The Cincinnati Reds made a trade yesterday. No, it wasn’t for Francisco Lindor, but the acquisition of Travis Jankowski could benefit the team in 2020.
Regardless of where Nick Senzel lines up on Opening Day next season, Travis Jankowski has a good chance to be on the Cincinnati Reds roster. The Reds acquired the 28-year-old yesterday from the San Diego Padres, and Jankowski’s speed and versatility could greatly benefit the team in 2020.
A career .241 hitter, Jankowski’s not going to blow anyone away with his offensive statistics. Missing the majority of 2019 with a fractured wrist, Jankowski played in just 25 games for the Friars last season. The left-handed hitter struggled just to get in the lineup, starting just two games in center field.
Under team control through 2022 and with one minor league option remaining, Jankowski is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make $1.2M next season. Mark Sheldon of MLB.com suggested Jankowski may serve as a backup plan should Senzel not be healthy enough to start the season. President of baseball operations Dick Williams had this to say on the subject via MLB.com:
"“That’s not why we did the deal, but it is a bonus. He gives us a different profile player than we currently have. He is a guy that can play center field in the Major Leagues with no problem on Opening Day if Nick is not ready and is extra insurance.”"
Jankowski was once a Top 10 prospect in the Padres farm system according to MLB Pipeline. You’re never going to confuse him for Babe Ruth, as Jankowski has just eight home runs over his five big league seasons, but he is fast. A supplemental first-round draft pick in 2012, Jankowski possesses plus-plus speed and uses it to his advantage.
Jankowski had 30 steals in 2016 and 24 last season. He’s a real threat on the base paths and can use that same speed to track down balls all over the yard. During limited opportunities in his major league career, Jankowski has 15 defensive runs saved while playing all three defensive spots.
If nothing else, Jankowski gives the Reds a player with a similar makeup to Billy Hamilton without the giant price tag. Hamilton would’ve pulled down north of $6M last season, and for a player with his hitting profile, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. However, a much more manageable salary for a player with Jankowski’s makeup could greatly benefit the Reds next season.
How many times did we see an out-of-place José Peraza miss a ball while playing left field. Scott Schebler was not a defensive stalwart in the outfield and Senzel has played all of 96 games in center field. This was a solid addition from the Reds front office, and one that could pay off in 2020.