2018 Reds

Reds sign infielder Cliff Pennington; Nick Senzel playing shortstop?

The Cincinnati Reds have signed infielder Cliff Pennington to a minor league deal and invited him to big league camp:

The Reds signed veteran infielder Cliff Pennington to a Minor League contract on Thursday. Pennington would earn $1.5 million this season if he made the club out of camp.

With the Angels since 2016, Pennington batted .253/.306/.330 with three home runs and 21 RBIs in 87 games last season. He has also played for the A’s, D-backs and Blue Jays and is a career .243/.310/.341 hitter.

But the value Pennington brings is defensive versatility. The 33-year-old can play second base, shortstop and third base.

This is a somewhat significant move for one reason: Pennington — who has played for four different teams in his ten-year career — has played 604 games as a shortstop over his big league career. That’s more MLB games than anyone else in Reds camp has played as a shortstop, including the presumed starter at the position, Jose Peraza.

So you have to believe that Pennington will have every chance to make the roster. The only other names that are in the competition to back up Peraza are another non-roster invitee, Phil Gosselin, and 25-year-old Alex Blandino, who has yet to make his major league debut.

[Doug Gray and I discussed the backup shortstop question on the most recent episode of Redleg Nation Radio.]

On the other hand, C. Trent Rosecrans notes over at The Athletic that super prospect Nick Senzel will be playing shortstop at Reds camp. (Go subscribe to The Athletic. It’s worth the money.)

I can’t express how happy this makes me. What if Senzel can handle the position defensively? The Reds will have a superstar on their hands.

Another transaction of note today:

Jeff Manship was a non-roster invitee to camp on a minor league deal. He failed his physical.

80 thoughts on “Reds sign infielder Cliff Pennington; Nick Senzel playing shortstop?

    • I agree, as long as he is serviceable at short.
      Cannot have stone hands at SS and 2nd base.
      (not saying he is, hope he is awesome)

      • I had some reservations about his hands when he made his debut and I saw the number of errors at 3B. Having seen him in person now a couple times, and having seen him with the same number of errors but over double the amount of chances at 3B, I no longer worry about his hands. It’s going to be a matter of range and rather or not he has enough arm for good, accurate throws from deep in the hole at SS… I definitely think he could play 2B.

  1. They should continue to keep Eugenio Suarez accustomed to shortstop as well.

  2. If Nick can play short, what a infield we can have.
    Of course scooter needs to pick it up on the D

    • So was Geno two years ago, last year really good. At time in the Minors Nolan was average at D, now world class.
      He may never be average at D, but he can be ok, not stone hands, with effort. That is the only think stopping him from the big bucks in few years.

  3. If Suarez does not sign an extension, and eventually is traded, it’s probably easier to move Senzel from SS over to 3B.

    Pennington played more at 2B the last 2 years for the Angels than at SS, but now there is plenty of cover at SS for Senzel to first go to Louisville and master AAA.

    Remember the annoyance of Winker coming up and not playing? No use burning Senzel’s service time until he’s really ready and when he comes to Cincinnati, he should get a long leash to keep the starting SS job permanently.

  4. All this talk about if Suarez is traded or leaves is making me nervous. Sign him to a nice little extension already. We could save a little cash, he could have a little added security, and the Reds could be good again.

    • I have to believe the Reds do want to sign Suarez to an extension. So far he hasn’t bitten if they have indeed made an offer. If they didn’t expect Suarez to be around for awhile, there would be no reason to shift Senzel off third base.

      • You could be right, Tom. But it sure seems like if they wanted to keep on the best possible terms with Suarez, they wouldn’t have let his case go to arbitration over such a small difference.

        Wasn’t there a quote from Dick Williams that a player has to “do it twice” or some such before the Reds give him an extension? Would be a pretty easy read that they don’t want to get Mesoraco’d again. But geez, he’s a third baseman, not a catcher. This organization has to make some decision about guys and start building around them, or else they won’t be competing until 2020.

    • With the current free agent market not being kind to older players I’ve been wondering what it might mean for extensions to players like Suarez.

      He is currently set to be a free agent after the 2020 season at which time he will be 29 years old. Lets say the Reds offer a contract that buys out his arbitration years (2018-2020) and 2-3 free agent years. Suarez would then be potentially entering free agency for the first time as a 31 or 32 year old. There currently aren’t a lot of big free agent contracts being given out to players on the high side of 30.

      • If Suarez does not want to sign an extension, is there a trade out there that would bring the Reds back a young shortstop, allowing Senzel to stay at third?
        I think the Yankees and SS prospect Gleyber Torres could be a potential match. Yankees are set to contend for a World Series this year and could use an established player at 3B. Who says no to a trade centered around Suarez and Torres?

        • Other players may be need to be involved: Nicky Lopez, Erik Gonzalez, Fernando Tatis, Jurickson Profar, Willy Adames. Hamilton for Jorge Mateo & Jed Lowrie. Suarez for Inciarte, CF. These are too bold for this FO to complete.

  5. Senzel is an average 3rd basemen. No way he can play short, . He would be about as good defensively at second as Scooter, with less pop in his bat.

    I still think Hunter Greene is our ss of the future. I know everyone wants to see him pitch but come on. He is a great athlete with a lot of fan appeal. He needs to be up here in the bigs in 2020 at the latest. It could be 5 years or more if we try to develop him as a starter.

    I can live with Peraza as our ss for a couple more years until he arrives.

    I say package Senzel and Winker for a solid pitcher

      • I’m going the record here. Senzel is not a SS. This is another instance where the FO/management tries to fit a round peg in a square hole, because they are incapable of filling the needs on this team.

    • He’s probably a better than average third baseman, and it’s a different position from SS requiring a different set of skills, so nobody will know whether or not he can play it until he’s been given a chance to do that. The Reds are loaded with pitchers who have chances of being solid or better, so trading two position players who give every indication of being excellent hitters for another pitcher makes no sense. I suspect, JReis, that you are trying to provoke us.

      • You aren’t the only one, Green. That’s why I stopped responding to this repetitive post and I suggest others do the same.

      • Yea, the last the Reds should be doing at this point is trading young talented position players. There will always be plenty of starting pitchers to sign on the free agent market. As the Reds have seen, pitchers get hurt, ask the Mets.

      • I initially thought all his posts about Hamilton were done just to annoy people here. Now the constant complaints about Senzel and Winkers defense, especially after Senzel was named the best defensive 3B in the minors. Then add on the Greene can’t pitch and is the SS of the future support the theory. I think MRRED is correct

  6. JReis doesn’t like Senzel for a reason when everyone else is saying good things about him. And from the small sample last year Greene couldn’t hit or pitch. Let’s let them play this year and see what happens.

    • Agree with you Bill.
      Senzel has all star potential. I think Mahle is underrated. Pitchers with great control and good stuff are rate. I am real high on him, and think he can be a 2.

  7. It amazes me that people are so ready to dismiss someone young and in the minors who is showing he can hit and get on base at a good rate while playing decent defense.

  8. Alex Blandino had 36 doubles, 12 hrs, .382 obp, and a .835 ops last year, and yet rarely gets mentioned? I don’t how good he is defensively, but he could atleast platoon with Scooter and play some SS in a pinch. Hopefully Senzel could be an adequate SS? My biggest fear is that it will take a 2-3 years (call it the Hamiltonian) for them to figure out that Peraza can’t hack it. No power, no obp, and is about 70% on line drives hit right at him. I’m not seeing it?

    • Issue with Blandino is that nobody is really considering him a prospect anymore after 2 sub-par, injury-marred seasons. He had a nice year last year though and I think he could be a nice utility IF. My eval based on seeing him and reports I’ve seen is that his defense is on the high side of average to slightly above average at 2B. He’s a very solid to good defender at 3B. The Reds probably wouldn’t want him playing SS regularly but here and there, in an emergency, he could cover it. His bat is solid but not great and plays a lot better at 2B than at 3B.

    • Herrera will have the 1st shot at landing a spot on the 25-man roster as a utility IF…if he’s healthy. If Herrera is not healthy, then he’ll find himself on the 60-day DL or DFA’d with Blandino promoted to the 25-man roster as a utility IF.

      The thing is that no matter who gets promoted to the 25-man roster (Herrera or Blandino), they should be in line for significant playing time in a pure platoon with Scooter. I don’t expect that to happen with Price as the manager, but it should happen. With regular playing time at the major league level, Blandino could begin a nice little career as a starting 2B. I think his bottom as a prospect is a solid utility IF.

      • If healthy, he has to be added to the 25-man or pass through the DFA process, correct? If that’s true, then yes, he’s going to get every shot to make the squad out of spring.

  9. Myself and Indy have beat the dead horse of the Reds looking to obtain Marcus Stroman from the Blue Jays this winter.
    Funny what Stroman had to say about the Jays after losing his arbitration hearing a couple of days ago.

    “BlueJays starter Marcus Stroman on losing his arbitration hearing: “The negative things that were said against me, by my own team, will never leave my mind.””

    I wish there was team on the Ohio River that wanted Marcus more than his own team seems to do.

    • Not wanting to pay Stroman the price he wanted does not equate to not wanting him. I can’t say if the things said about him were justified, but it seems the Blue Jays had a better argument than he did. In the end he got $6.5 million instead of $6.9, this isn’t like they are paying him league minimum

    • Happens in arb hearings. I’m sure Reds’ management said some negative things in regards to Suarez during his hearing. Those seeds of animosity are why I was hoping the Reds could avoid arb with Suarez.

    • I want him less after those comments than before. Don’t want another potential Mat Latos in the clubhouse

    • I have also been an advocate of dealing for Stroman for the past 2 years. There’s a match; however, it seems the Red’s FO only makes a deal if 1.) a team approaches them; and, 2.) offers to overpay.

  10. For the life of me I don’t understand these silly nonsensical signings. The infielders that need to be brought up with the big league club when camp breaks are the starters + Dilson Herrera and Alex Blandino. That’s it. Blandino played more innings in the minors last year than Pennington played with the Angels (103.2 vs.71). The Reds have this infatuation with finding a “veteran back up SS” who usually isn’t great defensively and can’t hit his weight but is a “veteran.”

    All Blandino has done is hit at every level he’s been. He’s 25. He can play SS a game or 2 per week if necessary. Let’s face it, if Peraza gets hurt or is awful before Senzel can play SS (assuming he can) you’re screwed anyway. If forced to play a full year at SS Pennington is a sub replacement level player anyway. Why bother with that when you have a better alternative in your system?

    • so you want a kid (Blandino) who needs to be playing everyday somewhere sitting on the bench 5 days a week in the majors instead of playing everyday in AAA ? much rather have a veteran who is used to playing sparingly on the bench and let the Kid develop. Now if Blandino comes to camp and wins the starting SS job then that is a different story…

      • Just because he may only start 2-3 times a game doesn’t mean he’s sitting the bench the other games. I’d try to pinch him as much as possible, but yes I would. For one, 25 isn’t much of a kid. As far as prospect status, he’s behind Scooter and Dilson Herrera at 2B (with Shed Long on his heals), behind Peraza at SS (and frankly it seems like no one views him as an every day SS) and behind Suarez and Senzel at 3rd.

        The only path for Blandino to the big leagues for the foreseeable future is as a utility man. He is going to be more valuable, now and for the next 3 years, to the Reds than Cliff Pennington. And if he can’t match Pennington’s offensive production, such as it exists, then so be it. One more future player “sorted.”

    • The Reds signed Pennington to a minor league contract, so it isn’t a given that he takes a younger guy’s spot on the major league roster.

      • They clearly don’t believe they have anyone else who can play average or above average defense at shortstop who is ready for the majors (other than Peraza). I hope Senzel becomes a stud shortstop, but he probably would have been playing that position already if that’s where he is best defensively.

        • “…he [Senzel] probably would have been playing that position [SS] already if that’s where he is best defensively.”

          I don’t believe Senzel’s ‘best’ defensive position is really a factor. The issue is getting his offense on the field while playing a position defensively where he can have the most positive impact, offensively and defensively.

          The Reds had a (note that is singular) plan for SS and CF. Hamilton was to be a cornerstone in CF and Peraza was to succeed Cozart at SS. Reds management just assumed their plan for CF and SS would work and made no alternative plans.

          The plan for CF didn’t work and the plan for SS hasn’t worked. Those are the two defensive positions where the Reds could make the biggest impact to improve the team.

          The Reds drafted Senzel as the best available bat in the draft. He was their plan for 3B to fill a perceived hole on the major league roster. Then a funny thing happened on the way to thhe forum…

          A dashing, silver-haired stud of a baseball player emerged as a defensive and offensive force playing 3B when Senzelcame knocking on the MLB door.

          If Senzel can effectively play SS or CF defensively, then that’s where his bat will have the most positive impact. The Reds have other good options for LF, RF and 2B. I don’t think the Reds development plan for Senzel included finding a position for him top play defensively. They focused on his offensive development and his meteoric rise through the minor league system. So now Senzel is ready to mash at the major league level and there’s no position for him to play at the major league level. Now the Reds (and Senzel) need to find a position can play and where he can have the most positive impact to improve the roster/lineup.

          I really hate the prospect of Price managing this process once Senzel bursts through the MLB door.

  11. Recall how Suarez was really bad at 3B for the first half of the 16′ season. By about 3/4 of a season Suarez had turned into a plus defender and by the start of the 2017 season he was an all-star level defender.

    SENZEL WILL NOT LIKELY LOOK LIKE A MLB CALIBER SS AT THE BEGINNING. The FO needs to remember Suarez development when evaluating Senzel and SS. If we give Senzel an approximate full season worth of games and work then the team can make a final judgment on this.

    Here is why this is really, really exciting:

    Opening day 2019 Lineup
    1. Nick Senzel – SS
    2. Joey Votto – 1B
    3. Jesse Winker – LF
    4. Scott Schebler – RF
    5. Eugenio Suarez – 3B
    6. Gennett, Blandino, Long – 2b
    7. Tucker Barnhart – C
    8. AJ Pollock – CF – 2019 offseason free agent signing

    Peraza’s contact style is perfect for a pinch hitter. He can get the bat on any pitcher’s pitch and that’s important in the playoffs.

    This offense can win a world series in my opinion, I think the defense can be league average ish.

    Very good article over at redsminorleagues.com discussing what level of defense that Senzel needs to play to be acceptable and the impact this has on the young starter’s.

    I say give Senzel all season to develop into at least a slightly negative war defender at SS and go for it! If he is defensive net 0, he could be a all-star SS until he is 29 and then slide back over the 3b!

    • Here is something that is not so much exciting:

      1. Jesse Winker – 20 HR’s
      2. Joey Votto – 35 HR’s
      3. Eugenio Suarez – 25 HR’s
      4. Scott Schebler – 35 HR’s
      5. Gennett, Blandino, Long – 25 HR’s
      6. Tucker Barnhart/backup – 13 HR’s
      7. Jose Peraza – 5 HR’s
      8. Billy Hamilton – 5 HR’s

      163 HR’s which would have been good for 28th place in all of baseball in 2017. We can’t afford to lose Duvall in LF and keep Hamilton and Peraza at CF and SS.

      • I’m no fan of Peraza or Hamilton’s offense. But this is incomplete reasoning. Players besides starters hit home runs. This doesn’t count any home runs for the backup outfielders or pinch hitters. The Reds had more than 20 home runs hit by non-starters last year. Plus, by your reasoning, even if you substitute Duvall for Winker and assume Duvall hits 30 home runs (no sure thing), that moves Reds up to 173 which is just 26th in league.

        Adam Duvall’s isolated power in 2016: .232
        Jesse Winker’s isolated power in 2016: .231

        Winker’s superior on-base skills will produce more runs than Duvall, even if he has less power.

        • Agree Steve. Thank you for some actual facts. This is also why I spent the early part of this offseason suggesting that Duvall should be available for trade. Free Winker.

          • Do you not think this Red’s team minus Duvall is a poor home run hitting team?

          • They weren’t a great home run hitting team with Duvall. So this question isn’t really necessary to ask.

            Duvall has done a fine job playing LF but he’s essentially league average in offensive production when you factor in his low on base skills. He’s battling effects of diabetes and isn’t getting younger so there’s not a real need to play him at the expense of Winker.

        • I wanted to illustrate the lack of home run power with the lineup including Hamilton and Peraza and without Duvall; which I think the point was made, even without the bench home runs.

          How big is this issue of being a bottom of the league home run hitting team? There are too many other more important variables to consider (ops, iso, wrc+). But the team as it currently is constructed, minus Duvall appears to be one of the worst home run hitting teams in all of baseball.

          • We play in GABP so we need the long ball but guys that get on base are just as valuable.Ideally you would have guys that hit homers and if they don’t they get on base at or above league average.Peraza and Billy don’t do either one which will be a much bigger issue then Winker replacing Duvall.

        • Curious, do you think that WInker will/can sustain a .200 or better ISO? I think his ISO last year was the product of a small sample. Now, having said that, I still think he will produce more overall offensive value than Duvall. He is going to take his share of walks, hit for a decent to very good average, and have enough power to make him a more valuable hitter than Duvall. I don’t see anything like a .200 ISO out of him though.

    • With respect, why would the Red’s want to throw $’s at a 31+ year old (CF?) in 2019?

      • I don’t believe Matt is upset over a minor league deal. He’s demonstrating the lack of the FO’s ability to truly address the teams need. As usual, you seem to attack the posters on this forum, not the FO/management’s inability to do their job.

        • I don’t attack the others on this forum or the front office. The only attacks I see are coming from you. However if Matt feels I have attacked him he is free to discuss it with me. I will assume he doesn’t need you to protect him from my comments.

  12. Very glad they’re giving Senzel a look at short right away. ST is the perfect time to evaluate a young player and address whatever defensive flaws he may have so he can work on them in the minors. Senzel won’t break camp with the team: that’s a given. If he can play a ML caliber short the Reds are loaded for bear. Thay have prospective 2bmen running out of their ears and a AS caliber glove at third already.

    • Well, Angel Bravo was no Chico Ruiz, either. And certainly, no Skip Schumacher,

  13. If Senzel become the regular shortstop at the all star break…then I support Billy Hamilton playing CF and batting 9 th. There is plenty of options at 2b and Trammell / Siri can step in 2020 as the CF succession plan. Peraza would an outstanding utility infielder and able to handle 2b/SS/3b for any injuries.
    Freddy Benavides and his work with Suarez at third base gives me optimism for Senzel at SS..


    Opening day 2019.

    Winker LF
    Senzel SS
    Votto 1b
    Suarez 3b
    Schebler RF
    Herrera/Long 2b
    Barnhart C
    Castillo P
    Hamilton CF

  14. Say what you will about Senzel and his ability to cover SS position. If he is average, which I think he’ll be a little above, look what it does to help the offense after losing Cozart. Senzel should post similar numbers to what Cozart did in 2017. Not the 5 fWAR Cozart was, but a 4.0 to 4.5 fWAR is very possible. It gives Price better options to put out a more potent and balanced offense by maximizing opportunities.
    C–Barnhart vs. RH / Mesoraco vs. LH.
    2B-Gennett vs. RH / Peraza vs. LH
    SS-Senzel vs. most / Peraza vs. some
    3B- Suarez
    LF- Duval vs. LH / Duval, Gennett and Schebler vs. RH.
    CF- Hamilton vs. most / Ervin vs. some.
    RF- Winker vs. RH / Schebler vs. LH.

    vs. RH pitching: Hamilton>Winker>Votto>Suarez>Senzel>Gennett>Duvall>Barnhart.
    bench/PH: Peraza, Schebler, Mesoraco, Ervin.
    vs. LH pitching: Peraza>Senzel>Votto>Suarez>Duvall>Mesoraco>Ervin>Schebler.
    bench/PH: Hamilton, Gennett, Barnhart, Winker.

    Maximizing the players strengths and lessening their weaknesses.
    Generally speaking, it gives Price more options to mix and match.
    With Senzel, get him up from AAA by April 20, forget about the Super-2 ramifications and don’t look back. You’ll have the extra year of team control with Senzel and that’s what is important.
    And the makings of a potent balanced offensive attack, a monster bench, and room for an 8th bullpen arm if needed.

    • This is a solid post. Please Price….look at the platoon splits and play your guys accordingly. Billy and Scooter shouldn’t bat at against lefties. Mesoraco is the main guy that shouldn’t plat against righties

  15. I agree. But will Bryan Price’s favoring Hamilton as the regular centerfielder and hitting leadoff change? Lineup construction will be a key this season for the Reds to get near or to .500.

    • I respectfully disagree. The success of the pitching staff–or lack of success–is the key. I’ve read here, more than once, that lineups have minimal impact. Yes, it seems clear that BH should bat towards the bottom of the lineup, but an outfield of Duvall, Schebler and Winker has 2 clear flaws: 1). Any ball not hit to Duvall’s sector could be a problem and, 2). two of the guys in this scenario get on base little more than does Billy.

      • There are many keys to what each fan regards as a successful season. Progress with the pitching staff is the major key without doubt, but I wouldn’t minimize lineup management and for me that involves Winker as a regular starter in the outfield.

      • I will take two guys that could hit 30 homers over fly balls that could be a problem any day.Won’t matter much because Billy will play and lead off and get the most at bats.We can then discuss why we lose the 4-3 games instead of the 8-3 games.

  16. Ed and Jeff I agree100% but does anybody think Price will change?There has to be a big disconnect when he continues to give Billy the most at bats and play Duvall when he clearly was worn out while Winker went out for coffee.No reason to do that yet he wasn’t even questioned and was given a new contract.It will be interesting to see if he does do anything different or do we just see the same thing over and over again.I agree he won’t be around when we can compete but I don’t understand what we gain by keeping him.

  17. Scooter won his arbitration award and will make $5.7MM thi season rather than the $5.1MM proposed by the Reds. He will have one final season of arbitration after the 2018 season before pending FA in 2020.

    • Ouch. He just got that much harder to trade. Out of curiosity, based on what we know from the big database of MLB performance stats, what numbers would he have to post to justify this compensation and be marketable? (Yes, theoretically something around 1.5 WAR, but he’d presumably have to show generation of surplus value above that to draw interest absent the emergency “I need a replacement second baseman and I need him -now-” type deal.

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