You don’t see it too often, but the Cincinnati Reds are running out of options. Might general manager Nick Krall make a call to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ front office to inquire as to the availability of a couple infielders?
The Pirates are in full-on rebuild mode. We’ve seen the Buccos rid themselves of first baseman Josh Bell, right-hander Jameson Taillon, and starting pitcher Joe Musgrove. So what’s next? Perhaps the Reds could solve their shortstop quandary by picking up the phone and calling Ben Cherrington.
Erik González could fill the void at shortstop for the Reds, for now.
No, a five-year veteran with a career WAR of 1.4 is not ideal, but the Reds lack of urgency this winter has put them in a difficult position. If the goal is to avoid going into the season with José García gaining more experience in the minors, then in order to upgrade the shortstop position, Cincinnati is going to have to swing a trade.
Erik González was thought to be a non-tender candidate earlier this offseason. The Pirates chose, instead, to keep the 29-year-old and signed him to a one-year/$1.23M contract. For the cost-conscience Reds front office, that number is ideal. González’s history at the plate is another story.
For his career, Erik González has a slash line of .250/.283/.362. With nine career home runs and only 53 RBIs over 585 career at-bats, González brings little to table in terms of offensive production. Defensively, however, González has three defensive runs saved (DRS) while playing shortstop and posted three outs above average (OAA) according to Baseball Savant.
González is arbitration eligible for one more season before becoming a free agent following the 2022 season, but in terms of a short-term solution, González would be affordable and probably cost the Reds little more than a mid-tier prospect. Cincinnati could deal a prospect like Bren Spillane or Chris Okey to Pittsburgh in exchange for Erik González.
Kevin Newman would offer a solid bat to the Reds lineup.
If defense is not important, then Kevin Newman is your guy. According to Baseball Savant, Newman put up -1 OAA, and for his career, Newman has -13 DRS according to FanGraphs. Despite Newman’s atrocious numbers in 2020 (.224/.281/.276) Newman’s 89 OPS+ is still 17 points higher than González’s (72 OPS+).
Newman is pre-arbitration eligible and in 2019 put up solid offensive statistics. Newman posted an OPS of .800 while slugging 12 homers and racking up 64 RBIs. Newman carries a bit more value, and certainly would be a better option at the dish than Erik González.
With that in mind, it would be a bit more costly in terms of prospects in order to land Kevin Newman. The Cincinnati Reds may have to fork over a player like Lyon Richardson or Michael Siani. Or, the team could build a trade package around a couple prospects like Tony Santillan and Ivan Johnson.
It’s not often you see teams from within the same division make a deal, as neither side wants to see a former player excel with a division rival. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and the free agent market void of any real shortstop talent, a trade looks to be the only way Cincinnati can upgrade the shortstop position.
We mentioned the Tampa Bay Rays as a potential trade partner, as Willy Adames could become available. However, that deal would cost the Reds a lot in terms of prospects, and with a depleted farm system, Cincinnati may not have the juice to get that type of deal done.