The Reds are well-positioned if Joey Votto misses extended time in 2023
By Drew Koch
The Cincinnati Reds made a pair of moves this week. Former San Diego Padres outfielder Wil Myers was signed to a one-year/$7.5M contract and the Redlegs reunited with catcher Curt Casali.
While both of these moves helped solve some of the Reds' immediate needs in both the outfield and behind the plate, there are some even more intriuging aspects of both signings.
Inking both Myers and Casali not only adds some veteran leadership, but by having both players in the fold, Cincinnati has a contingency plan in place should Joey Votto be forced to miss some time in 2023.
The Reds are well-positioned if Joey Votto misses extended time in 2023.
Last season, for the first time since 2014, Joey Votto missed a significant amount of playing time. The six-time All-Star was sidelined for the final two months of the 2022 season after undergoing shoulder surgery.
While Votto is expected to make a full recovery and return for the start of the 2023 season, the Cincinnati Reds are now well-positioned in the event that the former NL MVP is unable to take the field on Opening Day.
Wil Myers, who the Reds certainly signed to play right field in 2023, also has plenty of experience at first base. One might even argue that he's a better defender on the infield dirt than he is on the outfield grass.
Having designated Mike Moustakas for assignment and traded Kyle Farmer, Cincinnati's primary backup at first base is likely to be Myers. Spencer Steer saw some time at the position last season, as did Matt Reynolds. But Steer is likely to be the Reds starting third baseman in 2023 and there's a chance that Reynolds may not even be on the roster after Opening Day.
Tyler Stephenson could see time at first base for the Reds in 2023.
One avenue that could also be explored in 2023 is the idea of playing Tyler Stephenson at first base. This idea has been floated about by several fans, and while there is merit to the idea, it's also a bit flawed.
If Stephenson is pulled from behind the plate and moved to first base, the Reds will have taken a step back in terms of production from the catcher's spot in the lineup. Stephenson is one of the best hitting catchers in the game today, and no player on Cincinnati's roster can duplicate what he brings once he steps into the batters' box.
But, with Curt Casali and Luke Maile now on the 40-man roster, if the Cincinnati Reds decide take three catchers into the 2023 season, David Bell has a lot more flexibility in terms of where Stephenson lines up on a daily basis. Over the course of three days, Stephenson could play catcher, first base, and act as the team's designated hitter.
Tyler Stephenson will still see time behind the dish, regardless of whether or not Joey Votto is healthy. But, having three backstops afford the Reds the ability to see how viable moving Stephenson to first base really is.
With Casali's contract containing a mutual-option for another year, the possibility exists for the veteran to work alongside one of the club's young prospects in 2024 should Cincinnati look to make Tyler Stephenson the heir apparent to Joey Votto at first base.
The Cincinnati Reds also have a very talented, young first base prospect (Christian Encarnacion-Strand) who may be on his way to the bigs next season, so the idea of making a full-on commitment to Stephenson at first base could be a bit premature.