Reds experimenting with infield roles

Suárez moves to shortstop, Moustakas shifts to hot corner, 2B competition to include India

March 16th, 2021

In a move that could carry ramifications for the entire infield, the Reds plan to start regular third baseman Eugenio Suárez at shortstop Tuesday when they play the Rockies.

If manager David Bell likes what he sees from Suárez, he could have him open the regular season at shortstop with Mike Moustakas at third base and second base becoming a position battle for several candidates -- including No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Jonathan India.

“We have to see what it looks like. We're not making any decisions now, we have a lot of options. We have guys willing to do what's best for our team and have bought in to whatever it takes,” Bell said Monday. “That's making this look at Geno at shortstop possible.”

The change would not put Suárez in a foreign position since he came up as a shortstop and played there through 2015, before he switched to third base. In the past two seasons, he’s often stationed around shortstop when the defense is shifted for left-handed hitters.

An All-Star in 2018 who hit a career-best 49 home runs in '19, Suárez arrived at this year's camp slimmed down because of his disappointment with his 2020 performance. He batted .202/.312/.470 with 15 home runs, 38 RBIs and a 102 OPS+ in 57 games last season.

Although it’s been a topic of previous conversations, Bell, the coaching staff and general manager Nick Krall discussed the possibility of Suárez moving spots again.

“I don't think I ever considered it seriously until the beginning of Spring Training,” Bell said. “I do think it did have something to do with how he came into camp just lighter and in really good shape. That's when it was first considered. Over the course of the last three weeks, he's gradually started working a little bit more on the backfields and I've seen him a few times. I've had conversations with him, feeling out the situation and he was open to it.”

After the club let Freddy Galvis go as a free agent, Krall was unable to sign or trade for a regular shortstop amid a payroll reduction in the offseason. Throughout camp, Kyle Farmer, Alex Blandino, non-roster invite Dee Strange-Gordon and Rule 5 player Kyle Holder have been competing for the vacancy.

If the club moved ahead with Suárez at shortstop in a full-time capacity, those same four players would shift to compete for the second-base job. The group would also include India, who has enjoyed a strong camp and was promoted from the Minor League camp to big league camp last week.

Strange-Gordon is a two-time All-Star second baseman and he has looked healthy after some down seasons with the Mariners. A utility player for Cincinnati the past two seasons, Farmer has played 54 career games at second base, including 13 in 2020.

Bell noted that the potential position switches is not a reflection of the competition currently at shortstop, nor with how Suárez has performed at third base or Moustakas at second.

“I actually think [Suárez] is better this spring than I've ever seen him at third base,” Bell said. “If we did make the transition, I like the fact that we're making it not based on a lack of performance at third base -- it's actually quite the opposite. He's actually moving really, really well at third base. It's just more encouragement to see what he's looked like at shortstop.”

Moustakas is a former All-Star third baseman for the Royals and Brewers who moved to second base full-time last year upon signing a four-year, $64 million contract with Cincinnati as a free agent.

One other unknown for the infield will be the status of first baseman Joey Votto, who is currently on the injured list due to a positive COVID-19 test. But Votto’s situation wouldn’t affect potential plans to move positions for Suárez or Moustakas, who could fill in at first base also.

“I don't think so, just because we're expecting Joey back, even if it's not Day 1,” Bell said. “We're planning on him being a big part of the infield. A move like this, I don't think we'd make for the short-term.”