With several of the top shortstops on the free agent and trade markets now off the board, the Reds are still looking for reliable veteran help at the position. The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans (subscription required) lists some of the names that might still be available for the Reds, including previously-reported trade target Amed Rosario of the Indians and two new names on the radar — the Rays’ Willy Adames and free agent Dee Strange-Gordon.
Cincinnati and Tampa Bay already discussed Adames in trade talks earlier this winter, Rosencrans writes, “but the Reds wanted to explore the free-agent market first.” Since the likes of Didi Gregorius, Marcus Semien, and Andrelton Simmons have all signed elsewhere, it could be possible that the Reds will again circle back to inquire about Adames’ services.
Adames would represent a long-term answer for the Reds’ shortstop position, since he is only 25 years old and under team control through the 2024 season. Originally acquired by the Rays from the Tigers as part of the David Price trade in 2014, Adames has emerged as Tampa’s everyday choice at shortstop, showing gradual improvement at both the plate and in the field.
Over 2393 1/3 innings as a Major League shortstop, Adames has +9 Defensive Runs Saved, though other metrics like Outs Above Average and UZR/150 rank his glovework as subpar. He has also produced at least league-average run production or better over 1112 plate appearances, hitting .262/.329/.426 for his career with 38 home runs (105 OPS+, 106 wRC+).
There are some red flags about Adames’ hitting, however. Amidst an impressive .259/.332/.481 slash line over 205 PA last season, Adames’ .341 wOBA far outpaced his .295 xwOBA, and his 36.1% strikeout rate was one of the worst in baseball. While Adames has gradually improved his hard-hit ball percentages over his three MLB seasons, he is still only middle-of-the-pack in the category.
These could be reasons why the Rays are open to moving a player with Adames’ talent and contractual control, not to mention the fact that Wander Franco is waiting in the wings as Tampa’s shortstop of the future. In the event of an Adames trade, Joey Wendle could take over shortstop until Franco is ready to be promoted, which might not be until at least midway through the 2021 season considering that Franco has yet to even play Double-A ball.
Landing Adames might cost the Reds a significant trade package, however, and a case could be made that Cincinnati might not necessarily want a long-term player at the position, given how many star shortstops will be available in the 2021-22 free agent market. (While the Reds are clearly working with a limited budget this offseason, their financial picture could be different next winter, post-pandemic.) If this is the case, the Reds might just look for a one-year answer like Strange-Gordon, who could act as a stopgap so Cincy could either prepare to add a star free agent next winter, or allow more time for Jose Garcia to develop as the in-house candidate as the shortstop of the future.
“The Reds have at least checked in on Strange-Gordon,” according to Rosecrans, following a dismal season that saw the veteran hit only .200/.268/.213 over 82 PA for the Mariners. It was the worst of a rough three-year stretch in Seattle for Strange-Gordon, and the Mariners unsurprisingly declined their $14MM club option on his services for the 2021 season.
The 32-year-old began his MLB career as a shortstop with the Dodgers but has only played a handful of games at short over the last four seasons, making him something of an imperfect fit as an everyday option. It could be that the Reds might just use Strange-Gordon as something of a utilityman, giving him some time at shortstop but also rotating Garcia and the newly-acquired Kyle Holder at the position.