I think we can agree on the premise. It doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel as nice as offense. We can see the impact of a batter going 3-5 pretty directly. When we watch Billy Hamilton take away a hit to lead off an inning, we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know how that hit would have changed the rest of the frame. But, it matters.
The Reds have all kinds of proven or promising position players and not enough spots for them. Second base has become the main culprit. With Scooter GennettÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s emergence and the promising Nick Senzel and Dilson Herrera both appearing ready for prime time to varying degrees, the Reds have a lot of second basemen. That doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t count Shed Long who is making some noise in AA.
Reds writers everywhere have suggested strategies for solving this issue, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not an easy one. The team could stand pat and try to find room for everyone. They could trade someone to address other organizational needs.
Well, it appears Gennett isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t going anywhere, at least by the deadline. The Reds might even extend his contract beyond next season. Many people seem giddy about a lineup that features both Gennett and Senzel, assuming the Reds donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t trade their top 5 prospect this offseason. And that lineup looks awfully good.
But, defense matters.
I often see fans suggest the Reds move either Gennett or Senzel to the outfield; that plan has plenty of risks.
Gennett was a really bad defender the last few years at second base. This season, he was awful in April, looking like he might be one of the worst defenders in all of baseball. But, he has rebounded nicely, posting an average UZR that has boosted his overall value.
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s probably a below average defender, but heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not as bad as the narrative. However, Senzel would almost assuredly be an upgrade at second base with the glove. His athleticism and strong arm would allow him to make plays that Gennett canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t and strengthening the defense up the middle makes a lot of sense. But that means moving Gennett to the outfield.
Gennett has played fewer than 100 innings in the outfield for his entire career and has dealt with shoulder issues this season. He doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t run particularly well. While Gennett the second basemen may flirt with average the next few years, Gennett the outfielder has disaster written all over it.
Imagine Gennett and Jesse Winker in the same outfield. The defensive metrics are probably too harsh on Winker, but an outfield that sports both players could have the worst corner defense in baseball. Even with Billy Hamilton patrolling centerfield, the Reds would put a lot of pressure on their young rotation to keep the ball out of the air. Oh, and Scott Schebler has made a pretty good argument (120 wRC+) for playing when he is healthy.
The Reds have talked about getting Senzel some time in the outfield, but that has never happened in his professional career. Again, the athleticism plays, but because the Reds have refrained from putting him at a corner spot in the minor leagues, we have no idea how that would look.
Senzel has little to prove in AAA with the bat. The Reds could ask him to learn a new position in the offseason and Spring Training, but they give him very little time to adjust before throwing him to the wolves in the big leagues.
Could an outfield of Winker, Schebler, and Senzel be good enough defensively? Maybe. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a big question mark because the Reds havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t planned for Senzel to ever play the outfield.
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see a good solution if they keep everyone. Maybe Senzel plays leftfield most days and spells Suarez or Gennett when they need a breather. Neither of those guys takes many days off when healthy.
The Reds could bite the bullet and play Gennett in leftfield, hoping they outslug everyone and that the infield defense atones for the defensive sins of the outfield. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s certainly possible.
Regardless, this possibility is something the Reds should have been preparing for before now. They should not have counted on Gennett returning to career norms after breaking out last season. Even if only in the deep recesses of their minds, they needed to think through what they would do if both players were on the roster in 2019.
Maybe, they did, but we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have much evidence of it. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s quite possible that Bob Castellini has dictated that Gennett will stay, tying the front officesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ hands. Even so, the Reds need a plan for getting their best position prospect since Jay Bruce on the field for all of 2019. That plan isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t clear right now.
If the Reds do keep both Gennett and Senzel, the potential lineup looks amazing. But, the runs they gain by adding one more electric bat could be given right back when the team takes the field.
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s concerning. Defense matters, and I hope the Reds can find a solution that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t leave them too vulnerable. It’s possible; it’s just not that obvious at the moment.