won’t stop

Will the 2021 NL Rookie of the Year be on the move?

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Joe Puetz/Getty Images

An offensive output of 100 OPS+ is a good thing to have from a player. It’s perfectly league average!

That kind of performance can cover for other flaws in the right circumstances. A 100 OPS+ bat who, say, plays in 150+ games a year, doesn’t show extreme platoon splits, plays some reasonable defense, and makes the league minimum salary is something of a dream for a front office, as that would allow them to ‘align payroll to resources’ by focusing their precious cash elsewhere.

When a 100 OPS+ bat is swung by a guy who has battled through multiple (different) injuries, has averaged over 50 games on missed in each of the last two seasons, doesn’t mash LHP as a RH bat, and has defensive metrics that abhor his work, well, watching his salary escalate rapidly is the exact opposite of a front office’s dream. When you factor in that ready-made replacements are already in house, that’s enough writing on the wall to suspect a trade may very much be in the works.

So, it’s no wonder the rumors swirling around Jonathan India won’t stop as the hot stove season ramps up. That the middle infield market in free agency is perilously thin will only further catalyze this, I suspect, and MLB Network insider Jon Morosi reported yesterday that the Reds are on the phone with 3 or 4 teams already with advancing negotiations.

With Matt McLain, Noelvi Marte, Elly De La Cruz, Spencer Steer, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand around (and all making league minimum), holding on to India as his arbitration-eligible salary for this year pushes towards $4 million would seem to go against the Reds trend of getting as frugal as can be. That India’s performance has dipped drastically over the last two seasons since his breakout campaign in 2021 is equally as troublesome, though there is some credence to the idea that moving him now would be selling very low on a player who, when healthy, has looked the part of a cromulent big league infielder.

After all, McLain was felled by injury last season, too, and that’s why the depth (Marte) became so important. Steer’s versatility played a big part in that, too, as he was needed depth in the corner outfield when Jake Fraley was out for an extended period, too.

If the Reds can get the likes of the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, and Seattle Mariners into the mix for a deal, perhaps there’s enough scarcity in the market to foster a bit of a bidding war, and that’s likely what Nick Krall is hoping to muster here. Boston and Seattle got production from their collective 2Bs in 2023 that ranked among the five worst units in the game by wRC+, while Toronto waved goodbye to both Matt Chapman and Whit Merrifield after the season to create a need in their infield.

To me, the most interesting part of this entire rumor-swirl isn’t that it’s happening - that’s the obvious part. What’s interesting is the timing, given that the non-tender deadline is later this afternoon. I’m not at all suggesting that India is a non-tender candidate, as that’s preposterous - I’m merely saying that the Reds looking to move him now might have an impact on how they approach other moves, too. Fellow former 1st round pick Nick Senzel is a definite non-tender candidate as his salary is expected to rise to some $3 million for 2024, but his defensive versatility and ability to mash LHP might make him a better ‘fit’ for what’s left of the Reds roster if they manage to move India today, save some cash, and unlock the rest of the infield mix.

Moving India today before the likes of, say, Luis Urias becomes a non-tendered free agent and saturates the middle-infield market may well be part of said strategy, too.

The more I read about it, the more I suspect this is the opposite of a nothing-burger. The Reds seem to be actively shopping India, and we’ve likely seen his last game in a Reds uniform. What remains to be seen is whether they’re shopping him for a pitcher who can help the big league club right this minute or something much further down the road.