Trade rumors surrounding Cincinnati Reds All-Star second basemen have been circulating this offseason. But trading Scooter Gennett, even to acquire another starting pitcher is not the right move.
Ever since he was claimed off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017, Scooter Gennett has delivered big time playing second base for the Cincinnati Reds. His tendency towards clutch hits and a good batting average have made him a favorite. Gennett made baseball fun to watch during a time when there was very little to be excited about in Reds Country. That is just part of why letting him go at this point would be a mistake.
Gennett is in his final year of arbitration. That fact, combined with the impending arrival of number-one prospect Nick Senzel, has a portion of the Cincinnati Reds fan base pushing for Gennett to be traded. Trading away Gennett would open the door for Senzel to join the infield and the Reds may even get another starting pitcher out of the deal.
But, Senzel’s call-up to the big leagues should not come at the expense of arguably the best batter on the Reds roster. Slashing .310/.357/.490, Gennett had 30 doubles, 3 triples, 23 home runs and 92 RBIs. Scooter is the only batter on the Reds roster who was batting over .300 in 2018.
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Several players including Michael Lorenzen, José Peraza, Curt Casali, and Jesse Winker came extremely close. All of them batting .290 or higher. It’s even possible that Winker would have made the cut as well since he was sitting firmly at .299 before a shoulder injury in July put him on the disabled list for the rest of the season.
That’s not to say these and other players will not improve in 2019, especially with new coaching staff on board. But looking at what’s in front of us it’s clear that Gennett is not to be overlooked.
His defensive capabilities are also often undersold. If we look at Scooter in comparison to other second basemen in Major League Baseball, his .983 fielding percentage is fifth in the National League. Gennett had 101 double plays this season, putting him first overall in MLB. He is also first in putouts with 280 and fourth in assists with 374. Gennett is just as capable defensively as he is offensively.
Senzel is young, a top prospect, and has a ton of potential. Several other MLB teams had a lot of success in calling up their young prospects last season and in all likelihood the Reds would have the same result with Senzel. The difference is that those teams did not trade away good players to make room for prospects.
If Gennett were under-performing, over-payed, or had a bad attitude it would be an entirely different story. But he is none of those things. Gennett is a team oriented player with great numbers, consistent performance, and a team-friendly salary.
It’s also worth mentioning that Senzel has never played an inning of Major League Baseball at any position. Meaning that even if he excels during Spring Training it is probably smarter in the long run for the Reds to have him begin the 2019 season in Triple-A Louisville and then make his debut in May or June.
Given the opportunity, there’s a decent chance the Reds will be able to sign Gennett to a favorable extension for both the player and the team. If 2019 goes as well for Gennett as the last two seasons have, signing him to an extension next offseason will become increasingly difficult. If the two sides cannot come to an agreement on an extension then maybe before the trade deadline in July, depending on the team’s record, the idea of a trade could be revisited.
In the meantime, there is still a chance that Senzel could be called up to play in the open center field slot if he can do so successfully. Senzel could also have a place as a utility player in the infield, be a good righty batter against tough left-handed pitching, and give the regular infielders a day off now and then. There is also the occasional interleague game that calls for a designated hitter.
Scooter Gennett is one of the best all-around ball players the Cincinnati Reds have seen in a while. He is worth hanging on to. Letting go of good players to clear room on the field for prospects is not the right move to make.