Despite undergoing shoulder surgery to remove some loose cartilage in late January, Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez could potentially be ready to go by Opening Day, manager David Bell told reporters Thursday (Twitter link via Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer).
The injury was never expected to sideline Suarez for too much of the 2020 campaign; the Cincinnati organization announced at the time of the procedure that Suarez would be ready to play in games “near the beginning of the regular season.” That’s a relatively nebulous statement, but Bell suggests that recent tests/updates have encouraged the team.
Suarez’s injury status will be notable to follow for several reasons. Beyond the simple fact that he’s emerged as one of the National League’s better players and is on a club that enters the 2020 season more poised to contend that at any point in the past five years, Suarez’s status figures to have a ripple effect throughout the organization. Offseason signee Mike Moustakas was added with the idea that he’d move to second base on a full-time basis, but it’s conceivable that he could see action at third base early in the year should Suarez need some IL time. That could open the door for a non-roster player such as Derek Dietrich to again break camp with Cincinnati or for a younger player like Josh VanMeter to get some regular reps early in 2020.
The Reds surely want Suarez in the lineup as soon as possible, given that the 28-year-old broke out with a massive .271/.358/.572 slash and 49 home runs this past season. At the same time, the club also has to resist the temptation to rush him back into the fold, as a healthy Suarez figures to be a key anchor in a lineup that was bolstered by the offseason additions of Moustakas, Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama.
The 2019-20 offseason saw the Pirates take a step back, the Brewers scale back payroll (while still making numerous low-cost moves), the Cardinals make only minimal additions and the Cubs barely even try to improve at all. The Reds look to be the most improved club in the division, and the extent to which Suarez is able to contribute should be an important factor in their chances of returning to contention in 2020.