2 Reds who should be signed to contract extensions and 1 who should not

Cincinnati Reds, Tyler Stephenson, Jonathan India
Cincinnati Reds, Tyler Stephenson, Jonathan India / Justin Edmonds/GettyImages
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The Cincinnati Reds are in a difficult spot. The team is obviously rebuilding and in no position to contend for at least another year. But there are several young players within the organization that could be part of the core going forward.

In recent weeks, we've seen players like Joe Musgrove of the San Diego Padres, Daniel Bard of the Colorado Rockies, and Austin Riley of the Atlanta Braves sign multi-year extensions with their respective clubs. The Reds have a few players currently on the roster who should gain similar consideration.

The idea behind extending some of your talent sooner rather than later is that the player gains a measure of financial security sooner than they would through the arbitration process while the team would buyout several years of a player's free agency window at presumably a lower price than if the player were to hit the open market.

We've seen the Reds do this in the past with players like Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, and Eugenio Suarez. With Votto and Mike Moustakas representing the only guaranteed contracts beyond this season, Cincinnati has no financial commitment beyond the 2023 season. Who are the Reds most likely candidates to receive a contract extension in the coming weeks or during the offseason?

The Reds should sign Tyler Stephenson to a contract extension.

The No. 1 player on this list has to be Tyler Stephenson. Whether he's playing catcher, first base, or hitting as the designated hitter, Stephenson is a difference-maker in the Cincinnati Reds lineup and needs to be part of the organization for years to come.

Stephenson does not become arbitration eligible until after the 2023 season and would not enter free agency until after his 2026 campaign. Stephenson is the most valuable player in the Reds organization moving forward and the team needs to do everything they can to retain his services over the long haul.

The question on the minds of every fan is where will Stephenson line up defensively. Some are adamant that Stephenson should switch from catcher to first base once Joey Votto decides to retire. If you ask Stephenson, he's a catcher and has no desire to move from the position he's played throughout his entire career.

Regardless of where he lines up on the field, Tyler Stephenson needs to be part of the Reds organization for the next five-plus years. There's not much precedent in terms of contract extensions for young catchers like Tyler Stephenson.

The last big contract extension for a backstop was Salvador Perez's four-year/$82M contract with the Kansas City Royals. But Perez had already played nine years, earned five Gold Gloves, three Silver Slugger Award, and participated in six All-Star Games. He was also entering his age 31 season. Stephenson just turned 26 years old.

The Reds should sign Jonathan India to a contract extension.

If Tyler Stephenson is 1A, then Jonathan India is 1B. Last year's National League Rookie of the Year has struggled to stay healthy during his sophomore campaign, but when he's healthy, India sets the table for the Cincinnati Reds lineup.

David Bell inserted India as the team's leadoff hitter midway through the 2021 season and the Reds' lineup became one of the most feared in the league. Granted, India had the likes of Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker, and Joey Votto behind him, but it was the entire team flipped the switch once India's name was written atop Bell's lineup card.

India is a gritty, hard-nosed ballplayer who wants to play every day. He embodies everything that the Cincinnati faithful love to see in their team. With Votto entering the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2023, India would be the most likely candidate to become the new face of the franchise.

India, just like Stephenson, will be pre-arbitration eligible this winter and won't free agency until after the 2026 season. If the Reds, as many believe they could, reach their window for contention during the 2025 season, then having India along for the ride is a must.

The question with Jonathan India, just like Tyler Stephenson, is whether or not he'll continue to play the position he currently occupies. Some believe a move to the outfield will be necessary. India's defensive numbers at second base this season are not good. The 25-year-old has a fielding percentage of .962 and, according to Fielding Bible, has -9 defensive runs saved (DRS) in 2022.

The Reds should not sign Hunter Greene to a contract extension.

Aaron Ashby recently signed a five-year/$20.5M contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. Through escalators and club-options, the contract could be worth up to $46M over seven years. Ashby had appeared in less than 35 games prior to signing the contract extension.

Signing young pitchers to lucrative deals is a dangerous practice and one the Cincinnati Reds should table for now. If the team was unwilling to hand out a contract extension to the likes of Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo, it's a god bet that the club won't be looking to sign Hunter Greene to a long-term contract.

Greene has had a productive first year in the bigs, but has seen a lot of ups and downs. Greene's 127 strikeouts leads the team. But he also leads Cincinnati in walks (41) and home runs allowed (23). Greene is currently on the IL with a shoulder strain but is expected to return before the end of the season.

There's always reason for concern when it comes to signing pitchers to long-term deals, especially considering that Greene underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019. While the right-hander seems to have recovered nicely, there's always that uneasiness that such an injury could occur again.

Of all the rookie pitchers who've appeared for the Cincinnati Reds in 2022, Hunter Greene has the most raw ability and could be a star for years to come. Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft might be more polished, but on pure stuff, the nod goes to Greene.

Before the Reds are ready to dole out a check filled with a bunch of zeroes to any of their young hurlers, perhaps the team should see what type of progress the trio makes entering their second year in the bigs. After the 2023 season, perhaps the front office will be looking to lock up one or more of their starters for quite some time.