The Reds announced a series of roster moves today, with left-hander Alex Young reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list and right-hander Connor Phillips selected to the roster. In corresponding moves, outfielder Harrison Bader was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right groin strain while righty Carson Spiers was optioned to Triple-A. To open a 40-man spot for Phillips, righty Graham Ashcraft was transferred to the 60-day injured list.
It’s unclear when or how Bader sustained his injury. He started yesterday’s game and made three trips to the plate and was replaced in the seventh inning. TJ Friedl batted for left fielder Nick Senzel that inning and then took over in center, with Will Benson taking Bader’s spot in the order and taking over in left. In addition to the unknowns of when the issue cropped up, the severity isn’t clear either. But with just two weeks left in the season, it’s possible Bader’s season is in jeopardy.
Regardless, it’s an unfortunate blow for the Reds and Bader personally. The club claimed him off waivers from the Yankees at the end of August, adding about $783K in salary to their books just have one month of his services. He hasn’t been having a good year at the plate, now hitting just .232/.274/.348 between the two clubs, but still provides value thanks to his speed and defense. He has 20 stolen bases on the year, despite playing just 98 games, while continuing to get great reviews for his glovework in the outfield.
The Reds will now proceed without Bader for at least the next 10 days, with Friedl likely taking on most of the center field playing time as Benson, Senzel, Nick Martini and Hunter Renfroe share the corners. The club is sitting on a record of 78-73, bunched into an extremely tight National League Wild Card race that seems destined to come down to the wire.
Bader is an impending free agent and will head into the open market at an inopportune time, given his slumping offensive production and mounting injury concerns. He hit .258/.327/.457 over 2020 and 2021 for a wRC+ of 110 but slipped to .250/.294/.356 and a wRC+ of 85 last year, while his aforementioned performance this year amounts to a wRC+ of just 70.
Meanwhile, he’s made trips to the IL over the past three years due to a right rib hairline fracture, right foot plantar fasciitis, a left oblique strain, a right hamstring strain and now this groin strain. He was only able to play 103 games in 2021, 86 last year and 98 so far this year. If he heals up and the Reds make the postseason, perhaps he has time to change the narrative. But for now, it seems he will be trying to market himself at a time when prospective clubs will have various concerns about his long-term projections.
Phillips, 22, came up to the big leagues earlier this month as a COVID replacement. He made two starts with an earned run average of 8.31 before being returned to the minors and has now had his contract selected in the more traditional fashion. In 105 innings in the minors this year, he has a 3.86 ERA, striking out 33.3% of opponents but also walking 12.3%. He’ll jump into a Cincinnati rotation that has been beset by various injuries this year, with each of Ashcraft, Justin Dunn, Vladimir Gutierrez, Nick Lodolo and Connor Overton currently on the 60-day IL. That leaves them with Hunter Greene, Andrew Abbott, Brandon Williamson, Ben Lively and Phillips in the rotation as they make their final postseason push.
As for Ashcraft, it was reported over the weekend that he will require season-ending toe surgery, making this transfer an inevitable formality.