Scooter Gennett will be out of action until at least mid-May. By moving José Peraza to second base and inserting José Iglesias at shortstop, the Cincinnati Reds have addressed their most glaring weakness.
Entering the 2019 season everyone was fairly confident the Cincinnati Reds would be able to swing the bats and put runs on the board and an improved starting rotation addressed the club’s biggest deficiency this offseason. However, one lingering question remained; could the team play even league-average defense?
Last year the Cincinnati Reds infield defense left much to be desired. José Peraza led all National League shortstops with 22 errors. Second baseman Scooter Gennett finished third in the league with 11 miscues, while Eugenio Suárez committed the second most errors at the hot corner. Needless to say every ground ball was an adventure last year for the Reds’ infield.
However, with injuries comes opportunities. In February, the Cincinnati Reds front office made what may very well be one of the biggest acquisitions of the offseason. Former Detroit Tigers shortstop José Iglesias signed a minor league deal on February 23rd with the club. Igelsias brings Gold Glove caliber defense to an infield in desperate need of a reliable glove.
Once it was determined that second baseman Scooter Gennett would be out 8-12 weeks due to a groin injury an important decision had to be made. The easy call would have been to insert utility man Derek Dietrich, who also signed a minor league deal with the club in February, at second base.
The former Miami Marlin has logged 192 games at second base throughout Dietrich’s 6 years in South Florida. While Dietrich can adequately replace the left-handed power hitting void left by Gennett, the infield defense would still be a major cause for concern.
New Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell had a choice. Make Dietrich the second baseman and ride his offense or move José Peraza to second and make José Iglesias the every day shortstop. Bell made the right call in sacrificing some offense for much needed defense in the infield.
By moving Peraza to second base the Reds are able to keep his reliable and improving bat in the line-up, but also puts him in a position to succeed defensively. The 24-year-old Venezuelan started 69 games at second during the 2017 season. In 309 chances at second that year he committed just 3 errors.
José Peraza also ranked fourth among NL second baseman with a +4 mark in total zone fielding runs above average (TZL). This metric measures the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made.
Peraza’s move to second also provides many possibilities for the Reds’ future. The timing of Scooter Gennett’s injury could not be worse for him. The 28-year-old Gennett is eligible for free agency following this season. Nevertheless, the Cincinnati Reds have displayed little interest in signing Gennett to a long-term deal.
With the Reds having at least 2 months to evaluate the double play combination of José Peraza and José Iglesias, it’s possible they could decide this is the combo of the future. The 29-year-old Iglesias, like Gennett, is eligible for free agency following the 2019 campaign. The Cuban native will most likely command far less money contract-wise and his defensive artistry fills a need Gennett’s skill set cannot.
An old baseball adage states that a club must have strong defense up the middle of the diamond. Former Gold Glove winning catcher Tucker Barnhart, shortstop José Iglesias and second baseman José Peraza just might provide that much needed defense for years to come in the Queen City.