The Cincinnati Reds signed Derek Dietrich to a minor-league deal. The injury to Eugenio Suárez gives Dietrich a chance to crack the Opening Day roster.
Was Eugenio Suárez‘s injury the sole reason that the Cincinnati Reds signed Derek Dietrich? I don’t think so, but it presents a phenomenal opportunity for Dietrich to crack the Opening Day roster. While he’ll face some stiff competition during spring training, Dietrich has a real shot to make the team out of Goodyear.
Suárez suffered an injury to his right shoulder during a swimming accident. It required surgery to remove some loose cartilage, and there’s a chance that Geno could miss the start of the 2020 season. Sad news to be sure, but the signing of Dietrich gives hope should Suárez be out for a couple of weeks.
Now, before I go into this possibility, let me say that I’m fully aware of Dietrich’s shortcomings following his outburst in April and May. The left-handed slugger slashed .269/.373/.700 with 17 home runs and 37 RBIs through June 2nd last season, only to go 12-for-121 down the stretch and finish with a batting average of .187 to close out his 2019 campaign.
That said, if Eugenio Suárez is going to miss any time to begin the season, Dietrich would be a perfect substitute for the Reds third baseman. That said, I’m not advocating that Dietz play the hot corner, but rather imply that Mike Moustakas should slide over to third base, allowing Dietrich to take over at second base until Geno is healthy.
Some fans will advocate for Josh VanMeter in that scenario, and that’s not all bad. VanMeter is a talented, young player, but he has minor-league options remaining and one could argue that Dietrich is the better defender, however, neither player is going to win a Gold Glove at second base.
Nick Senzel‘s name has been tossed around as well. In fact, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon predicts that Senzel will see time in the infield next season due to the influx of talented outfielders on the Reds roster. That idea is certainly plausible, and one I can rally behind quicker than seeing VanMeter take over in Suárez’s absence.
However, my money’s on Derek Dietrich helping to fill the fill the void in Geno’s absence. This would be especially true if a right-hander is on the mound. Dietrich’s OPS against right-handed pitchers .829 last season. It dropped to .422 against southpaws.
I still maintain that Dietrich was playing through injuries last season. Dietrich landed on the injured list in early-August with inflammation in his left shoulder. Reds skipper David Bell, via MLB.com, addressed the injury and how Dietrich was dealing with it last summer:
“It went from being a nuisance to being more of a stabbing [pain] in his shoulder. It got to a point where he was trying to do everything he could to stay out there. I think it probably affected his swing.”
If you’ve watched Derek Dietrich for more than a minute, you know that he portrays the image of a tough guy who’s going to grind it out to the bitter end. He’s also not going to make excuses for poor performance, and he never did. However, Dietrich’s desire to play every game he could may have affected his better judgment, and also his swing.
If Dietz returns to form during spring training, he’ll be among the multitude competing for a spot on the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day roster. If Eugenio Suárez returns to action quicker than expected, Dietrich’s hopes for making the roster may take a major hit.
However, with the extra roster spot added this season, a player like Dietrich could be the perfect player to snag the 26th spot. A left-handed, power-hitter with positional versatility fits perfectly into that niche.
The injury suffered by Eugenio Suárez will, at minimum, give Derek Dietrich a more prominent role during spring camp. There’s very spots up for grabs, but given his track record, a solid showing in Goodyear could land Dietrich on the Opening Day roster.