It didn’t take long for Reds manager Bryan Price to make this decision and, at the same time, create a little news on the day that pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training in Goodyear, Arizona.
Essentially, according to the reports, Price says that the second base job — in the wake of yesterday’s Brandon Phillips trade — is Jose Peraza’s to lose. Zack Cozart will be the starting shortstop.
So that’s that, I guess? The middle infield is set!
Not so fast, my friends. If you had told me last June that Peraza would be the starting second baseman on Opening Day of 2017, I’d have been fine with that. Peraza needs to play, and I can see why he’d get a crack at the job. He’s a good player, and he needs to be in the lineup somewhere.
I’m just not sure why Price felt the necessity to announce something like this, even before position players have set foot in the Reds’ spring training complex. What’s the rush?
One of the questions that must be answered this season is whether Dilson Herrera is the long-term solution at second base. We won’t know the answer to that question until Herrera gets a long look at the keystone in the big leagues. I feel fairly certain that Herrera will get plenty of playing time this year. Price’s declaration today doesn’t change that.
At least, I hope not. Peraza needs to play. Herrera needs to play. Period.
So where does that leave Cozart? Price says that Cozart won’t be a part-time player. I’m fine with that, for a couple of reasons. First, Cozart is still a good player. He’s probably too old to be a key member of the next good Reds team, but he’s likely to be a contributor in 2017. Cozart is not Phillips. He’ll likely help the Reds, as long as he isn’t hitting in the 2-spot very often.
Also, Cozart needs to play in order to build his trade value. The Reds have made no secret of the fact that they are seeking to deal Cozart, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. If they sit him on the bench, it’ll be next-to-impossible to trade him.
Ultimately, here’s where I have an issue with Bryan Price issuing proclamations so early in spring training. With Phillips out of the mix, there’s no reason that he can’t find enough at-bats for all three players — Peraza, Herrera, Cozart.
Peraza has already shown he can play a number of positions. Ideally, you’d like him starting at shortstop full-time for the same reason that the Reds need to see Herrera at 2B: to find out if he can handle it long-term. But while Cozart is still around, you can start both of those guys at shortstop part of the time, while tossing Peraza into the center field mix, too.
Further, as we discussed on the most recent podcast, it seems like a no-brainer to give Cozart some time at second base and third base, too. There’s little question he could handle the defensive switches; after all, he’s an excellent shortstop. From the Reds’ perspective, it demonstrates a little versatility that might help trade discussions. From Cozart’s perspective, it adds another line or two to his resume that might help him secure a few more seasons in the majors as he becomes a free agent.
I’m not going to dig too deep into the question of how playing time should be apportioned. Jason Linden has a great — and more in-depth — piece on precisely that topic that will run here tomorrow morning.
Ultimately, this question remains: what’s the point of making this decision so soon? I’m perfectly willing to believe that Bryan Price knows more than I do, but I don’t get it.