3 Reds infield prospects most likely to be traded for outfield help

Cincinnati Reds non-roster invitee infielder Matt McLain.
Cincinnati Reds non-roster invitee infielder Matt McLain. / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY
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The Cincinnati Reds desperately need to improve the team's outfield heading into the 2023 season. One way in which the front office is looking to solve this problem is by aggressively shopping some of the club's shortstop prospects.

Four of Cincinnati's Top 5 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, are middle infielders. Noelvi Marte, Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, and Edwin Arroyo are all shortstops by trade. Throw in Cam Collier, Spencer Steer, and Sal Stewart, and the Reds have an influx of infield talent in their farm system.

If Cincinnati is indeed shopping some of their infielders, which three prospects are most likely to be on the chopping block? Don't worry, De La Cruz and Marte are not on the list.

1. Reds SS Jose Torres could be on the chopping block.

The Cincinnati Reds have so many highly-regarded shortstop prospects that a player like Jose Torres gets lost in the shuffle. A third-round pick of the Reds back in 2021, Torres had a fine second year in the minor leagues last season.

Drafted in the 24th round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019, Torres decided to attend North Carolina State University and improved his stock tremendously. Torres spent all of last season at High-A Dayton, but was unable to duplicate the terrific hitting statistics he put up in 2021.

Torres, however, has always been regarded more for his defense than his hitting. The 23-year-old has the instincts and arm strength to be a regular at the major league level, but his hitting has to elevate beyond the .234/.287/.378 slash line Torres produced in 2022.

Jose Torres is not going to fetch an elite-level outfield prospect, but could be packaged with another player within the Cincinnati Reds farm system. Offloading Torres could, if nothing else, offer more playing time to one of the franchise's rising stars in Edwin Arroyo.

2. Reds SS Matt McLain could be on the chopping block.

Next year is going to be crucial for Matt McLain. If he stays with the Cincinnati Reds, one would assume that the former first-round pick is going to have to move to the outfield. McLain played on the outfield grass during his freshman season at UCLA, but since then has remained on the infield dirt.

Perhaps the best way for the Reds to eliminate the glut of shortstops currently clogging Cincinnati's pipeline is to trade McLain. If the club truly believes, as one assumes they do, that Elly De La Cruz is going to be a superstar, then McLain needs to be dealt.

McLain, more than any other infield prospect sans De La Cruz, is close to being major league-ready. If he has a successful spring, McLain could break onto a team's Opening Day roster or perhaps would need the first two months of the 2023 season to get up to speed.

The Cincinnati Reds have Jonathan India installed at second base, and while some fans throughout the tri-state area would love to see the 2021 NL Rookie of the Year moved to the outfield, that does not appear to be in the cards.

Matt McLain may be the most likely shortstop to be traded prior to the 2023 season. Cincinnati chose to keep him at shortstop while playing in the Arizona Fall League, which may suggest that the team sees his greatest value as a trade chip who plays a premium position.

3. Reds IF Spencer Steer could be on the chopping block.

Trading Spencer Steer would seem to be less likely than dealing Matt McLain, simply because the former Minnesota Twins prospect is more of a second baseman than a shortstop. But Steer has played multiple positions throughout his time in the Reds organization.

Cincinnati acquired Steer last summer as part of the trade that sent Tyler Mahle to Minnesota. In addition, the Reds also received pitcher Steve Hajjar and infielder Christian Encarnacion-Strand.

Whether or not the Reds are ready to commit to Steer over the long haul may have less to do with his abilities and more to do with how the rest of farm system is shaping up. Cincinnati appears ready to shift Noelvi Marte from shortstop to third base, and the aforementioned Encarnacion-Strand can play both first and third base.

The advantage of trading Steer is that a team who's looking for an immediate, major league-ready upgrade could see the 25-year-old as a regular at either second or third base in 2023. Steer is also still considered a rookie despite playing 28 games with the Reds last season.

Spencer Steer is well regarded as being an extremely disciplined hitter, but his role may be best suited as that of a utility player. If another team inquires as to Steer's availability, Cincinnati should definitely entertain the idea if it brings back a starting-caliber outfield prospect.

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