In the days leading up to Opening Day, we’ll be previewing The State Of The Reds at every single position on the field. Check out the previous installments of our Redleg Nation 2018 Season Preview series:

Catcher
Second Base
Shortstop
Center Field
Bullpen


Third base is perhaps the place the Reds can feel most certain they’ll get good production, this side of Joey Votto. There is more high-end, advanced depth at third than anywhere else in the Reds organization. Also, with the exception of the current starter, all the players here are also in the mix at other spots around the diamond. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s good to be flexible. But it also means that, other than Eugenio, these guys have all been written about by my esteemed colleagues, whose work, one assumes, you have already enjoyed.

2018 Starter

Eugenio Suarez. Duh. Suarez is the second-best player on the Reds right now and he’s not going anywhere. He seems to now be a very good bet for 20+ HRs and a well above-average OBP while also providing high-quality defense at third. Oh, and he’s still just 26 years old. It is interesting, however, to see how the offseason went with Suarez – that is, to arbitration. Reds general manager Dick Williams indicated that the Reds tried to talk extension and Suarez wasn’t ready to do that. Maybe their initial overtures were low or maybe Suarez wants another excellent year under his belt before negotiating or maybe he knows that he’ll have just turned 29 when he hits free agency and wants the chance to see what happens on the open market. We don’t know the answers here, but it does raise at least some questions about the future.

2019 Starter

Eugenio Suarez

2020 Starter

Now, it gets interesting and now we talk depth. The Reds will still have control of Suarez at this point, but other factors could come into play. If the Reds are a competitive team, Suarez likely stays where he is. If they aren’t? Well, if there’s still no extension in the works, Suarez may well find himself traded elsewhere. In which case, it gets more interesting.

Nick Senzel could start at third right now. For the moment, it seems he’s making a run at shortstop. If that doesn’t work, he’ll slide over to second, where the Reds have a lot of depth.

Dilson Herrera plays second (when his shoulder lets him). If he gets over the injury finally and Senzel sticks at short, he may establish himself at second. But Shed Long is also coming. And if he keeps coming what then?

The point is that any of the current second base candidates except Gennett could eventually find themselves over at the hot corner depending on what happens with Geno. I’d love to see him locked up forever, of course, but that might not happen. If it doesn’t, the Reds will still probably be okay there.

Depth

Alex Blandino is not a shortstop. I promise you. I like him, but he just isn’t a shortstop. He is, however, a solid second baseman and a decent third baseman. He can hit and he’s 25. He probably has something like a Todd Frazier ceiling in terms of WAR (Frazier, you’ll note, debuted in the majors at 25). The age thing does matter and it’s something not enough people pay attention to. A 25-year-old in AAA is a lot different than a 22-year-old in AAA. Still, I’d be pretty surprised if Blandino couldn’t manage some 2-3 WAR seasons given a starting gig. He’s just not the kind of player you sign to a long-term deal. (Note that Suarez is only a little more than a year older than Blandino and already has almost 2000 MLB plate appearances.)

Brandon Dixon is older than Blandino and not as good. He hits the ball hard, but doesn’t have good plate discipline. If he makes the team, it’s because the Reds want Blandino playing every day in the minors. If Dixon is getting regular playing time, chances are something has gone pretty wrong.

Overall

The Reds figure to have someone quite capable at third for the foreseeable future. Things can always go wrong, of course, but this is a strong position with several players available who are both young and advanced and it should be a point of strength for the Reds for a long time.

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

Join the conversation! 24 Comments

  1. I like Eugenio Suarez a lot. A really stand up guy, good player, works hard, has a great player ethic.

    If they don’t sign him to a long term contract by mid – season, they should trade him and give the position to Senzel. Otherwise he walks and the Reds have nothing.

    Bring up the young guys (Blandino, Dixon) and let them play and actually develop some major league value. Stop monkeying around with old players like Gosselin and Pennington. They offer nothing of future value. Just occupying space.

    • Uh, the Reds have three years of control on Suarez, through 2020. They have plenty of time to figure out how to play both Senzel and Suarez, before worrying about Suarez “walking.” Senzel will likely end up at second, short or even centerfield.

    • Jocketty is sort of gone, but his Marquis/Gregg legacy lives on. Its like the Reds are forced by legal action to add washed up mouth breathers like Pennington and Revere instead of trusting their young guys and giving them a real shot?

      • Pennington and Revere are – at most – subs. If any starter went down, someone would be called up to take their place. Neither of those guys are ever going to get starter-level playing time. The idea is that you keep your players who are starter-quality playing everyday and use more marginal players as your bench guys.

        • That kind of thinking got the Reds into this position in the first place, in part.
          Under Jocketty, there was NO young player promotion or development at the ML level for backup players. Let’s get Skip Schumacher!

          Really, if the Reds are rebuilding, I don’t see any value in Veteran Presence, a property often over valued.
          Let’s keep Ben Revere and let Phil Ervin get playing time at AAA. Forward thinking.

      • I’m not sure I’d call Revere washed up. Like Scooter, Revere is an excellent signing. The guy hit .336 with a .378 obp in the 2nd half last season, with an added 12 stolen bases. I’m not sure what the problem here is with some, when it comes to signing veterans. Yes, I want young guys starting, but veterans on the bench, who are PRODUCTIVE, are outstanding additions. Revere had a terrible 2016 season, and outside that, he’s had an excellent career. We stole Revere, same way we stole Scooter.

        • Guess you don’t care about (1) power, (2) walks, (3) defense. Did you see that throw to home Revere made from right field that landed and stopped near first base? Ben Revere is one of the *very worst* major league players overall. Unlike Gennett, Revere was sitting around with no interest from any club all offseason and the Reds signed him to a minor league deal. The Reds didn’t “steal” Revere. They picked him up off the scrap heap. In contrast, the Reds put Scooter on a major league contract from the start.

          • Steve, I do care about power, but this team isn’t in a short supply of power. I also care about walks, but in the end, I don’t care how you get on base, as long as you do it. Revere carried an .378 OBP second half of last season. I see that as a solid rate of getting on base. Except for 2016, Revere has been solid at getting on base and steals 30 plus bags a year. As for his defense, again, he’s always been solid, except for last season. I think he will be fine in a smaller ballpark. Having said all that, I’m not suggesting he be the starting CFer, but I have no problem with a veteran on the bench that may be able to help some of the younger guys, including Billy Hamilton. And yes, Scooter was picked up off the scrap heap. Was he not dumped by the Brewers? The difference is, the Reds didn’t want to take a chance of not getting him, so they gave him a MLB contract right away. Again though, we have folks in here complaining that Scooter was given the playing time that he was given. I’m all about the young guys, and finding the needs with them, but at the same time, it’s important to field a team that can win games, and normally you don’t fill a whole bench with young prospects. Revere can fill a need. He can hit late in a game against closers, being a veteran with some legitimate success, and he can pinch run too. Not sure a bench full of prospects to use late in a game against the opposing closer is the best thing for this team and it’s prospects.

  2. I think the possible extension for Suarez will be something interesting to watch.
    The Reds are likely looking for something like a 5 year contract buying out his 2019 and 2020 arbitration years as well as his potential free agent years of 2021-2023. The Reds would be locking a productive player up through his prime.
    Suarez could be looking at it though as delaying free agency until he is 32 years old, rather than 29. Looking at the current free-agent landscape though, hoping for a big free agent contract at 32 might not seem like a great idea.

    • I agree, with the way free agency is working now Suarez’s best opportunity for a big contract is between now and 2020. He is going to want enough money now to make it worth passing up the potential of a big contract in a few years. It is really a gamble for both sides. He risks giving up that potential huge contract if he becomes a star. The Reds risk paying a rate higher than arbitration for a few years for an injured player. The benefit to both sides is having a set amount for x number of years and not worrying about free agency.

      How much potential earnings is Suarez willing to give up for the certainty of a contract and how much are the Reds willing spend

  3. I hope Suarez is willing to talk extension soon and we can get that done.

    I would like to see blandino make the team and play against lefthanders at 2b and fill in at SS and 3B. He could probably get around 200 at bats if managed well. Do you think that is enough at bats for that to be best for Blandino? or is it best for Blandino to go back to AAA and bat every day?

    • I just looked for a comp for Blandino:

      Matt Carpenter, here is carpenter’s worst offensive season:
      G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
      158 709 595 99 162 33 2 8 59 5 3 95 111 .272 .375 .375 .750

      He had a -1 dwar and yielded 2.9 war.

      • I don’t think Blandino will be as good as Carpenter. I sure hope he is though. That would be huge.

        I think his ceiling is pretty much as Jason described; solid starting MLB 2B. I think his more likely outcome is good utility man with a good glove at 2B, good glove at 3B, can play SS in an emergency and can give professional plate appearances.

  4. I don’t believe a word Dick Williams says. Suarez said earlier he was open to an extension. My guess is the Reds front office low-balled him terribly on their offers. A sign Walt Jocketty still exerts too much influence in the Reds front office. And Suarez and his agent said No Thanks.
    Suarez probably is still stinging from the arbitration hearing and what the Reds had to use against him to win the hearing. If Suarez doesn’t sign an extension this season some time, that would signal some bad blood between him and the front office, most likely resulting from the arbitration hearing and the low-ball offers.
    If he doesn’t sign an extension by Sept. 1, then move him off of 3B altogether and give that to Senzel. Then entertain trade offers for him next winter. Two seasons of team control have more value than one on the trade market. The Reds have a more than suitable replacement at 3B. Suarez could return a top SS or CF.
    This is one player the Reds cannot wait too long before deciding what to do.

    • I almost replied to this immediately two days ago, and am not sure whether anyone will read it now that 48 hours has passed. (I generally do not to post when irritated, and a number of things in this post created that in me.)
      Like most (or all) GM’s, DW knows his words are read by his players and his competing GM’s, so like the words uttered by them all, they must be taken in that light. I do believe what DW says, and find his increased communication and candor refreshing. While the Reds have been frustrating to us as fans, we don’t get to see what goes on behind closed doors and in people’s minds (and hearts), and so we know only a few surface things about most situations.
      Suarez expressed his feelings, calling the team his ‘family’ where he wanted to stay and signing a long (nearly career-long) contract. DW and the Reds got it done reasonably and for the longer term. Great move – and great news.

  5. I love Suarez. I do. But these are the dangerous extensions imho. He’s not Kris Bryant or Adrian Beltre. But he’s better than most… for now. If he’ll accept jay Bruce money then yes extend him. But if he wants Kris Bryant money I say he’s too risky to regress. I dunno.

    • To be fair, he won’t under any circumstances get Kris Bryant type money unless he’s as productive as Kris Bryant. And tbh, I don’t see him getting a Kyle Seager type of contract either (at least not from the Reds). I’m sure Suarez doesn’t want to give up peak FA years for cheap. But what’s a fair deal for say 2 years of free agency and then try the market as a 30-31 yr old? This past winter’s FA market was astoundingly soft and that has to be on his mind.

    • You nailed it Streamer! He signed a Bruce-like contract, and we can all enjoy it now.

  6. Recent MLB history would suggest that the Reds should look to trade Suarez this coming off-season, if he won’t agree to a contract extension.

    Waiting until the player is entering his final contracted season to trade him greatly lessens the return and number of potential suitors. The Pirates with McCutchen and the Orioles with Machado are the latest to suffer by not finalizing a deal sooner.

    The Suarez situation is an intriguing, hidden drama. Both sides can make a case for extending or walking away. If Suarez is the 2.4 WAR player or less in 2018 as Steamer projects, maybe the Reds do better long-term by trading him and installing Senzel.

    If he is 3 WAR or better, as ZIPS predicts, Suarez can legimately start thinking about being the best FA 3B in 2021, ahead of Jake Lamb.

    Either way, the optics of the Reds taking him to trial in arbitration over 450K are still poor. Heck of a way to treat your “second-best player.”

    • All good points. But re: the last point – there’s too much we don’t know about (what was said in arbitration, contemporaneous or previous extension negotiations) to draw any fair conclusions. Maybe both sides agreed to play things out in arbitration as a way to further contract discussions?

  7. What do you guys think about Dixon? He’s really impressed me this spring. I hope he gets a chance..

    • Giant hole in his swing. Can hit the ball a mile, but he Ks too much and walks too little. Don’t be persuaded by a few good spring games. He’s depth, but not much more.

      • I’ve noticed in the minors that he is very streaky.

      • In the Encyclopedia of Baseball (Fictional Online DB Version), under the entry for “Mistake Hitter” is a picture and description of Dixon.

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About Jason Linden

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

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