2 contract extensions the Reds should make soon and 1 they should avoid

Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson
Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages
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In recent years, it's been the norm to see teams and players come together prior to the start of a season and agree to terms on a new contract. For the Cincinnati Reds, the most recent such transaction was with Eugenio Suarez back in 2018.

Suarez had just lost his arbitration case against the Reds, but the two sides were still able to work out a deal that paid the former third baseman $66M over seven years. Geno was traded to the Seattle Mariners last spring after two sub-par performances but had a nice bounce-back year for the M's.

Heading into spring training, the Reds have no players under contract beyond the upcoming season. It's a perfect time for the Reds' brass to determine which young players the club hopes to buil around for 2024 and beyond. Which two players should be under consideration for a contract extension this spring and who should be put on hold?

Reds should sign Tyler Stephenson to a contract extension soon.

Let's begin with the most obvious. Tyler Stephenson, who suffered three separate freak injuries last season, should be atop the list when it comes to which players within the Cincinnati Reds organization should receive a contract extension. When healthy, Stephenson is among the best hitting catchers in the league.

Now, here's where the difficulty comes in when talking about a contract extension with Stephenson. Is he really a catcher? Stephenson would tell you that he is, but by adding two catchers to the 40-man roster this offseason, the Reds would seem to have their doubts.

By adding Curt Casali and Luke Maile, Cincinnati sent a loud message to Stephenson that his primary role with the club in 2023 might not be behind the plate. Both Nick Krall and David Bell have already talked about Stephenson seeing more time as the team's DH and at first base.

Regardless of where Stephenson lines up defensively, it's obvious that the Reds value his bat and are efforting ways to keep him in the lineup. With Joey Votto in the final year of his contract, many Reds fans would love to see Stephenson take over at first base once the future Hall of Famer is gone.

So, while the Cincinnati Reds might run into problems determining the value of potential contract extension due to the position he plays, it's clear that Tyler Stephenson should be the primary target when it comes to negotiating a new deal. Stephenson will be arbitration eligible for the first time following the 2023 season.

Reds should sign Elly De La Cruz to a contract extension soon.

Whoa, wait a minute! Why in the world should the Cincinnati Reds sign a player to a contract extension if he's yet to even set foot on a major league field? That's a very fair question, and one that will certainly take some explaining.

Elly De La Cruz is thought by many throughout baseball to be a future star. The Athletic's Keith Law (subscription required) thinks that De La Cruz "might end up as the best player in baseball". MLB Pipeline says De La Cruz "has the chance to be a true five-tool player". FanGraphs compares De La Cruz to Fernado Tatis Jr. and Willy Adames.

That is all very high praise and if you've seen De La Cruz play you understand the hype. However, until he makes it to the big leagues, hype is all that it is. That said, if De La Cruz performs at the major league level in the same manner he has the past two seasons in the minors, the Reds will need to lock him up quickly.

The Atlanta Braves signed two of their rookies (Spencer Strider and Michael Harris II) from last season to contract extensions. The Tampa Bay Rays inked shortstop Wander Franco to an 11-year extension after this first major league season. And the Seattle Mariners signed AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez to a massive contract extension last summer.

So, if Elly De La Cruz becomes the type of player that everyone expects him to be, it would be in the Cincinnati Reds best interest to sign him to a contract extension before he prices himself outside their comfort zone. That could happen very quickly.

Reds should avoid signing Jonathan India to a contract extension for now.

A year ago, every Reds fan would probably have been clamoring for Jonathan India to be the player that Cincinnati should build around after Joey Votto hangs up his cleats. What a difference a year makes, huh?

Now, that's not to say that India is a bad player or isn't the same player who won NL Rookie of the Year in 2021. But an injury-plagued season combined with the depth of infielders currently in the Reds farm system certainly raises questions about India's future in the Queen City.

India suffered a hamstring injury in April last year that seemed to linger throughout the entire season. The Reds second baseman was also drilled in the leg by a fastball during the Field of Dreams Game against the Chicago Cubs and had to be airlifted to a local hospital. That injury also took a toll on India over the second-half of the 2022 season.

There's also the below-average defense that India played last season. Many metrics saw a downturn in his production and with the defensive shift being eliminated in 2023, questions about his ability to hold down the fort at second base have risen to the surface as well.

Jonathan India could still be a huge part of the Cincinnati Reds' future. He's the type of gritty, hard-nosed, blue-collar ballplayer that Reds Country loves to cheer for. But before the team goes all-in and inks the former University of Florida star to a huge contract extension, perhaps it would be best to allow India to return to form in 2023. If he does, then the two sides can start talking dollars and cents.

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