Reds: Despite being outplayed, Aristides Aquino will make the roster

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 29: Aristides Aquino #44 of the Cincinnati Reds reacts as he rounds the bases. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 29: Aristides Aquino #44 of the Cincinnati Reds reacts as he rounds the bases. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

An arbiter ruled that Cincinnati Reds outfielder Aristides Aquino is out of minor-league options. This virtually guarantees that Aquino, despite being outplayed by several of his teammates this spring, will make the Opening Day roster.

Aquino burst onto the scene in August of 2019 with 14 home runs, but the shine has faded since then and The Punisher hasn’t looked the same. This spring, Aquino is hitting .241/.353/.448 with four doubles, a triple, and two RBIs.

Aristides Aquino is virtual lock for the Reds Opening Day roster.

Stranger things have happened, but it would be a very foolish decision for the Reds front office and coaching staff to designate Aristides Aquino for assignment prior to the 2021 season. Without the ability to option the 26-year-old to Triple-A Louisville, every other major league ball club would have the opportunity to claim Aquino before he’d be able to suit up for the Bats.

Fortunately for Aquino, several factors are working his favor. For starters, Shogo Akiyama will start the 2021 season on the injured list with a hamstring injury. Last year’s free agent signee will be out of action for a few a more weeks and a rehab assignment may be necessary depending on the severity of Akiyama’s injury.

With a starting outfield of Jesse Winker (LF), Nick Senzel (CF), and Nick Castellanos (RF), the Reds will need at least one, if not two reserve outfielders. Despite a terrific spring, Scott Heineman has already been optioned to Triple-A Louisville and is unlikely to be on Cincinnati’s 26-man roster to start the season.

Mark Payton deserves a spot on the Reds roster over Aristides Aquino.

The one player who’s been overly impressive this spring has been Mark Payton. The former Oakland Athletics minor leaguer was acquired by the Reds in the 2019 Rule 5 Draft, but was offered back to thee A’s prior to the 2020 season.

Payton was eventually traded to Cincinnati and made his big league debut with the Redlegs last season. Payton can defend all three outfield positions and possesses a considerable amount of pop in his bat from the left side. During Cactus League play, Payton has slashed .400/.500/.720. His 1.220 OPS leads the team this spring.

But, Payton has two minor-league options remaining, and sending the 29-year-old down to Triple-A Louisville to begin the 2021 season is the most prudent avenue thee Cincinnati Reds can take. It preserves Aristides Aquino’s standing with the club, and Payton was unlikely to stick in the big leagues all season, so exercising his option early is not an issue.

Tyler Naquin will join Aristides Aquino on the Reds bench.

Finally, we come to Tyler Naquin. A shrewd pick up by GM Nick Krall this offseason, Naquin has put up solid numbers this spring. In 13 games, the former Cleveland Indians’ outfielder is hitting .273/.368/.576 with two doubles, a triple, two home runs, and four RBIs.

There’s just one problem; Naquin is a non-roster invitee and not part of the 40-man roster. But, that’s likely to change. The Reds will have to make some decisions as to who will be removed from the 40-man roster in order to fit Naquin into the equation, but we see that every spring.

Names like Brandon Bailey (60-day IL), Kyle Holder, and Sal Romano will likely be removed in the coming days. Depending on how many players need to be added, it’s possible we see Edgar Garcia, Art Warren, and Deivy Grullon among those let go as well.

Once he’s part of the 40-man roster, the Reds can move Naquin down to Triple-A Louisville if needed, as the 29-year-old has two minor-league options remaining. The Reds dodged a bullet with all the flexibility currently present among their group of outfielders.

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The cruddy part of this situation is that Aristides Aquino will essentially be relegated to a bench bat and may get a spot start once or twice a week. The best thing for Aquino would be to get regular at-bats down in Triple-A. However, with Nick Castellanos’ ability to opt out after the season, the Reds would be wise to keep The Punisher as part of their ball club for the remainder of the year.