Candelario ready to 'make something special' in Cincy

December 12th, 2023

CINCINNATI -- Not many free-agent hitters have signed with clubs yet, but the Reds knew early in the offseason they wanted . The feeling was mutual, apparently, because the corner infielder liked what he saw from Cincinnati while playing against the team in 2023.

“This year playing against this team, I saw a different team," Candelario said on Tuesday. “I saw a team that has a lot of aggressive hitting. We can run, we can hit. It’s a nice group of young guys. Me on this team and the guys that are here, we can make something special in Cincinnati.”

Although the deal was agreed to last week, the Reds and Candelario officially signed a three-year, $45 million contract with a club option for 2027 on Monday after he passed his physical. Candelario was introduced during a Tuesday morning press conference at Great American Ball Park.

According to a source, multiple clubs were seeking Candelario -- including one of his former teams in the Nationals -- but the Reds made their intentions clear to him as soon as the free-agent market opened for business after the World Series. Talks with his agent, Paul Kinzer, began at the General Managers Meetings in November, and Cincinnati was often checking in on Candelario's interest.

“We pursued him aggressively. We wanted him to come in and be a veteran presence. That’s why he is here," said president of baseball operations Nick Krall.

The switch-hitting Candelario batted .251 with a career-best .807 OPS (excluding the shortened 2020 season when he posted an .872 mark) and also set personal highs with 22 home runs and 70 RBIs over 140 games for the Nationals and Cubs last season. His 39 doubles were tied for the sixth-most in MLB.

“Just an impact bat," Krall said. "A line-drive hitter that has a chance to hit more home runs in this ballpark. He can play solid defense at both first and third [base].”

Candelario, 30, joins a young Reds club -- especially in an infield that includes Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Noelvi Marte.

“They all have less than a year of service in the big leagues," Krall said. "I think bringing in quality veterans is really important for us.”

To make it all fit, the Reds plan to have infielder Spencer Steer become a full-time outfielder. They also will have second baseman Jonathan India get work in the outfield during Spring Training to see if that is an option. India is expected to get time at first base and designated hitter, as well.

Candelario is ready to embrace a leadership role for the younger players and lead by example. The young players were one of the reasons he wanted to join Cincinnati.

"I try to have a routine and execute it. There’s a lot of young guys, but they know what they’re doing," he said. “We talked about De La Cruz, we talked about Steer, we talked about McLain -- guys that are special. They have one or two years in the big leagues. They have quality AB’s, defense. They look like they have three or four years in the big leagues. Young guys, but at the same time, a lot of talent.”

Candelario may have admired the Reds from afar last season, but he also had plenty of success as a hitter against them. He batted .359 with a 1.160 OPS and three homers over 11 games against Cincinnati in 2023.

Over 12 career games at Great American Ball Park, Candelario is a .270 hitter (10-for-37) with a 1.094 OPS and four homers.

“It’s going to be fun. I look gap-to-gap. Home runs will come, especially in this ballpark," Candelario said. “My approach to the plate is being aggressive in the [strike] zone, getting my walks, trying to create good AB’s -- that’s what it’s all about. I like to be on second, and I want to be in a great position on the bases to create runs. We can do some damage, and everybody can run here. It’s a special group, and I’m excited to be a part of this group.”