Evaluating the Reds third base options for the 2022 season

Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez (7) reacts with Mike Moustakas.
Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez (7) reacts with Mike Moustakas. / David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

This may be the most difficult position to evaluate heading into the 2022 season. While Eugenio Suárez began the 2021 season as the Cincinnati Reds starting shortstop, the veteran infielder ended the season at third base.

Mike Moustakas, Cincinnati's big free agent signing prior to the 2020 season, ended his 2021 campaign on the injured list. Moose struggled mightily at the dish, as did Geno until the tail end of last season. Does any one player have the edge over another heading into next season? Is there another player on the roster more deserving of a chance to suit up and start at the hot corner?

Who will be the Reds third baseman in 2022?

Let's get this out of the way first...Eugenio Suárez is not a shortstop. We can all lament on David Bell's decision to start Geno at shortstop last season, but don't forget that position change afforded Jonathan India the opportunity to be the everyday second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds in 2021.

That said, Suárez is a much defender at third base than shortstop. Suárez is especially better than Moustakas who, when healthy, just never seemed to make even the routine play. Moose was worth -6 defensive runs saved at the hot corner in 2021. Suárez was worth -3 DRS. Per Baseball Savant, Moustakas was worth -4 outs above average and Suárez was worth 2 OAA in 2021.

If the Reds are looking to upgrade the position from a defensive perspective, perhaps the team should run out Kyle Farmer as Cincinnati's starting third baseman. Farmer was able to hold his own at shortstop in 2021, but with the ascension of Jose Barrero, Farmer may not have a regular spot in the lineup next season.

The possibility also exists for the Cincinnati Reds to finally put a stop to the Nick Senzel outfield experiment. But, as was mentioned while evaluating the team's options in center field, Senzel's injury history makes it impossible to count on his as an everyday player.

In all seriousness, while it would not be surprising at all to see Farmer or Senzel garner a little bit of time at third base, with the salaries of both Geno and Moose combining for over $25M heading into the 2022 season, one or both will log the lion's share of innings at the hot corner.

With the likely addition of the designated hitter to the National League in 2022, the most logical thing for the Reds to do is to allow Eugenio Suárez to play third base while Mike Moustakas gets the majority of starts as the team's DH.

The Reds do not have a major league-ready third baseman in the farm system, but all signs point to Elly De La Cruz possibly being that guy down the road. De La Cruz has the potential to be a five-tool player and has seen time at shortstop and third base.

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There is also the possibility that Mike Moustakas or Eugenio Suárez could be traded after the MLB lockout. Both have high salaries, however, and Cincinnati is likely to get little back in return or surrender a high-value prospect.