Cincinnati Reds signed outfielder Desmond Jennings to a minor league contract for depth

Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Cincinnati Reds signed Desmond Jennings to a minor league deal to battle for the newly opened back-up outfielder role.

With the trade of Brandon Phillips to the Atlanta Braves all of the Cincinnati Reds took a step forward on the depth chart.  Jose Peraza goes from super sub to second baseman.  Arismendy Alcantara goes from back-up outfielder to primary sub, leaving the back-up outfielder role open.

The change in roles allows Jennings a great chance at being the primary back-up outfielder on the opening day roster.  Jennings can play center and left at a high level.  In limited time for the Tampa Bay Rays last year Jennings saved seven runs as a left fielder.

As an outfielder Jennings has had a positive defensive status in all of his seasons save one.  As a six year veteran who came up as a 24 year old, he has shown the ability to maintain his elite defensive skill.  While that may not seen like a big deal in Great American Ballpark, adding him to Gold Glove finalists Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton should help the pitchers be more confident about their defense.

Offensively, Jennings relies on his legs.  He may not be in the same class as Billy Hamilton, but he is a plus base runner and a plus base stealer.  With Peraza at second and the trio of Alcantara, Hamilton and Jennings in the outfield, the Reds could have the fastest team that baseball seen since the 1980s Saint Louis Cardinals.

The Cincinnati Reds have a security policy in Jennings and a potential chip to flip mid-season.

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Jennings comes to the Reds on a minor league deal meaning that he costs them nothing if he isn’t ready to play.  They can also stash him in Louisville if he has any lingering issues from his last two seasons in Tampa.  He is a low/zero risk endeavor.  That may be important as his batting average has hovered around .200 all season long.

Jennings is a security policy against an injury to Joey Votto or Hamilton.  He could play left and Adam Duvall play first if Votto gets injured.  He could also play center field everyday, if need be.

Jennings is also a security policy against the regression of Duvall.  He may not be a middle of the order hitter like Duvall, but he can play elite defense and bat sixth on a team like the Reds.  He could also bat lead-off intermittently if he had to.

Perhaps most importantly, Jennings is a veteran option to pair with Scott Schebler and/or Jesse Winker in right field.  As a right-handed batting outfielder to balance out their left-handed swings, Jenning could be saved for tough lefties.  He is also a cautionary tale for all of the young Reds, as he was a top prospect that never put it all together.

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Jennings is a man without a home and the Reds are a team without a veteran back-up.  There is an outside chance that the Reds will release Jennings a week into the season.  However, chances are better that he will fight for playing time at every turn.  As the Reds turn from rebuilding to competing, that is exactly the sort of player that the Reds need.