3 infielders the Reds should consider trading and 4 who should be off limits

If the Reds are looking to upgrade the starting rotation, trading one of the team's many infielders might be the easiest way to do so.

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand (33)
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand (33) / David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
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With the recent rumors that the Cincinnati Reds are interested in signing Jeimer Candelario in free agency, there's a growing sense among the fanbase that one or more of the team's top infielders could be traded this offseason.

This shouldn't come as a shock. With so much depth on the infield dirt and a lack of starting pitching, one of the best ways for the Reds to add some arms this offseason would be through a trade or two.

There are, however, some infielders who should be off limits in trades talks this offseason. But there are a few who could be moved if the price is right. But which players should the Reds cling to, and who should be made available?

Reds infielder Spencer Steer should be off limits this offseason

Though Spencer Steer's future with the Cincinnati Reds might not be as an infielder, for the purposes of this exercise, let's consider that he is. The majority of Steer's starts in 2023 came on the infield dirt, though he did get ample opportunities on the outfield grass as well.

And that, perhaps more than anything else, is the biggest reason why Steer should be off limits in trade talks this offseason. The 25-year-old is the most versatile player on the entire Reds roster.

Aside from one game in the minor leagues last season, Steer didn't even play the outfield until this year. Steer also started plenty of games at first, second, and third base while also putting up terrific numbers in the batters' box.

Steer was even nominated for a Silver Slugger Award this past season. Though the BBWAA didn't think enough of him to even include Steer among the top rookie performers, he led all National League rookies in doubles this past season and mashed 23 round-trippers.

Spencer Steer is the type of player the Cincinnati Reds need to build their team around. The Reds fleeced the Minnesota Twins by snagging both Steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand at the 2022 trade deadline. The Reds can ill-afford to ship the talented infielder elsewhere this offseason.

The Reds should consider trading Nick Senzel this offseason

While some might not even consider Nick Senzel an infielder, for the first time in his major league career, the former first-round pick was finally given several opportunities to actually showcase his talents on the infield dirt.

A natural third baseman, Senzel saw time at both second and third in 2023. Senzel saw his playing time greatly diminish after the promotions of players like Elly De La Cruz and Matt McLain, and there was discussion of a possible trade at the August 1st deadline last season.

The Cincinnati Reds demoted Senzel to Triple-A midway through the season, and were it not for rash of injuries at the close of 2023, it's possible that the 27-year-old would have finished the year with the Louisville Bats.

Nick Senzel has become almost unplayable against right-handed pitching, though the University of Tennessee alum had success against southpaws in 2023. But with a raise due through arbitration heading into 2024, it would appear as though Senzel's time in Cincinnati is coming to an end.

There may not be many takers, and it's doubtful that Senzel would fetch much in terms of a return. The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft may well be non-tendered later his month, but if there's a trade on the table, even for a low-level minor league prospect, the Reds should take it.

Reds infielder Elly De La Cruz should be off limits this offseason

Elly De La Cruz began his major league campaign with a bang. The electric prospectst, known for his speed on the base paths, power from both sides of the plate, and a cannon for his right arm, showed off all his tools early and often in 2023.

Unfortunately, opposing pitchers quickly adapted and found a hole in De La Cruz's swing. Breaking balls off the plate became De La Cruz's nemesis and the rookie struggled mightily during the second-half of the season.

There were times when De La Cruz was almost unplayable due to his extremely high strikeout-rate. But despite his struggles, the talent shined through, and at 21 years old, even the harshest critic can see that De La Cruz has elite ability.

While the Cincinnati Reds could get an absolute haul if Elly De La Cruz were to be made available in trade discussions this offseason, the shortstop is one player that should be off limits. In fact, if a rival GM even whispers his name to Nick Krall, the Reds President of Baseball Operations should immediately hang up the phone.

Set aside the elite skillset for a moment, and think about the marketing opportunities that come along with a player like De La Cruz. His jersey sales are already among the Top 20 in Major League Baseball.

If he reaches his ceiling, as most believe he can, the sky is the limit for Elly De La Cruz. While this one was easy, it needs to be stated that De La Cruz should be off limits this offseason.

The Reds should consider trading Jonathan India this offseason

This, much like Nick Senzel, is a name that won't come as much of a shock to the majority of Cincinnati Reds fans. Jonathan India's name has been in trade rumors since before the August 1st deadline this past summer.

It is peculiar that the Reds would even entertain the idea of trading the 2021 NL Rookie of the Year, but after back-to-back injury-plagued seasons that saw the former first-round pick fall short of expectations, it's not surprising to see India's name in trade speculation once again.

India was the heartbeat of the Reds in 2023, and that's not the type of player who's easily replaced. However, the Reds have an abundance of players who could take over at second base - a position that India didn't particulary excel at in the first place.

Jonathan India probably has more value on the trade market than most Reds fans realize. India is a contact hitter who has good understanding of the strike zone and has above-average speed on the base paths. India fits the mold of what several GMs are looking for this winter.

While Reds President of Baseball Operations Nick Krall and has rebuffed the idea that India would be traded this offseason, most pundits assume that the 26-year-old could be moved if the price is right. If India could be packaged for a starter or reliever this offseason, Krall would have to consider it.

Reds infielder Matt McLain should be off limits this offseason

Were it not for a season-ending injury during the final month of his first year in the big leauges, there's a good chance that Matt McLain would have been among the Top 3 finalist for the 2023 National League Rookie of the Year Award.

The Cincinnati Reds made McLain the first rookie infielder to debut this past season, and the former UCLA Bruin did not disappoint. McLain flashed the leather and brought some punch to the heart of the Reds lineup in 2023. McLain also showed off his wheels and recorded double-digit stolen bases.

Aside from Spencer Steer, McLain brings more versatility to the Reds infield than almost any other player. McLain is able to play above-average defense at both shortstop and second base. In college, McLain also played center field - a position he may one day play in the majors.

McLain should have his spot on the Cincinnati Reds 2024 Opening Day lineup card all but cemented. Whether he's playing shortstop or second base, McLain should have his name written in permanent marker as hitting second in the batting order on March 28th against the Washington Nationals.

If Elly De La Cruz is No. 1 among the players who should be off limits in trade talks this offseason, Matt McLain is 1A. The 24-year-old looks the part and should be a force in the Reds lineup next season.

The Reds should consider trading Christian Encarnacion-Strand this offseason

In no way is this a call for Cincinnati Reds President of Baseball Operations Nick Krall to start shopping Christian Encarnacion-Strand. But if teams inquire as to what it would take to secure the slugger's services, the Reds should definitely listen.

Encarnacion-Strand is the odds-on favorite to replace Joey Votto at first base heading into next season. The former Minnesota Twins farmhand has plenty of pop from the right side and looks to be a middle-of-the-order bat that you could set your watch to.

However, if the Reds are truly looking to pursue Jeimer Candelario in free agency, it's most likely to play one of the corner infield spots. That's the exact same role that Encarnacion-Strand plays, as last year's rookie saw time at both first and third base.

The Cincinnati Reds also have Spencer Steer. Even if the rumors attached Candelario are not true or the veteran infielder signs a free agent deal elsewhere, Steer looked more than comfortable playing first base in Votto's absence during the first-half of the 2023 season.

In no way should Christian Encarnacion-Strand, or any other infielder for that matter, just be traded away in order to make room on the roster. But if trading Encarnacion-Strand was able to help secure a pitcher like Logan Gilbert or Dylan Cease, the Reds would be foolish not to consider it.

Reds infielder Noelvi Marte should be off limits this offseason

Noelvi Marte barely got his feet wet in 2023, but fans saw enough from the club's top prospect to get excited. In fact, that remarkable hitting streak at the end of last season will carry over into Opening Day in 2024.

As excited as the Reds fanbase is about Elly De La Cruz, they should maintain that same level of enthusiasm concerning Marte - perhaps even more so. While De La Cruz looked lost in the batters' box at times during his rookie campaign, Marte appeared to be locked in.

Marte brings a smooth right-handed stroke to the middle of the Reds batting order and the defensive versatility to play both shortstop and third base. Don't sleep on the idea that, over the long haul, Marte may well be the Reds starting shortstop instead of De La Cruz.

Marte mixes power with contact, and while he doesn't possess that elite speed that De La Cruz, the 21-year-old is not slow on the base paths. Marte's first measurable "stat" in the big leagues was actually a stolen bases that he recorded as a pinch runner.

Despite playing during the final month of the 2023 season, Noelvi Marte's rookie status is still in intact heading into 2024, meaning that he's under team-control through at least 2029. The Reds are unlikley to part ways with a player who won't even reach arbitration until 2027.