Reds make a splash with veteran INF Candelario

December 11th, 2023

CINCINNATI -- One area where the Reds have no scarcity of depth is the infield. However in the wee hours of Wednesday night after the Winter Meetings officially wrapped in Nashville, Tenn., they landed a free-agent infielder.

Wait, what?

and Cincinnati reached agreement on a three-year, $45 million deal in Nashville that was finalized on Monday. The contract also includes a $15 million club option for 2027.

Along with the signings of starter Nick Martinez and reliever Emilio Pagán, the Reds have spent a combined $87 million on free agents thus far this winter.

Candelario, 30, is joining an infield that already features Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Jonathan India, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Spencer Steer and Noelvi Marte.

How does the switch-hitting Candelario, who plays both third base and first base, fit with that group next season?

According to a source, Cincinnati is planning to move Steer to the outfield full time, and he will fill the club's need for a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder. A utility infielder most of his pro career who led the Reds as a rookie last season in hits, extra-base hits, home runs and RBIs, Steer got his first taste of the outfield with 45 games in left field and three games in right field.

Steer in the outfield would leave the Reds with six infielders for five spots, including designated hitter, for manager David Bell to rotate throughout the year.

All can play multiple positions. De La Cruz and Marte play shortstop and third base, McLain plays shortstop and second base, Encarnacion-Strand will likely be a first baseman and DH and India -- a second baseman for all three of his big league seasons -- is going to get time at first base and DH.

Candelario was among the top hitters moved at the 2023 Trade Deadline, dealt from the Nationals to the Cubs -- where he started his career -- for Minor Leaguers DJ Herz and Kevin Made. While injuries limited him to just 41 games with Chicago in 2023, Candelario still posted one of the best offensive seasons of his career.

In 2023, Candelario batted .251 with an .807 OPS – the highest of his career for a full season. He also set career bests with 22 homers and 70 RBIs over 140 games for Washington and Chicago, while his 39 doubles were tied for sixth-most in MLB.

Candelario did slightly better at hitting against right-handed pitching (.813 OPS) than lefties (.792 OPS) in 2023. He was also a thorn in the side of Reds pitchers, batting .359 with a 1.160 OPS and three homers over 11 games against them.

Off the field, Candelario has a reputation for being a positive clubhouse presence who leads by example.

The Reds, who moved on from iconic first baseman Joey Votto by not picking up his 2024 club option, now have someone who has a chance to fill the veteran void and potentially be a mentor to their young and still inexperienced infielders.