Is Nick Senzel a 3B? A 2B? A CF, LF, or SS?
Is Nick Senzel a productive big league hitter when healthy?
These are all questions the front office of the Cincinnati Reds have been asking internally for years, as the former #2 pick from the 2016 MLB Draft continued to confound them. These are questions that others will now have the opportunity to ask, as it appears the Reds have opted against tendering Senzel a contract for the 2024 season ahead of this evening’s deadline, rendering him a free agent for the first time in his professional career.
The Enquirer’s Gordon Wittenmyer had the news.
Nick Senzel, the former No. 2 overall draft pick, was non-tendered Friday by the Reds, source confirms.— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubMLB) November 17, 2023
Announcements regarding decisions on all 10 arb-eligible Reds expected closer to 8et deadline.
As Senzel’s service clock ticked upwards, so, too did his expected salary - that’s just how the MLB salary system works. As he entered another round of arbitration eligibility, he was estimated to command a salary of some $3 million for the 2024 season, and that paired with what looked to be a reduced role made him expendable in Cincinnati’s eyes. Surely they tried to trade him, but with that obviously not materializing, this is the route they chose to take.
Senzel’s defensive versatility and ability to mash left-handed pitching in 2023 meant there was still a chance they’d opt to keep him around. His overall 85 OPS+ last season was less than impressive, obviously, but he hit .348/.389/.619 (1.008 OPS) against southpaws in 126 PA, serving as something of an excellent complement to lefties Will Benson, Jake Fraley, and TJ Friedl. That not only wasn’t good enough to keep his roster spot with the Reds, but now the Reds will need to be in pursuit of another player to fill that role for cheaper than $3 million - a defensively versatile option who can wreck lefties.
Is that going to be Jose Barrero? For all of Senzel’s faults, he’s put up quite a significantly more impressive big league career than Barrero at this point. Stuart Fairchild should be able to provide some cover out there when manager David Bell chooses to mix and match his outfielders, but perhaps it will be Spencer Steer moving around the diamond even more in ‘24 than he did last year to help bridge that gap. That, of course, comes on the heels of the news that the Reds are shopping Jonathan India to further thin their right-handed options.
It’s a disappointing way for the Senzel era to end, his arrival in 2016 at the time expected to be the first boost that dug the Reds out of that iteration of rebuilding. Obviously, that didn’t pan out.
Best of luck to him wherever he ends up, and hopefully he finally stays healthy enough to show whether or not he can cut it at the big league level.