Reds: Dee Strange-Gordon’s versatility opens another roster spot

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Dee Strange-Gordon (6) grabs a bouncing ground ball.
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Dee Strange-Gordon (6) grabs a bouncing ground ball. /

Count me in among the skeptics when the Cincinnati Reds signed Dee Strange-Gordon to a minor-league contract earlier this offseason. My doubts had to do with Strange-Gordon’s ability to be the team’s regular shortstop.

However, after David Bell made the switch to Eugenio Suárez taking reps at his former position, it now seems as though Strange-Gordon, along with Kyle Farmer, will  be relegated to the role of utility player. That, I can deal with.

Dee Strange-Gordon can give the Reds an additional outfielder.

Dee Strange-Gordon has a lot of familiarity with second base. While it looks as though Jonathan India will break camp with the Reds and be the starter at the keystone, don’t rule out Strange-Gordon grabbing a start here or there at second base.

While Strange-Gordon was brought into camp to compete for a spot in the starting lineup at shortstop, that spot looks like it’s Suárez’s to lose. Even if Geno doesn’t excel at the spot defensively, having the former All-Star third baseman take over at shortstop still allows the Reds to put their best lineup on the field night in and night out.

Where adding Strange-Gordon to the 26-man roster could come in handy, especially early this season, is in the outfield. Nick Senzel is the starting centerfielder and will be flanked by Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos, but with Shogo Akiyama nursing a hamstring injury, the Reds outfield depth has taken a hit.

Strange-Gordon played center field for the Mariners in 2018 and started 10 games in left field for Seattle last season. While his arm probably prevents Strange-Gordon from taking reps in right field, the 32-year-old’s elite speed could provide a boost to Cincinnati’s outfield.

Dee Strange-Gordon’s presence could allow an extra infielder to stick.

The players most likely to benefit from Dee Strange-Gordon’s ability to play the outfield are Mike Freeman, Max Schrock, and Alex Blandino. Schrock may make the Opening Day roster despite the fact Strange-Gordon can move to the outfield grass. But it’s hard to see Blandino making the cut unless Joey Votto hasn’t fully recovered and misses out on Opening Day.

With Scott Heineman optioned to Triple-A Louisville, it’s become obvious that he will not replace Votto should the six-time All-Star miss any time to start this season. Blandino has experience at first base and could fill in should Votto not be ready for April’s opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.

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A bench of Strange-Gordon, Blandino, Schrock, Farmer, and Tyler Stephenson is possible. However, don’t discount Tyler Naquin’s ability to make the roster. Aristides Aquino may be the one who’ll suffer the most if Bell views Strange-Gordon as more than a utility infielder.