This week’s respondents are Nick Kirby, Chris Garber, Clay Marshall, Ashley Davis, and Steve Mancuso.
Our Daily Reds Obsession: Which current player should the Reds attempt to sign to a long-term contract?
Nick: The first players that came to mind here were Eugenio Suarez and Luis Castillo. I am going to go by the “buy low, sell high” mentality and choose someone else because I think there is a chance that Suarez and Castillo regress *some* in 2018. I will go with Jesse Winker. He has yet to establish himself as a everyday MLB player, but he had a 1.042 OPS vs RHP in 111 plate appearances with the Reds last year. The Reds are expecting a full year of Winker next year, and I don’t think they will ever have another chance to get him for the value they could going into 2018.
Chris: Eugenio Suarez is the obvious candidate, and in this case, the correct one. He seems to have established himself as a 4 win player, and he won’t turn 27 until next July. In short, he’s the kind of guy you want to keep on your team. The next questions are how much and how long? Suarez is set for his first arbitration hearing this winter, so it’s fairly easy to game out how much he’s likely to earn. But these deals don’t have much impact unless you also buy out one or more of the player’s free agent years. Suarez could become a free agent after the 2020 season. If I were Suarez’ agent, I wouldn’t have much problem with him hitting the free agent market at age 30 (after 2021), but I wouldn’t want to go much longer than that.
From the Reds perspective, there’s one more requirement: Any Suarez contract cannot be so large that it kills his trade value. I fully expect Nick Senzel to arrive in Cincinnati by April 2019 (at the very latest). It’s quite possible that Suarez will be a better player than Senzel. But Suarez would still be more expensive and the more appropriate trade bait.
Clay: Considering the luck the Reds have had with Devin Mesoraco and Homer Bailey, the degree to which Brandon Phillips’ extension became an albatross and the amount of ire that Joey Votto’s contract continues to stir in some circles, I’m hesitant to recommend long-term offers to anyone — even deserving candidates like Tucker Barnhart. I will say, though, that Eugenio Suarez looks to have the potential to be a special player for years to come, and I hope those years will see him wearing a Reds uniform.
Ashley: Eugenio Suarez should be the next player that the Reds sign long-term. Yes, Nick Senzel plays third base and is close to being MLB-ready, but GM Dick Williams recently said Senzel will start to play second base in the spring. Suarez has steadily improved each season, culminating in his best season-to-date in 2017, hitting 26 home runs, scoring 87 runs, and recording a 117 wRC+. He’s only 26, and a three or four year contract would ensure his bat is in the lineup during the time frame the Reds are projected to compete again. Suarez also has some experience at shortstop, and while I don’t think it’s a good idea to move him from third, it could be an option if Senzel doesn’t work out at second.
Steve: Assuming we’re talking about contracts that extend years, not just control costs, there aren’t many candidates for this. Tucker Barnhart was a good choice, and he’s signed. The only pitcher in the organization who is enough of a sure thing and isn’t already signed is Luis Castillo. But the Reds control him through 2023, which is Castillo’s age 30 season. I don’t see the rush to lock up a pitcher for his 30s, five years in advance. Scott Schebler is controlled through his age 31 season. Jesse Winker is controlled through his age 30 season, so is Anthony DeSclafani.
That leaves Eugenio Suarez. Suarez is already controlled through the 2020 season at which point he’ll be 29 years old. He’s entering arbitration this year. Signing Suarez to an extension through his age-31 season – so for an extra two years – is about all I would do. Maybe offer 5 years for $42-45 million. But I don’t see that as an urgent, high priority step for the Reds to take. Extensions make more sense for players who hit the major leagues at a younger age and with significant upside. The Reds could definitely have several players in that category – including Nick Senzel – a year or two from now.