MLB hot stove: Reds are not close to a contract extension with potential trade chip Scooter Gennett
Gennett will become a free agent next offseason
One of the biggest decisions facing the Cincinnati Reds this offseason involves the future of All-Star second baseman Scooter Gennett. Gennett is one year away from free agency and it stands to reason that, if the rebuilding Reds are unable to sign Gennett long-term, they should trade him.
The two sides are not close to a contract extension at the moment. Reds general manager Dick Williams told MLB.com's Mark Sheldon not to expect an extension before the New Year with Gennett, or any player for that matter. From Sheldon:
"I wouldn't expect it before the calendar turns [to 2019]," Williams said. "There's too much up in the air in terms of roster construction going forward. I don't think you'll see us working on any extensions for anybody -- that's not just Scooter-specific. But I don't see any other extensions happening in the next 30 days while we're working out the roster."
"In the sense that we always remain open to good deals, if we find one that we really like," he said. "Flexibility is important to us. We will be careful about a lot of extensions."
It's worth noting the Reds have come up empty with several of their top trade chips in recent years. Zack Cozart was not traded during his All-Star 2017 season and was instead lost to free agency after the season, and because the Reds did not make him a qualifying offer, they didn't get a compensatory draft pick. Billy Hamilton was non-tendered last week despite trade interest over the years and Matt Harvey, now a free agent, . All three are gone for no return.
Surely the Reds have learned from those mistakes -- letting Cozart go for nothing was particularly egregious -- and will be open to trading Gennett should they be unable to work out an extension. Keeping him would be preferable. Gennett turns only 29 in May and middle infielders who put up a .303/.351/.508 (124 OPS+) batting line with 50 homers and 6.6 WAR in their age 27-28 seasons are hard to find. That's a player worth keeping around another few years.
MLB Trade Rumors projects Gennett to earn $10.7 million in 2019, his final season of arbitration eligibility. Another strong season next year would seem to set Gennett up for at least a three- or four-year contract worth $14 million per year in free agency, possibly even more. Perhaps he'll take a (slight) discount to remain with Cincinnati and lock in that big payday now rather than wait a year and risk injury or performance decline. The Reds should find out.
If the two sides are unable to agree to an extension, the Reds would have no shortage of trade suitors for Gennett. The Angels, Brewers, Dodgers, Indians, Nationals, Rockies and Yankees all need second base help this offseason. (The Yankees would shift Gleyber Torres to shortstop to fill in for Didi Gregorius as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery.) Other clubs such as the Cubs and Rays could shuffle players around to make Gennett work.
Generally speaking, extension season is February and March. Teams handle more pressing offseason matters in November, December and January. Once all that work is done, they turn around and try to lock up their young players in spring training. The Reds could push for a Gennett extension soon and trade him if nothing works out. Otherwise they could wait until early next year and trade him at the deadline if they can't get a deal done.
Either way, a trade now or a trade later, the Reds have the make sure they get something back for Gennett if they can't find common ground on a long-term contract. He's too good and too valuable to let go for no return the same way Cozart, Harvey and Hamilton were allowed to leave for no compensation.
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