The Reds should pause contract extension talks with C/ DH Tyler Stephenson.
The Cincinnati Reds came into the 2023 season looking to protect one of their best hitters. Tyler Stephenson was informed before the season that he'd no longer be playing exclusively behind the plate. Instead, he's been sharing catching duties with Luke Maile and Curt Casali while also acting as the team's DH and seeing time at first base.
The idea of Stephenson transitioning from a catcher into a first baseman sounded great until last August when the Reds traded for Christian Encarnacion-Strand. While Joey Votto has yet to play in what's likely his final season in Cincinnati, Encarnacion-Strand has been taking the majority of reps at first base down at Triple-A Louisville this season.
Encarnacion-Strand's dominance down on the farm will eventually translate into a major league call-up. But if Encarnacion-Strand is to log most of his innings at first base, what's Stephenson to do on the days he's not behind the plate?
Of course the Reds could plug Stephenson into the DH role, but Cincinnati is not a franchise that is likely to pay top-dollar for a player that only swings the bat and doesn't play defense. Speaking of which, Stephenson's defensive has been below-average this season. So has his framing of pitches according to FanGraphs.
Then you have the matter of Stephenson's bat letting him down thus far in 2023. The 26-year-old has a wRC+ below 100 and has really not tapped into that power either. Is it due to last year's injury? Perhaps. But that brings us right back to another reason to avoid contract talks at this time.
If Tyler Stephenson rebounds, and gets back to the player that Reds Country knows and loves, then perhaps it's worth negotiating a long-term contract during the offseason. But there are just too many variables at play right now for the Reds to commit a lot of zeroes to Stephenson's paycheck.