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It could be fitting for Didi, Reds to go full circle

@m_sheldon
November 8, 2019

CINCINNATI -- On the heels of the 2012 Winter Meetings, the Reds, Indians and D-backs completed a blockbuster three-team trade on Dec. 11. The big name for Cincinnati coming over from Cleveland was outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Other players would become big names later. One current Reds player and another former

CINCINNATI -- On the heels of the 2012 Winter Meetings, the Reds, Indians and D-backs completed a blockbuster three-team trade on Dec. 11. The big name for Cincinnati coming over from Cleveland was outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Other players would become big names later.

One current Reds player and another former one were also involved in the deal. Then a starting pitching prospect, Trevor Bauer was moved from Arizona to Cleveland, while Cincinnati dealt shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius to Arizona. Gregorius eventually became a star for the Yankees.

And now the conditions appear right for free-agent shortstop Gregorius to return to the Reds, where his career started.

Hailing from Curacao, Gregorius was 22 when he was a September callup for Cincinnati in 2012. He debuted to start in place of an injured Zack Cozart on Sept. 5 of that season and batted .300 (8-for-20) in eight games, with four starts at shortstop.

The Reds, who signed Gregorius as a 17-year-old in 2007, loved Gregorius’ defensive wizardry and great throwing arm. Although he didn’t have much power at the time, he had the makings of decent hitter capable of getting on base. But with Cozart having already established himself at shortstop as the club was coming off a National League Central title, Cincinnati capitalized on its positional depth and moved Gregorius to land Choo.

Why Gregorius makes sense

• Of course, the Reds have an opening at shortstop after José Iglesias became a free agent. And the only string attached to Gregorius was cut on Monday when the Yankees declined to make him a qualifying offer. Had one been extended, signing Gregorius would have meant Draft pick compensation going to New York.

• The door is still open for Iglesias to return, but Gregorius could be an offensive upgrade for a team seeking to score more runs. From 2016-18 with the Yankees, Gregorius averaged 24 home runs per season while totaling 10.2 wins above replacement (WAR). In 2019, Iglesias hit a career-high 11 homers in his one season with the Reds and was worth 1.5 WAR. Both players are capable of making jaw-dropping plays in the field.

• There has certainly been a lot of turnover on the Reds since 2012, with Joey Votto being the only player on the current roster that played with Gregorius when he was freshly promoted. But Gregorius is likely familiar with the main players in the front office, like president of baseball operations Dick Williams, general manager Nick Krall and ownership. He’s been to Spring Training at the Reds’ complex in Goodyear, Ariz., and he knows what the facility has to offer for players.

Why Gregorius might not work

• The Reds certainly won’t be competing in a vacuum for Gregorius’ services. Their NL Central rivals -- the Brewers -- are among teams looking to improve at shortstop. The Yankees could always try to bring Gregorius back, though they may go with Gleyber Torres at short.

• Cincinnati has avoided signing free agents for more than two years. The last player from outside the organization to get a long-term deal was closer Francisco Cordero, who signed a four-year, $48 million deal before the 2008 season. But Williams has made it clear, however, that Cincinnati’s payroll is getting bumped upwards and that could give the club a better chance to compete for free agents.

• Gregorius will turn 30 in February and is coming off a poor 2019 season that could deflate some of his value. An elbow injury during the 2018 American League Division Series required Tommy John surgery and he didn’t debut this year until early June. Gregorius batted .238/.276/.441 with 16 homers and 61 RBIs in 82 games after he returned. Steamer projects a batting slash line of .264/.312/.450 with 22 homers -- an indication teams should be bullish for a rebound season.

What if Gregorius doesn’t sign with the Reds

Should the Reds and Gregorius not being able to pull off this reunion, the club could look at multiple scenarios. Inside the club, it has already picked up the $5.5 million option for Freddy Galvis, with the idea he could be used at shortstop, second base or off the bench. Iglesias was happy with the Reds and fit well into their clubhouse and his defense was loved by the team -- namely its pitchers.

By far the most intriguing alternative would be a trade for Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor. The superstar is viewed by many in the industry as a candidate to be dealt because he has two seasons of club control remaining before he can become a free agent. That means it would likely require a huge haul in return to get Lindor. But focused on contending, the Reds weren’t afraid to make trades last winter and could be willing to do what it takes to improve the team.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.