Cincinnati Reds: Where Will Eugenio Suarez Play in 2016?


When Zack Cozart went down with a gruesome knee injury in early June, the Cincinnati Reds’ dismal season got even more bleak. The 30-year-old shortstop had been one of the feel-good stories early in the season, rebounding from a dismal 2014 with the bat and pacing himself for career-best numbers.

The injury opened the door for 24-year-old Eugenio Suarez, acquired in an offseason trade with the Detroit Tigers for Alfredo Simon, and the Venezuela native has made Cozart’s injury slightly easier to swallow for fans.

Suarez has done nothing but hit since his promotion, batting a cool .302/.338/.477 with 22 extra-base hits (eight home runs) and 32 runs batted in over 240 plate appearances. He hasn’t made up for Cozart’s absence with the glove (11 errors in 59 games), but the offensive skills he’s displayed are encouraging.

Suarez’s emergence will present an interesting problem for the Reds in 2016. His offense is incredibly valuable, but there may not be a place for him in the starting lineup as Bryan Price has already said that Cozart will be his shortstop if he returns to manage the club next year.

Here are some possible solutions to the predicament:

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Move Suarez to left field

This seems to be the most popular option at the moment. Left field has been a giant question mark in most years since Adam Dunn was traded in 2008 and it appears that it will be one again in 2016. Shortstops are usually some of the most athletic players on the field and Suarez is no different, meaning he could probably make the switch despite having only 20 games of experience there in his professional career (all 20 appearances came back in 2010). The Reds have expressed no desire to play him in left field in 2015, but Price has said he will see work there in spring training.

Trade Brandon Phillips, move Suarez to second base

Suarez has seen plenty of action at second base and could slide over there next year if Phillips is traded. The rejuvenated Phillips has had his best all-around season since 2012 and a team in need of a second baseman could pull the trigger on a deal for the 34-year-old. Unless that team is the Dodgers or Yankees, however, a trade might not happen given the amount of money Phillips is still due ($27 million over two years). His 10-and-5 rights would further complicate things, as he would have to give the thumbs-up on any deal.

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Non-tender Cozart

Rather than going to arbitration with Cozart, the Reds could decide to non-tender him in December, making him a free agent. That, obviously, would hand the shortstop job to Suarez. In January, Cozart settled with the Reds for $2.35 million. It figures that he’ll make more than that in the next round of arbitration after this season, but he probably isn’t going to get a significant raise. If Cozart was going to get a sizeable increase in salary, it might make more sense to non-tender him, but having quality, affordable depth at shortstop isn’t a bad thing. Of all the options, I’d guess this option is the least likely to happen.

Use Suarez off the bench

If the Reds don’t want Suarez to switch positions and wish to move forward with Cozart and Phillips, this might be their only viable solution. Suarez would provide a nice punch to what has been an ineffective bench for the last few years and could step in at second base or shortstop when Phillips or Cozart need a day off. That said, it would be tough to leave him out of the everyday lineup, especially if the Reds have difficulty scoring runs again in 2016, so ideally the team would come up with a plan to get him maximum playing time.

Next: Raisel Iglesias pitching his way into 2016 rotation