The 2021 Major League Baseball season wasn’t that long ago, was it?
The world was still newly viral, yet felt slightly more open than it had been during the truncated 2020 season at the hands of COVID. Somewhere out of the blue came a pair of Cincinnati Reds to steal the stage around here, one after years of scuffling and another after a year of being almost completely invisible.
Joey Votto’s late-2020 swing change paid off in spades, and his 2021 campaign was one part throwback and another part revolutionary. His approach changed, he eschewed some of his previously unprecedented strike zone management, and began swinging at balls as if he were in charge of penalizing all non-penitent men who tried to pass. The end result was a 139 OPS+, 36 dingers, and some down-ballot MVP votes despite missing a month with a busted hand, production that showed he still had a) plenty of gas left in the tank and b) was always, always smart enough to make adjustments.
Right by his side was a guy who’d played zero major or minor league ball the previous year, as the entirety of Minor League Baseball had been kiboshed during the 2020 pandemic. Jonathan India had stayed at the team’s alternate site under zero spotlight, and the former 1st round pick (who had dropped off most Top 100 lists after an underwhelming start to his pro career) apparently saw the light bulbs turn on. He hit the ground running in Goodyear in February, earned a roster spot on Opening Day as a rookie, and raced straight to a 116 OPS+ and Nationa League Rookie of the Year honors.
Nothing defeats Father Time, however. My daughter born in early 2021 is now nearly a three year old, and the 2021 face of the franchise (and future Hall of Famer) is now off the roster completely. The former future face of the franchise (said 2021 ROY) may already be heading that direction, too.
As the GM meetings heat up this week, India’s name has been a hot topic, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi.
Jonathan India is a popular name among execs at the @MLB GM Meetings. Multiple teams have inquired to the Reds about his availability.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 7, 2023
Reds will listen to offers due to their position-player depth, but they value India highly and aren't motivated to move him.@MLBNetwork
India has battled injuries for the last two seasons, and his performance has suffered as a result. He’s now arb-eligible (read: more expensive than league minimum), and the Reds now have the likes of Elly De La Cruz, Spencer Steer, Matt McLain, and Noelvi Marte all ready (read: all also making league minimum) to man the middle of the infield. The infield market is pretty light in free agency this winter, too, meaning the time may well be right for Nick Krall & Co. to move on from the team’s 2018 1st round draft pick.
As for Toronto native Joey Votto, well, Toronto may well be where he lands next. Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins went on record at the meetings as being a big fan of Votto, per Yahoo Sports, and with Brandon Belt now a free agent they sure do seem to have a need on their roster for a lefty-bat who can play 1B a bit and DH.
So, the Reds have that going for them as the Hot Stove heats up. I picked the Blue Jays to win the World Series in my Five Dumb Predictions for the 2023 MLB season (which were bad, don’t look them up), and sentimentality may well see me repeat that decision in 2024 should this pan out.