I’m not sure Noelvi Marte was supposed to be a Cincinnati Red in 2023. The current top prospect in the team’s system was destined to make the big leagues at some point, obviously, but he began 2023 at age 21 at the AA level, blocked by the likes of a half-dozen equally promising infielders along the way. The Baseball Gods, though, have a way of sticking their noses right in the middle of these things.
Injuries wrecked the Cincinnati infield during the second half of the season, with each of Jonathan India, Matt McLain, and Joey Votto getting sidelined for extended periods. That thrust the versatile Spencer Steer into a more modified, all-purpose role, and suddenly the Reds were depending upon Marte during a stretch run that featured - for a while - a playoff chase.
As the Reds enter an offseason with infinite permutations in how they put together their infield going forward, the early spotlight fell on India as potentially the odd-man out. With Votto already out of the mix, though, it’s hard not to look right back at last season as a reason why the Reds should hold tight to their ‘surplus’ of infielders as they face a 162 game slate that is, as always, grueling.
Injuries are going to happen, inevitably. They’re going to need depth in 2024, depth that’s hopefully much more talented than the likes of Jason Vosler, Kevin Newman, Wil Myers, Alejo Lopez, and Matt Reynolds. That group combined for 466 PA last year, after all, and that skips right over the 149 lackluster PA from Jose Barrero.
Over the course of an entire season, there are going to be ample ways to get plenty of PA for Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Spencer Steer, Jonathan India, Matt McLain, Elly De La Cruz, and Noelvi Marte at the big league level. Injuries, as they so often do, will play a part in sorting out the process. And if ever you needed a reminder of that fact, Marte appeared to injury his hamstring last night in action in the Dominican Winter League while swiping second base for his club, Gigantes del Cibao.
Hopefully it’s nothing more serious than a basic hammy pull, and not the kind of thing that dogged India in 2022 alongside Donovan Solano. It’s hard not to think this might serve as a bit of a reminder to the front office, however, that as they build towards a sustainable run in 2024 and beyond, depth is going to be paramount.
In other news, here’s a bit from MLB Trade Rumors on a handful of recently non-tendered relief arms that could be serviceable for big league clubs in 2024. Not included is the recent non-tender by the Reds, Derek Law, who appeared in the 7th inning or later in 9 of his 10 September outings for the club (with the lone exception being his start on a bullpen day).
Over at The Athletic, Leatherpants weighed in on a hypothetical trade that would send India to the Chicago White Sox as part of a package to land Dylan Cease.
Over at ESPN, Dave Schoenfield proposed a Tyler Glasnow deal between Tampa and Cincinnati that I would flush right down the hypothetical toilet. I like Glasnow a good bit, but that deal just ain’t going to fly.
Also from ESPN is Buster Olney walking us through how the pitching dominos might fall this winter in the wake of Aaron Nola’s megadeal to return to the Philadelphia Phillies. Of note is mention that Sonny Gray would love to pitch close to his home in Tennessee, and unfortunately after doing the math, Atlanta is a little by closer to Smyrna than Cincinnati, unfortunately. Maybe Nick Krall can convince Sonny that while Atlanta is technically closer, the traffic on I-75 on the north side of Atlanta is more than an hour worse each way than it is from Florence (Y’all) to GABP. I, folks, am officially down the rabbit hole.
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