Cincinnati Reds: Derek Dietrich could bump Josh VanMeter to the minors

The Cincinnati Reds signed Derek Dietrich to a minor-league contract. The slugger could challenge Josh VanMeter for a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Get ready Reds Country, because Derek Dietrich is back! Well, sort of. The Cincinnati Reds signed Dietrich to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training. The Reds had designated Dietrich for assignment earlier this offseason. With Dietrich back in the fold, that could spell trouble for Josh VanMeter, as the two offer similar profiles, both at the dish and in the field.

Dietrich’s position with the Reds is anything but a guarantee. The left-handed slugging Dietrich exploded onto the scene during the early part of the 2019 season, but torpedoed as the season progressed, finishing with a .187 batting average.

Despite the horrendous downfall we saw from Dietrich to close out the 2019 season, the 30-year-old still finished a .790 OPS , 19 home runs and 43 RBIs. Dietrich was third on the team in homers and sixth in runs batted in, even though he only had 251 at-bats.

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Derek Dietrich wore a lot of hat for the Cincinnati Reds in 2019. The Ohio native played first, second and third base, as well as left field. The majority of Dietz starts came at second base, something that could be very valuable if Eugenio Suárez misses any time. Mike Moustakas could slide over to third base with Dietrich manning second.

All of this conjecture is based around the idea that Dietrich returns the player Reds fans saw in April, not August. If by the end of spring ball, Dietrich is hitting below .200, there’s no way he breaks camp with Cincinnati. However, if the version of Dietrich we all know and love shows his face in Goodyear, Josh VanMeter may be headed back to Triple-A Louisville to begin the season.

Essentially, both Dietrich and VanMeter occupy very similar roles. Both are left-handed hitters with pop. VanMeter had a higher on-base percentage (.327) last season, but Dietrich showcased his power with a .462 slugging percentage. Both saw time at both first and second base, and also the outfield.

Dietrich, however, is on a minor-league contract and has no options remaining. VanMeter has two minor-league options remaining and doesn’t even reach arbitration eligibility until 2023. For the long haul, VanMeter is the guy. But, in the short-term, if Dietrich produces, the Reds should ride him into the regular season.

The Reds obviously made the right call in not retaining Dietrich’s services via arbitration. He would have made much more money than what he’s looking to make should he find a way onto the roster. Plus, there’s no telling what to expect from Derek Dietrich once he lands in Arizona.

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I maintain to this day, that Dietrich was playing hurt last season. We saw him finish the season on the injured list after going on the IL earlier in the season with a shoulder injury. If Dietrich comes back and is staring down majestic moonshots as they land in the upper deck, he’ll make the Opening Day roster. If not, Cincinnati’s lost nothing by bringing back a fan favorite.

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