Zack Cozart is off to a hot start. He’s one of the main reasons for the Reds early season success and has shown that he is fully recovered from the right knee injury that ended his season in 2015 and the sore Achilles tendon that ended his season in 2016.

Although it’s early in the season, Cozart’s current slash line is .450/.478/.700. That’s right around the top ten in the National League in on base and slugging percentage and in the top five in batting average.  Cozart has also displayed his consistent, machine-like defense this season that we have become accustomed to over the years.

If you’re like me, the start of this season has been weird…but in a good way. We were all fully expecting the Reds to look like a glorified minor league team but they have looked anything but that. The early season success has made me challenge my expectations for this team and question my position on certain players.

Zack Cozart is one of those players. His early season production has made me appreciate and acknowledge his worth to this team. He’s had a steady bat over the years and an even steadier glove. I was fully on board with the Reds trading him for a bucket of baseballs and a hot dog in order for some of the younger talent to take over at second base before the season started.

Cozart is currently signed through the year and will be a free agent in 2018. He’s 31 years old and his production is due to drop off relatively soon. The Reds will have a decision to make sooner than later regarding Cozart, his trade value, and if they Reds want to bring him back. If Cozart and the Reds continue to kill it over the first half of the season do they dangle Cozart as trade bait or try and resign him to a reasonable offer?

In my opinion, I think a couple things are becoming clear. I am no longer willing to kick Cozart to the curb and accept a trade offer just to accept a trade offer. Like I said before, I think many of us undervalued Cozart and were willing to accept any and all trades so that younger talent could take over. I’m open for trading Cozart still, but the offer must be a pretty lucrative one.

I also think time will tell. Much of the decision to trade Cozart or not will depend on how the Reds and Cozart play past the first 8 games of the season.  If they continue to play well and the core of the Reds future continues to improve I would be open to resigning Cozart at an affordable extension. If the Reds suddenly start tanking and young players start to regress then I think the situation becomes even less murky and the decision to trade Cozart is clear.

There are a lot of dynamics that play into the trading of Zack Cozart. Hopefully as the season progresses the direction becomes more clear and the Reds make the right decision.

Jeff is Cincinnati born, Ohio University educated. Reds baseball has been a central theme of his family ever since his mom and dad helped him skip school to attend Opening Day. Jeff has been accused of having a “man crush” on Joey Votto and longs for the day that he gets to witness the Reds finally win a playoff series. You can follow him on Twitter @Gaaangs

Join the conversation! 39 Comments

  1. He is a good problem to have.I would think at some time this year somebody needs a shortstop and we get a good offer for him.The more he shows he is over the injury and can continue to play well the more he brings in a trade.

  2. What would be a fair return for him?
    Low level (A or A+ ball) prospect with big upside?
    What about offer him to the Twins for Turner? I don’t think that’s enough for Cozart.
    Maybe cash + an unheralded prospect?

  3. His batted ball profile in 2017 is nearly identical to what it was in 2016. Eerily so.

    I think, going forward, we can expect Cozart to be about the same as the player he was last year (91 wRC+, great defense, 2.5 WAR). There’s really no compelling reason to think he’ll be better than that.

    But, a 2.5 WAR SS is nothing to shake a stick at. Cozart has value and will likely maintain that value for a little while.

  4. I thought about this last night during the game when Cozart came to bat and hit his double. I had been in the frame of mind you are in now about being more open to an extension for Cozart as long as it wasn’t for more than 2 years. There just isn’t much SS talent not named Peraza that is near ML ready in the Reds system. If only AlfRod could get his act together at the plate, or Carlton Daal could get healthy. But they are at least a year and a half to 2 years away. And neither is a guarantee to be good. That is the argument for a 2 year extension for Cozart. This is something I thought the Reds should at least explore, if the price were right. Grit and veteranyness aren’t expensive.
    But last night, the more and more I thought about it, as much as I don’t like it, the Reds should probably trade him. Even if the Reds keep winning and are contending in July. Peraza is capable at SS, but if the Reds can package some prospects for a SS that would be an upgrade over Cozart and his age, then go for that. Keep Peraza at 2B and go get a younger solid SS.
    Trade Cozart and then go shopping for a younger, better version of Cozart. There are some teams highly stocked with young SS’s.

    • If the Reds are contending in July and Zach is healthy, you have to bite the bullet and play through it. Course this is a big IF, and by contending I mean near or at the top for the wild card, not 5-6 games back of 3-4 teams. Outside of Votto, he’s the only old guard left from the contenders. H’ed have a lot of value down the stretch as a Red, playing short.
      By the way, played ball with a guy named Jay Rorhig at GWHS in Charleston. Know him?

  5. signing Cozart to an extension would be foolish, as the Reds learned the last time they paid a middle infielder into his mid-30s

    not to mention Peraza and Gennett already on the MLB roster and Dilson Herrera at AAA, Alfredo Rodriguez and Shed Long, Blandino, et al

  6. If they continue to play well and the core of the Reds future continues to improve I would be open to resigning Cozart at an affordable extension.

    No, nope, naw, no way, no how.

    1.We just went through this with Brandon Phillips.

    2. The Reds already have a replacement waiting in the wings for Cozart, so it’s not like trading him would leave a hole in the team. In fact Cozart is blocking the youth movement.

    3. The money used to resign him could be used to lock up the young core.

    4. The pieces Cozart could bring back could be very good, depending on which contending teams are shopping for a shortstop at the break. These will be young, team controlled, probably nearly major leage ready. Even if it’s just another bench bat or bullpen arm, those are useful pieces.

    Here’s what I think the best case scenario is for this team this season: The Reds hover right around or slightly above .500 for most of the season, but Williams privately acknowledges the team is still a year away from being a serious contender and uses the trade deadline/offseason to add the final pieces of the puzzle. Part of this means trading Cozart and either moving Suarez to SS/2B to make room for Senzel and/or giving Herrera his shot.

    As good as Cozart is right now, he’s a 31 year old middle infielder. They tend to have their expiration date hit suddenly and with great impact, and after that Cozart will be of no value to the team either as a player or as a trade chip. Cash in now while his stock is high.

    • I really like Cozart. Always have. What you guys are saying makes sense, but I’d have to believe that a younger version of Cozart might cost more in prospects than we’d be comfortable paying. Also, as far as I’m concerned, his bat is a bonus. I think we and the pitchers would quickly find the season becoming unfun (should be a word) if we had a mediocre or worse fielder at short. Perraza might be better than mediocre, but it’s too early to tell, just as it’s too early to tell whether he’s an offensive upgrade. Do you still think we trade him if we’re in contention at the ASB?

      • They should trade Cozart no matter what happens this season. If the Reds are leading the NL Central, you still trade Cozart. He is good now, but for how long? The way this team is built, they cannot afford to sacrifice any potential advantages for the future by trying to win now. Cozart is 31. Brandon Phillips put up 4 WAR in his age 31 season, and put up 1.8 WAR in his age 32 season.

        I’m not saying that’s exactly what will happen to Cozart, but we have enough data from many players in baseball history to know to expect a sudden and sharp decline to hit Coazrt at any moment now. They need to cash in on him now while he still has value left, unless they plan to make him a bench bat for his decline years. That might not be a horrible solution, but I severely doubt Cozart would be ok with being paid like a bench bat. He’s producing and putting up solid numbers, some team that is ready to win now and has no other solutions at SS (meaning: not the Reds) should pay dearly for his services.

        • Again, I understand your reasoning, and the whole question revolves around an unlikely hypothetical, but if the Reds were leading the Central wouldn’t you have to go for it? We’ve seen what happens to windows of opportunity before.

          • I agree with you here. If the Reds are really in the hunt, they have to go for it and that would mean holding onto Cozart in this case. No, they wouldn’t get any value when he walks for FA after the season but the playoff chance may be worth that trade-off, especially if the trade offered wasn’t stellar. They could also play it by offering him a QO after the season. Cozart may well accept it because it will be a big chunk of money but that would only be for one season. If he turned it down, they’d get draft pick compensation. I think the risk is too high of him accepting so I wouldn’t go down that route but it is an option if the Reds find themselves in the hunt.

        • You are throwing out a WAR number for Phillips like he failed that year. He was having his a great season when he was hit on the wrist by a pitch in Pittsburgh and that derailed his season. He was nothing but quality when he was healthy as a Red.

  7. Do you think there’s a gap between what Cozart “deserves” or expects in free agency, and what’s likely to be on offer? Lots of teams seem happily set at shortstop. Even if his value is $12 million a year–a made up number for illustrative purposes–based on the value of the WAR he’s putting up, if there are no teams looking for a starting shortstop then he’ll have a hard time finding a team.

    I wonder, too, how he values starting vs being a backup, and being on a good team vs a bad team. Maybe he’ll take “set for life” money to stay with the Reds and start at short the next 2-3 years, rather than squeeze every last dollar out of a chance to be a backup in Boston or a starter on a terrible team.

    Of course, the Reds seem to have some options, so even if he’d sign here at a discount, if a legitimate WS contender has an injury at shortstop and offers us a king’s ransom I’d take it. But I certainly wouldn’t trade him for a bucket of baseballs just to open up playing time for someone else.

    • I think Cozart could command $12M a year in FA as long as he stays healthy this season and puts up 2ish WAR. A deep-pocketed team would pick him up for depth and have him ride the bench.

      • So maybe we could convince him to take 2 years at $8M a year, or come up with some sort of opt out deal, and he takes it because he wants to start and he’s not planning to buy a gold plated jet? I’m not even sure it would be the right thing for the Reds, but this could be a fascinating case where the market for him to start and get a big pay day is softer than it should be and the Reds have familiarity/a starting job/a chance to win on their side.

        If I’m the Reds, the condition and long term outlook for Dillon Herrerra’s shoulder has a lot to do with how I view Cozart going forward.

        • Herrera’s should has me wondering too. This many years of shoulder problems starts to make me wonder if this is chronic and never going to be fully functional.

  8. An extension would be predicated on whether you pay him as a starter or sub. That’s why it was so important to get a look at him at 3B/2B in spring training, but alas….

    So long as the Reds are in contention, I think we should hold onto him. He won’t bring much in return, certainly not enough to offset his steady production, so what’s the harm.

    I’d also point out that Vincej is in AAA and very Cozart like. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him become a high floor, low ceiling ML starter.

  9. I was never in the ‘bucket of balls’ camp, just to get playing time for the young prospects. Of course the injury last season put an anvil on Cozart’s trade value until he answered the questions regarding his health by playing and producing. Now it’s just a waiting game for the right opportunity and offer to hit the table. Near-ready major league prospects are always nice, but generally come with less upside (and less risk/higher downside). I would like to see an offer with more risk and higher upside for the return in any trade for Cozart.

  10. Here’s another way of looking at keeping Cozart around.

    I’m starting to believe that this team can be a contender in 2018. If this is true: Which middle infield is better: Scenario 1: Cozart – SS, Herrera 2b 2. Peraza – SS, Herrera 2b

    I think a team with Cozart as SS and Herrera as 2b is a better team in 2018 & 2019.

    However agree with all that if the right offer in trade is made take it! I would do the same with Peraza if the right offer is made take it and sign cozart to a two year deal with a mutual year 3 or something like it.

    Also, if you combine cozarts 15 & 16 season you get roughly 1 season of plate appearances and his war would be for that full season 4.0 war.

    • No way do they trade Peraza imo! 23 with speed & range vs 31 and injury/slump prone! I would keep Zach while they’re in contention this year because why mess with chemistry but Peraza at SS and Herrera/Scooter in a semi=platoon. Not to mention by keeping them both for a while then Peraza can spot our outfielders occasionally!

      • One of the two needs to be traded this season in order to get the max value for the club. I agree it will very likely be Cozart and that it likely is the best decision for the club.

        However, I’m not sold on Peraza’s range at SS or his swing at everything approach. If and I do mean IF Peraza is a below average fielding SS, he becomes a liability.

  11. I agree. I love his play, also. But, it comes down to if we can afford him. For, he will be due a big bonus, especially with the better he plays.

    I hope he does do well. That way, come trade deadline, if we are in contention, we may consider keeping him or possibly have some trade bait there. If we aren’t in contention, we most likely have a trading commodity there.

  12. We are only nine games into the season, way to early to even bring this topic up!

  13. Yes way to early to bring this up, the FO needs to see if Suarez continues hitting well and paying stellar defense, need to see if Herrera’s shoulder heals (Im beginning to have doubts), And Senzel is in the wings. I agree we should not let him go for next to nothing but if keeps hitting well, that should not be a problem coming up to the trade deadline, then a lot of these other issues will be seen in a larger sample size.

  14. I love this topic. The comments I have been really good too.

    I don’t think I saw this covered in the comments. Would Cozart be someone we would want to give a qualifying offer to?

    Are there still qualifying offers?

    • I was considering just that issue Seat! The new CBA addressed the qualifying offer, but I’m not sure how. I think that the team losing a player gets a slot pick, but the signing team doesn’t forfeit a draft pick, or something like that. If the Reds are competitive this season and look like a serious contender for next season, Cozart at $17MM-$18MM for one season…hmmmm…

      • As a side topic, a discussion of the changes in the new CBA might make a nice post for an off day.

      • Thank you for the quick response! See comments below. You got any good stats on the Reds defensive So far?

    • I think Cozart would take the QO. So, in that case, I’d say the Reds should not give him the offer.

      He’s unlikely to get anything better than 3/$30 to 3/$36 in FA (and that’s generous), so 1 year at $17-$18 would be a no brainer, because the year after as long as you sign a 2/$20 or something, you come out ahead.

      • Wow! Quick reply and A Thoughtful one.

        That kind of money it wouldn’t make sense even for a sign and trade.

      • Agree with you Patrick. I should have read further down before replying earlier in the post to GreenmtRed.

  15. I am and have been a Cozart fan because I think he is a much better glove than most do! I place a high premium on defense especially up the middle defense, what can I say I am old! I still think even with how much I like his game he should be traded for the proper return the problem is just what is the proper return? I would over value him as stated above but I am thinking IF or OF with a high upside that could even be 4 or 5 years out if he would bring that type of player I kind of doubt it! I hope that Price has the same outlook on Cozart as I do and that is a day off a week maybe even two days off once a month will make him a better hitter deeper in the season! His bat started declining before the injury last year after the 1st half and IMO he was just tired! This roster as it is constructed right now would benefit with Gennet getting that occasional start shift Peraza to SS and give ZC a day off see how easy the managers job is!!!!!!!!!!!! LMAO!

    • I came to really appreciate Cozart after he got hurt and I saw what subpar defense up the middle can do to a team. I also think if there is some reasonable offer in July, the Reds should take it. There appear to be enough middle infielders in the system knocking on the door that at least a couple of them will pan out.

    • The 2 days off after tweaking his wrist certainly paid dividends when he returned to the lineup, 1-4 w/ 1-2B & 1-BB. I hope that Price really adheres to a strict rest schedule for Cozart during the 1st half of the season.

  16. So we’re going to interrupt the rebuild for a middle infielder who is 31 and probably will want a three-year contract if he can get it? For the record, I would have traded him already, although I was assuming Herrera would be ready by now. … To me, the only thing that has changed with Cozart is that if he keeps playing well, the Reds have gained a little leverage in what they can demand in return. But if they’re too choosy in their demands and nothing gets done, he’ll walk for nothing but the draft pick. … Some other team will bite at, or maybe before, the deadline if Cozart continues to produce — and has no leg injury recurrence.

  17. A few things have changed this year: #1 Hererra’s shoulder (or at least it’s been noticed), #2 BP gone, #3 Gennett pick up, & #4 Zart healthy. I have no idea what the Reds infield will look like in 2018 & beyond, but if the Reds are offered quality talent for Zach, they have to take it. That still leaves Peraza, Hererra, Suarez, & Gennett in the mix for 3 jobs. Even Kivelehan can play some 3rd to let the Reds see if Suarez can move back to ss. It’s a fluid situation. Let it flow.

  18. I thought people only thought we should “sell low” because they wanted to “sell now” and with his injury the price would be low. Now that he has recovered his form, we can “sell high” because we still want to “sell now” and he happens to be more valuable right now than he was the last 9 months.

  19. I have always been a fan of Cozart. I feel like he is not flashy but very consistent in the field and honestly I would be perfectly fine with signing him for a 2 year deal with maybe a team option for a third year. I personally don’t think there is much of any kind of market for Cozart this season unless someone gets injured on another team. I would be ok with signing him 2 years around 9 to 10 million each Give some incentive clauses in the new contract to raise the stakes for Cozart to continue to produce.

    I have heard good thing about Herrrera when he is healthy from a couple Mets fans I know but even they said his health is a big question.

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About Jeff Gangloff

Jeff is Cincinnati born, Ohio University educated. Reds baseball has been a central theme of his family ever since his mom and dad helped him skip school to attend Opening Day. Jeff has been accused of having a "man crush" on Joey Votto and longs for the day that he gets to witness the Reds finally win a playoff series. You can follow him on Twitter @Gaaangs


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