The Cincinnati Reds remain active as they look for ways to try and improve their 2020 roster. Earlier today the team was rumored to still be pursuing free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna. This evening, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that infielder Matt Davidson and the Reds have agreed to a minor league deal for 2020 that includes an invitation to spring training.
Matt Davidson has signed a Minor League deal with the Reds, per source. Deal includes an invite to big-league camp.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 2, 2020
Matt Davidson has played in parts of four seasons at the Major League level. In 2013 he debuted with the Arizona Diamondbacks, playing in 31 games in the latter half of the season. He didn’t return to the Major Leagues again until 2016 when he played in one game with the Chicago White Sox. In both 2017 and 2018 he spent a large majority of the season in the big leagues, playing in 118 and 123 games. In 2017 he showed off plenty of power, but walked just 19 times and posted a .260 on-base percentage. During 2018 his walk rate jumped up big time, walking 52 times, but his power fell off some. Still, the overall production in 2018 was that of a league average hitter who posted a 102 OPS+. After the season he was non-tendered and granted free agency.
He signed on with the Texas Rangers on a minor league deal in 2019 and he would spend the entire season in Triple-A Nashville. The 28-year-old had a solid season, juiced baseball and all. In 124 games he hit .264/.339/.527 with 24 doubles, 33 home runs, 101 RBI, 42 walks, and 151 strikeouts in 528 plate appearances. While that line may jump out at you, with how the baseball played in 2019 in Triple-A and the combination with playing in the Pacific Coast League, that was good for just a 104 OPS+. That’s just 4% better than the league average.
Outside of two games at shortstop back in 2015, and a few appearances as a pitcher in his career, Matt Davidson has been a corner infielder – playing either at first base or at third base. More time has been spent at third than first, but there’s been significant time at first base.
When it comes to Matt Davidson you’re going to get some power, but you’re also going to get plenty of strikeouts. During the 2017 season with Chicago he struck out 37.2% of the time. In 2018 that number dropped to 33.3% – but that’s still an incredible high rate of non-contact. In Triple-A last season it was still 28.6%.
As a right-handed hitter, he’s done more damage against lefties. In the big leagues he’s hit .268/.344/.461 against them in 254 plate appearances. Against righties that line drops to .210/.276/.426 in 743 plate appearances. Those splits hold true in the minors as well. Over his last three full seasons in the minor leagues he’s hit .274/.359/.489 against lefties, but just .227/.308/.429 against righties.
It’s tough to see where he’s get much playing time in the big leagues if everyone is healthy. Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez aren’t going to be taking too much time off, and those two guys play the only two spots that Matt Davidson has ever really played. But he could provide some depth to help cover you in case there is an injury that does take place – especially if you need someone to step in and provide the right-handed hitting part of a platoon at one of those spots.
Now let’s go play fantasy baseball. No, not that kind. The kind where we get to dream on all of the wild things that aren’t likely to actually happen. Remember above when I mentioned that Matt Davidson had pitched a few times? Well, he’s not exactly your typical position player pitcher. In 2018 he took the mound for the White Sox three different times. He threw 3.0 shutout innings, allowing a hit, walking a batter, and striking out two batters. One of those batters was Giancarlo Stanton.
91-92 MPH on the fastball. A low 70’s breaking ball with some biting action to it. A change up around 80 MPH (not shown here). Can you say starting pitcher? Perhaps that’s a bit much. But still, it’s at least a little bit interesting for a guy that also hit 30+ home runs in Triple-A this past season.