The Reds announced Thursday that they’ve signed outfielder Tyler Naquin to a minor league deal and invited him to Major League Spring Training. The Excel Sports client and former first-round pick his spent his entire career to date with the Indians.
Naquin, 29, hit the IL early in the 2020 season due to a broken big toe in his right foot. He returned in mid-August and scuffled through one of the worst stretches of his career at the plate, batting just .218/.248/.383 with four homers and a bloated 28.4 percent strikeout rate in 141 trips to the dish. Whether Naquin simply never found his timing at the plate, had difficulty maximizing the use of his lower half due to the injury or both, the struggles resulted in him being non-tendered after the season.
Naquin has had his share of productive stints in the big leagues, including both his rookie campaign in 2016 and a solid showing in 2019. A left-handed hitter, he’s always struggled against left-handed pitching but has handled righties at a solid .281/.329/.454 clip — good for a 105 wRC+ (or production that is five percent better than league average, when weighted for park and league). A healthy Naquin posted strong defensive marks in the outfield corners in 2018-19 as well, though he rated quite poorly as a center fielder during his rookie year.
In Cincinnati, Naquin adds an experienced option to an already muddied mix. Nick Castellanos, Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker and Shogo Akiyama are the favorites for playing time, but the club also has Aristides Aquino, Mark Payton and Scott Heineman on the big league roster, plus similar non-roster invitees in Nicky Delmonico and Dwight Smith Jr.