The Cincinnati Reds are reportedly talking to free agent shortstop Jose Iglesias on a deal for 2019. This was first reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
#Reds have been in discussions with free-agent SS Jose Iglesias on a minor-league contract, sources tell me and @ctrent. Would be reserve IFer, giving team a true backup SS and bench of Schebler/Kemp/Dietrich/Iglesias/Casali (assuming Senzel is in center and Winker in left).
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 22, 2019
As I wrote earlier at Redleg Nation, when it comes to a backup shortstop, despite having a few other options, Jose Iglesias would clearly be the best of the bunch. I don’t want to dive into Iglesias specifically here. But bringing him in, assuming it happens, makes the Cincinnati Reds bench a very interesting situation.
Earlier this spring we saw manager David Bell note that he was hoping to have a 13-man pitching staff. That would mean eight men in the bullpen to go along with the five starting pitchers. That also means that the bench would only have room for four players.
A four-man bench is tough to figure out for the Cincinnati Reds. The infield seems locked in among the starters. Tucker Barnhart, Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez, and Jose Peraza are locks if healthy. The outfield seems to have four spots locked up by Matt Kemp, Scott Schebler, Yasiel Puig, and Jesse Winker. One spot is also going to go to the backup catcher. Whether that’s going to be Curt Casali, who is recovering from hip surgery, to start the year or to Connor Joe or Kyle Farmer isn’t known at this point.
So, with that information at hand, we know that of the 12 position player spots available, 10 of them appear to be spoken for. That means there are two spots available for the following players, assuming the Reds do land Jose Iglesias:
Now, injuries or trades could always change things. But two spots available to that group of seven players is impressive depth. Four of those players have shown themselves to be big leaguers of at least some quality already. Two of them have been proven to be at least quality starting caliber options. And one of those guys outside of that group, Nick Senzel, is one of the best prospects in the game. Connor Joe is a Rule 5 draft pick and has to either make the team or be offered back to the Dodgers.
Depth is always a great thing to have. It makes the team stronger on so many different fronts. But when you look at the Cincinnati Reds bench, it just seems more and more like they are going to have to go with a 13-man bench instead of a 12-man bench. Even if they do that, they are still going to have some very tough decisions to make.
Guys like Dietrich and Iglesias are the types who probably have opt-out clauses near the end of the spring if they aren’t going to make the 25-man roster. Connor Joe’s situation as a Rule 5 draft pick will make the choice of keeping him around tough if he shows up and plays well in the spring. Nick Senzel showing he can handle center field, even if the team does decide to play games with his service time, will eventually make a tough decision for someone else.
Louisville could certainly be a big beneficiary of this situation. Guys like Alex Blandino, Kyle Farmer, Phillip Ervin – proven Major League contributors, could wind up in the minors for the Reds because of this. It could, however, also lead to the organization losing some players if not handled in a very specific way. It seems almost inevitable that at least one of Iglesias, Joe, or Dietrich would be lost if the team does indeed bring Iglesias into the fold. The only way all three could seemingly make the team is if Joe made it as the backup catching option. And that only lasts until Curt Casali returned to the team – which at least as of right now, wouldn’t seem to be too far into the season. He’s not 100% yet. But it’s been noted he is expected to be ready to begin the year in Cincinnati.
The real, but still very fake baseball games begin tomorrow. With the news that Sonny Gray has been scratched from his start with elbow stiffness, things haven’t gotten out to the greatest of news in Goodyear. But there are still a whole lot of storylines happening. And there are going to be a lot of storylines to keep an eye on. Nick Senzel and center field is the biggest one. But it’s also one that is going to dictate so much more. How the bench is set up relies so much on if he can play center.