This news is most unwelcome for the Reds, as Naquin has been a pleasant surprise for them this year. After being non-tendered by Cleveland in December, he latched on with the Reds on a minor league deal in February and then had a great spring, vaulting himself onto the Opening Day roster. Since then, he has gotten into 127 games for the Reds, hitting .270/.333/.477, good enough for a wRC+ of 111. Despite subpar defense, he’s still been worth 1.4 wins above replacement on the season, according to FanGraphs. Unfortunately, on September 11th, Naquin and teammate Jose Barrero collided while attempting to trying to catch a fly ball. Naquin came out of that game with bruised ribs and was eventually placed on the IL a few days later.
If Cincinnati were to go on a lengthy playoff run, Naquin’s chances of returning would surely improve, though that seems very unlikely at this point. The club has gone on an ill-timed slide here in September, with a record of 7-13 in the month so far. When combined with the incredible 12-game win streak of the Cardinals, the Reds are now 5 1/2 games out of a playoff spot with just over a week remaining in the season.
Longer term, the team will now have to decide whether to tender Naquin a contract for 2022. He will finish this season with just over five years’ service time and can be controlled for one more season via arbitration. Naquin played the 2020 season on a prorated $1.45MM salary and was let go by a Cleveland team that didn’t think he was worth an arbitration raise. Now Cincinnati is in a similar position, paying him $1.5MM for this year. However, Naquin was coming off a disastrous campaign in the shortened 2020 season, hitting .218/.248/.383, a wRC+ of 65.
The Reds are likely to see Nick Castellanos opt out of the last two years of his contract and return to free agency. That would leave Jesse Winker as the only lock for next year’s outfield, along with unproven options such as TJ Friedl, Max Schrock, Nick Senzel, Shogo Akiyama and Aristides Aquino. Keeping Naquin around for another season and giving him a modest arbitration raise could be a good way to provide the club some extra cover as they navigate the offseason outfield market.