Cincinnati Reds: Was not signing A.J. Pollock a mistake?

The top centerfield prospect on the free agent market, A.J. Pollock, signed a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers yesterday. Did the Cincinnati Reds make a mistake by not signing him?

Free agent centerfielder A.J. Pollock signed a 4-year/$55M deal yesterday with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The contract also contains opt-out clauses, escalators, and incentives, but the bottomline is, the No. 1 centerfielder on the free agent market is off to LA. Did the Cincinnati Reds make a mistake by not signing Pollock? I don’t think so.

The Cincinnati Reds were said to be enamored with two big name free agents when the offseason began. One of those names was Dallas Keuchel, who’ still yet to find a landing spot, likely due to the 5-year contract he’s seeking. The other was centerfielder A.J. Pollock, who signed with LA yesterday.

While some Reds fans are upset that the team traded away a Top 10 prospect and a draft pick for Sonny Gray rather than signing Dallas Keuchel, it seems to be the financially responsible move. It was also the financially responsible move to avoid signing an injury-prone outfielder to a multi-year deal.

When the Reds cut ties with Billy Hamilton in November, it was met with a little pessimism due to the fact that the team doesn’t have a true centerfielder currently on the roster. Scott Schebler would be a serviceable centerfielder, especially in Great American Ball Park. Yasiel Puig could also probably stick in centerfield for a few games as well.

Furthermore, while Jose Siri and Taylor Trammell, who have both shown a lot of promise during the Fall and Winter Leagues, appear ready to eventually make that leap to the big leagues, neither is ready for Opening Day this coming season. Siri could make it to the majors by season’s end and Trammell looks to be at least another year away.

So, with a serviceable couple of players currently on the roster and some very talented prospects in the farm system, should the Cincinnati Reds have acquired A.J. Pollock to be the team’s centerfielder for the foreseeable future? Honestly, no way!

Look, Pollock is a good player with a solid bat and great defensive skills. He won a Gold Glove and went to the All-Star Game in 2015. However, since that season, Pollock has played in only 49% of the games during the following three seasons and his batting average dropped 58 points from 2015 (.315) to 2018 (.257).

During that same timeframe, Puig, who could potentially play centerfield, hit .264 with a slightly higher OPS. Schebler’s batting average and OPS are a bit lower than both Puig’s and Pollock’s, but his salary is much more affordable than the $13.75M annual average value (AAV) of Pollock’s deal with the Dodgers.

Don’t forget, Nick Senzel, the Cincinnati Reds top prospect, is also expected to see some time in centerfield during Spring Training. If he adapts to the position well, we could easily see him splitting time with Schebler in the Reds outfield during the 2019 season.

The Cincinnati Reds have so many serviceable candidates that have the ability to play centerfield that it seems irresponsible to dump a boatload of money on a player like Pollock. The Dodgers payroll allows them to make a move like this and possibly miss the mark. The Reds payroll is dependent on the team’s front office making financially responsible signings and trades.

Next: 5 Reds players set to improve in 2019

With all the offensively talented players on the Reds roster capable of playing centerfield, the team does not need to invest in a long-term option in free agency. However, acquiring a player like Adam Jones or Denard Span could be a nice, one-year acquisition that could provide a defensive upgrade over Schebler and bridge the gap until Siri or Trammell are able to take over in 2020.

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