The rumor mill is spinning once again, and of course, the Cincinnati Reds are smack-dab in the middle of it. Reports emerged over the weekend that rival executives expect the Reds to trade one of their infielders before spring training begins next month.
Reds fans have heard all offseason that Jonathan India will be traded. But Nick Krall has remained steadfast in his stance that Cincinnati is not looking to trade their second baseman. Despite not agreeing to terms ahead of last week's arbitration deadline, India still remains part of the Reds' plans for the 2024 season.
Though there is reason to give credence to these latest Reds rumors, perhaps it's time to finally bury the notion that Cincinnati will trade one of their many infielders this offseason. After all, there are a myriad of reasons that the Reds should plow ahead despite the overwhelming sentiment that the team has a surplus of infield talent.
The Reds know all too well that injuries are part of the game
As much as fans of every Major League Baseball organization want to believe that their favorite team will go through the upcoming season without sustaining any impactful injuries, that's never the case. Over 162 games, players are bound to suffer sprained ankles, torn ligaments, and a variety of other maladies.
Last year alone, saw 687 players spend over 45,393 days on the injured list. Teams spent a cumulative total of $970 million on those injured players. Only the Los Angeles Angels (35) had more players on the IL in 2023 than the Reds. Cincinnati placed 30 players on IL and watched them miss a combined total of 1,983 days.
Injuries happen, and having an excess of talented players (many of whom have minor-league options remaining), is not a bad thing. And with the DH now a permanent fixture in the National League, managers have more ways than ever to distribute playing time.
The Reds have experienced the sophomore jinx first-hand
Remember when Jonathan India was supposed to turn his 2021 NL Rookie of the Year season into an All-Star campaign in 2022? Or what about the notion of the "Big Three" of Nick Lodolo, Hunter Greene, and Graham Ashcraft ready to lead the Reds starting rotation in 2023 after the trio put forth a stellar performance during their 2022 rookie seasons?
Yeah, that's not always how it works. Though we'd all like to think that success from a player's rookie season will surely translate to his second year in the league, it doesn't always work that way. In fact, oftentimes, it doesn't. Looking outside the Reds organization, players like Jake McCarthy, Oneil Cruz, Trevor Rogers, and Dylan Carlson are all recent examples of players who've struggled during their sophomore seasons.
The same thing could happen to Elly De La Cruz, Spencer Steer, or Matt McLain. Fans have big expectations for Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Noelvi Marte as well, but neither one has more than 225 major league at-bats. Keeping a plethora of young talent, almost all of whom are pre-arbitration eligible, offers the Reds a lot insurance in case one or more of their players suffers the dreaded sophomore jinx.
The Reds have a lot of at-bats to fill in 2024
The Reds are missing several players from last year's team, and have made just one addition. Joey Votto, Curt Casali, Kevin Newman, Wil Myers, and Nick Senzel are all gone. In fact, if you total up all the at-bats from players who are no longer on the Reds roster, you'll come up with almost 1,200. And that's not including Jose Barrero who accounted for over 130 ABs last season.
The point is, the Reds are now missing nearly 22-percent of their at-bats from last year's team. Of course, with players like Marte, Encarnacion-Strand, De La Cruz, and McLain likely to begin the year in the big leagues, they'll be getting a lot of those swings once the 2024 season begins.
Last year, Reds manager David Bell was forced to turn to a Quadruple-A player like Alejo Lopez, Matt Reynolds, Henry Ramos, or Jason Vosler on multiple occasions. But in 2024, Bell will have league-ready options at his disposal in the event of an injury, slump, or any number of things that baseball fans know happen over the course of a season.
While the rumors will persist, most likely until Opening Day, the Reds have no need to trade one of the many infielders. As spring training creeps closer and team's rosters begin to fill out, the rumblings will begin once again. But it would appear that Reds President of Baseball Operations likes the way his team is beginning to take shape. Reds fans should follow his lead, no matter how many infielders are on the roster.