The Cincinnati Reds set out this offseason to find a starting shortstop. Francisco Lindor was dealt to the New York Mets, and despite trading Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals, it appears that Colorado Rockies’ shortstop Trevor Story is not on the trade block.
The front office tested the free agent market and came up empty. Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, and Marcus Semien have all signed new contracts. Cincinnati has been rumored to be looking at other alternatives via trades. Names like Willy Adames and Amed Rosario have surfaced recently. Even Jonathan Villar has been rumored to be in contract negotiations with the Reds.
As Cincinnati readies to head to Arizona, the shortstop position is still something of a mystery. Is it Kyle Farmer‘s spot to lose? If you read between the lines of Nick Krall’s recent comments, it appears as though Farmer has a legitimate shot to be the team’s Opening Day shortstop. Frankly, I’m okay with that.
The Reds shortstop position appears unsettled.
After signing Dee Strange-Gordon to a minor-league contract, speculation ran rampant that Cincinnati may be looking to the veteran infielder to fill the team’s vacancy at shortstop. Nick Krall was quick to point out that Strange-Gordon will be given an opportunity to play shortstop, but he’s viewed to be more of a utility player for the Reds.
Instead, Cincinnati will head to Goodyear with a bevy of players vying for the role of starting shortstop. Krall didn’t offer many hints as to who has the upper hand in the competition. Here’s what the Reds’ GM had to say to the media via MLB.com:
"“I think we’re going to do what we can there with that group. That’s who we have, and they’re going to compete for that spot. I do believe in those guys. Jose Garcia has a lot of tools and can make a difference, but it’s making sure he puts everything together and becomes the player he needs to be.”"
Knowing what we know, the idea of adding a player like Trevor Story is not happening. Not only would it cost the Reds several young prospects, but Story is a free agent after this season and his 2021 salary is $18.5M. The Reds are not going to gamble away prospects on a one-year rental like Story.
The idea of adding Willy Adames, while intriguing, is unlikely to happen as well. Adames is a fine talent with four years of team control remaining. However, if the Reds front office views José García as the heir apparent at shortstop, why would you trade several high-level prospects for a longterm solution?
Furthermore, the Tampa Bay Rays know what they have in Adames. It’ll take quite the haul to bring Adames to Cincinnati, and that haul could include major-league talent. I’m not sure the Reds should sacrifice a player like Nick Lodolo or Tyler Mahle in order to land Adames whose strikeout-rate in 2020 was 36.1% according to FanGraphs.
Then we come to the likes of Amed Rosario and Jonathan Villar. If the Reds are looking to upgrade the shortstop position via trade, Rosario seems like the most likely player to be part of such a deal. Rosario represents a redundancy in Cleveland’s infield, and his lack of production isn’t going to command a great deal in return.
A combination of Aristides Aquino and a pitching prospect could do the trick. With the universal DH absent from the 2021 season, David Bell is going to have to be creative in order to give adequate playing time to his quartet of outfielders, which may leave Aquino on the outside looking in. Rosario, however, is basically a clone of former Cincinnati shortstop José Peraza.
Villar could be brought to Cincinnati on an inexpensive minor-league deal a la Dee Strange-Gordon. I’d have no problem with such a signing. In fact, I’m all for it. Villar would bring speed to the Cincinnati Reds lineup, but his statistics lineup quite well with last year’s starting shortstop, Freddy Galvis.
Over the past three seasons, Villar has posted a slash line of .263/.328/.405 with 40 home runs and 134 RBIs. Galvis, who recently signed with Villar’s former club, the Baltimore Orioles, hit .250/.299/.408 with 43 home runs and 153 RBIs from 2018-2020.
The Reds should just roll with Kyle Farmer at shortstop.
So, do you want to sell the farm in order to land Willy Adames, sign a free agent who’s eerily similar to last year’s starting shortstop, trade for a replica of a player who was non-tendered last winter, or give Kyle Farmer a chance?
Farmer does not bring a lot of pop to the lineup, but he greatly reduced his strikeout-rate from 2019 (29.9%) to 2020 (18.6%). According to FanGraphs, Farmer also boosted his walk-rate from 5.1% to 7.1%. The Reds have plenty of big boppers in the lineup, so adding a shortstop with plus-power is not necessary. What the Cincinnati Reds need is a player who can get on base.
Farmer increased his on-base percentage from .279 in 2019 to .329 last season. Farmer’s BABIP rose from .284 to .333. Kyle Farmer also saw an increase in the percentage of batted balls with an exit velocity over 95-MPH. In 2019, that number was sitting at 28%, but last season Farmer saw his hard-hit percentage increase to 45.1%.
Farmer is a plus-defender as well. Last season, Farmer recorded 2 defensive runs saved (DRS) while fielding the shortstop position. Just take one look at these two phenomenal defensive plays turned in by Farmer while playing shortstop versus the Kansas City Royals last season, and there’s no doubt the 30-year-old can field the position.
Kyle Farmer is the perfect bridge to José García.
I think we can all agree that José García has a bright future with the Cincinnati Reds. However, the 22-year-old needs to improve at the plate before ascending to the big leagues to take over as the starting shortstop. Though it was a limited number of at-bats in 2020, García looked terribly uncomfortable and needs some more reps in the minor leagues.
Kyle Farmer is a fine baseball player. Given the other hitters in the Reds lineup, there’s no need to concern yourself with Farmer’s ability at the dish. I hate to break it to you, but not every player is going to hit .305, hit 15-plus round trippers, and drive in 70-plus RBIs. We heard all last season about Tucker Barnhart’s lack of hitting, but his work behind the plate demanded he be in the game.
Farmer can give the Reds a reliable glove at shortstop while putting up solid numbers at the plate near the bottom of the Cincinnati batting order. There’s no need for the front office to deal away top level talent if they believe García is close to making the transition to the major leagues. It’s time for Reds Country to accept Kyle Farmer as the starting shortstop for the 2021 season.