The Reds lost on Sunday afternoon, falling to 25-30 and to last place in the NL Central. Shortstop Zack Cozart continued his 2017 barrage, however, going 3 for 4 with a triple, two homers and five RBI. That's a big day for a guy having a really big season.
On the season now, Cozart is hitting .344/.432/.622 with 13 doubles, five triples, nine home runs, 33 RBI and 32 runs scored. It's an unbelievable season for anyone, but Cozart is a very good defensive shortstop, so far this season trailing only Addison Russell in defensive runs saved among shortstops.
Factor in that the Reds are in the midst of a rebuild and are very unlikely to contend this year along with Cozart hitting free agency after this season and he's a perfect trading chip heading toward July.
Of course, there are two factors working against that right now. First off, the Reds are still only four games out of first. They don't have the look of a contender, but it's hard to justify a sell off to one's fan base when this close to contention. I have a hunch that changes here during the course of June, so that probably doesn't linger.
The second issue might, though.
Remember, it takes two teams to make a trade. It seems easy for Reds fans to say "trade him now, sell high!" To which team, though?
Let's peruse the rosters of likely contenders who might be willing to cough up prospects heading to the trade deadline for a shortstop:
Orioles - J.J. Hardy is in his age-34 season and has been awful. Then again, the Orioles' problems right now stem mostly from starting pitching. Their resources will surely be used in that direction first.
Twins - The franchise isn't in the position to aggressively be buying rentals.
Tigers - If they buy, shortstop won't be toward the top of the list.
Brewers - See the Twins comment.
Every other contender has one or two solid shortstops in place.
Would the Reds even have a bidder for Cozart right now? It's hard telling. And if there's only one, that's not good either, because then the Reds have no leverage in any discussions.
Again, they won't be selling him anytime soon, so it's a compelling situation to monitor as we move closer to July 31.
Does Cozart keep hitting like this? If so, will the Orioles, Rockies and/or Diamondbacks get involved in the bidding, in which case the Reds have to deal him? Or will someone lose a key player to injury? For example, if Corey Seager suffers a season-ending injury (sorry to even bring it up hypothetically, Dodgers fans), the Dodgers surely go hard after Cozart, right?
This is one of the reasons the Reds have to wait this thing out. Of course, if they do wait it out, does Cozart either get hurt or cool off in a major way? It's a risk to hold him, but the Reds don't really have a choice right now.
We'll see how things look in the middle of July, but for now this is a very compelling item in the 2017 season.