Will the Reds trade Christian Encarnacion-Strand? Here's why it's a possibility

Many fans foresee a roster shakeup following Jeimer Candelario's three-year deal with the Reds.

Cincinnati Reds infielder Christian Encarnacion-Strand
Cincinnati Reds infielder Christian Encarnacion-Strand / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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Recent reports suggested that Elly De La Cruz, Noelvi Marte, and Matt McLain are part of the Cincinnati Reds' long-term plans. And while Reds fans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that three of their big-name stars are likely to stay put, there was one glaring omission.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand was not named as player that is seen as a long-term fixture in the Reds lineup. While that doesn't mean that Cincinnati is looking to move on from their slugging infielder, if the right deal came along, perhaps Nick Krall and the front office would consider it.

Dylan Cease has been linked to the Reds of late, and perhaps Encarnacion-Strand could be part of a trade package if Cincinnati was looking to make a deal for the Chicago White Sox starter. But why would the Reds be so quick to trade Encarnacion-Strand?

1. The Reds have enough infielders to replace Christian Encarnacion-Strand at first base

Immediately after it was revealed that the Cincinnati Reds had signed Jeimer Candelario to a three-year/$45-million deal, the fanbase assumed that Jonathan India would be out the door. After all, India's name has emerged in trade talks all offseason.

However, more recently, Reds President of Baseball Operations Nick Krall made comments suggesting that rather than trading India, perhaps the club will give the former first-round pick some reps at first base during spring training.

While it wasn't the most outlandish idea imaginable, didn't it seem rather odd that Krall was hinting at moving India to a position he'd never played, and one where the Reds are already flush with capable players?

Even after Joey Votto was let go this offseason, Cincinnati's roster included Encarnacion-Strand, Spencer Steer, and Tyler Stephenson. All three of those players can handle first base duties. The Reds added then yet another player in Candelario who can do the same.

While Christian Encarnacion-Strand can play third base as well, it seems very likely that Noelvi Marte will be holding down the hot corner for years to come. Candelario and Steer also have experience at third base, and so does Elly De La Cruz. Even without Encarnacion-Strand, the Reds have first base covered.

2. The Reds could package Christian Encarnacion-Strand for a frontline starter

The Cincinnati Reds are one big free agent signing or blockbuster trade away from being the undisputed frontrunner in the National League Central heading into the 2024 season.

The Reds rotation would currently include Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Andrew Abbott, and perhaps some mix of Nick Martinez, Brandon Williamson, and Connor Phillips as the fifth starter.

This is where the idea of trading for Dylan Cease, or another ace, comes in. While last season saw the right-hander drop off from his standing as one of the top pitchers in the American League, the talent is still there.

Many Reds fans will look at his 4.58 ERA and be incredibly dismissive. However, dig just little deeper and you'll see that Cease's 3.72 FIP suggests his defense didn't do him any favors.

Cease also recorded 33 starts in 2023, making that three straight years that the 27-year-old has eclipsed 32 starts in a season. Cease also logged 165 or more innings pitched in those three seasons.

While Tyler Glasnow and Shane Bieber are on the Reds' wishlist this winter as well, neither provides the durabilty of Cease. Glasnow hasn't gone over 150 innings pitched in a single season throughout his major league career, and Bieber struggled with elbow issues in 2023.

There's also the contract situation. Cease is under team control for two more seasons, while both Glasnow and Bieber will be free agents after 2024. Glasnow is also owed $25 million next season.

Whether it's Dylan Cease, Tyler Glasnow, or Shane Bieber, the Cincinnati Reds need to a top-of-the-rotation starter. Cease seems like the perfect fit for the Reds, but a player like Christian Encarnacion-Strand could be part of the return.

3. The Reds have depth in the farm system to offset losing Christian Encarnacion-Strand

If the Cincinnati Reds were to include Christian Encarnacion-Strand in a trade package for Dylan Cease, there is enough talent on the major league roster to stomach such a loss.

Encarnacion-Strand made his major league debut after the All-Star Game last season, and had success. However, players like Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Noelvi Marte, and Spencer Steer have shown glimpses of being solid contributors in the big leagues.

But the Reds also have a great deal of depth in the farm system as well. While adding Jeimer Candelario could help to offset the potential loss of Encarnacion-Strand for the next three seasons, Cincinnati also has some outstanding young players making a name for themselves in the minors.

Cam Collier and Sal Stewart, both of whom were selected in the 2022 MLB Draft, have shown great potential during their brief tenure in the organization. Collier, got out of the gates slowly last season, but has tremendous upside. Stewart showed tremendous plate discipline during his first full season with more walks than strikeouts.

Both Collier and Stewart profile as corner infielders, much like Encarnacion-Strand. Either one of those two prospects could ascend to the major league level within the next two or three years.

While trading a player like Christian Encarnacion-Strand would definitely sting, if the Cincinnati Reds are going to target a frontline starter like Dylan Cease, it's not going to come cheap.

Whether it's a player like Encarnacion-Strand or a bevy of talented prospects, securing Cease will require a lot in return. Is it worth giving up Encarnacion-Strand? That remains to be seen.