If you’ve been reading my musings in this space over the last few years, you know that I’m desperately in love with the Cincinnati Reds. Seriously, I’m hopeless. But you may also have noticed that I like to look at our favorite baseball team within the context of the franchise’s 150-year heritage. For example, did you know that Joey Votto and Frank Robinson are engaged in a fierce battle for the highest OPS in Reds history? At the moment, Robinson leads Votto by a single point, .943 to .942.
But I digress. Halfway through last season, I made what seemed like a pretty bold statement at the time: Eugenio Suarez was already one of the best third basemen in the history of the Cincinnati Reds. At the time, Geno was riding high, prepared to make his first-ever All-Star Game appearance.
Over this past weekend, Suarez blasted his 40th home run of the season, breaking the franchise record for single-season home runs by a third baseman previously held by the legendary Tony Perez. So it seems like a good time to revisit the question of Suarez’s place in club history. Here’s how I put it last year:
Look at it this way: Presuming health—and that’s a big presumption for sure—by the end of 2019 it’s likely that Suarez will be fourth in career WAR among Reds’ third basemen, behind only Perez, Groh, and Sabo; it’s also possible that Suarez could surpass Sabo as soon as next year. Only Perez and Groh would then be better in Reds history—one of those guys is in the Hall of Fame, and both are in the Reds Hall of Fame (as is Sabo).
Eugenio Suarez: A Latter-Day Heinie Groh! Can we put that into a fancy hashtag?
We’re approaching the end of the 2019 season, and Suarez is ailing a little bit after suffering a hand contusion over the weekend. He’s expected to be back soon, but it’s safe to say that Suarez isn’t quite going to reach fourth on the Reds career WAR list for third baseman in 2019. He remains 1.2 fWAR behind Todd Frazier (15 fWAR) for that particular spot. Chris Sabo is third on the list, with 17.9, behind Perez (49.5) and Groh (42). Suarez will almost certainly catch Sabo next year, putting him in great company indeed.
If you consider it from a different angle, Suarez is beginning to look even more like one of the all-time greats, ranking pretty highly among Reds third basemen in a number of categories, both ratio and counting stats. His .478 career slugging percentage is the highest ever recorded by a Cincinnati third sacker. He’s already second all-time in home runs, behind only Perez. When he collects 38 more RBI, he’ll be second on that list as well. His career wRC+ of 115 is third, behind only Perez and Groh.
And here’s the best part: Suarez is in his age-27 season, and he’s under contract to man Cincinnati’s hot corner through the 2025 season. He’s just getting started!
Let’s reflect just a bit more on his fabulous 2019 season, shall we—even if it’s slightly less fabulous than last year’s All-Star performance. Geno’s .546 slugging percentage is the second-highest mark any Reds 3B has ever posted. You already know about the 40 home runs, but that isn’t just a Reds 3B record, it’s pretty impressive in a larger context. First of all, Suarez is just the ninth Cincinnati Red in history to hit 40 in a season. Also, as Doug Gray noted over at Redleg Nation:
In the last 20 years, he’s now one of only four third basemen to hit 40 in a season. Nolan Arenado has done it twice (41 in 2016 and 42 in 2015), Phil Nevin hit 41 in 2001, and Adrian Beltre hit 48 in 2004. All of those guys are still in reach. Hat tip to Joel Luckhaupt for that last note.
As far as where the 40 home runs rank among the Reds all time, it ties for 7th all-time. He’s currently tied with Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, George Foster (1978), Ken Griffey Jr., Wally Post, Ted Kluszewski (1953), and Adam Dunn (2005-2007). His next homer will put him in 7th all on his own, but he needs 45 to catch anyone else. Fifty home runs isn’t entirely out of reach, and if he were to get there, he would only be the second player in franchise history to do so—matching George Foster in his 1977 Most Valuable Player season when he hit 52.
Is Suarez the best third baseman in baseball? Probably not. The current crop of 3Bs around the big leagues is perhaps the strongest group we’ve ever seen. But it’s becoming more and more indisputable that Geno is one of the best ever to wear a Cincinnati uniform. If the Reds hope to make a real run at the playoffs next year, having a healthy and productive Suarez in the middle of the lineup is going to be key.
Plus, Eugenio Suarez is so easy to root for, always having fun. The fact that he’s under contract with the Reds for at least six more seasons almost seems like too much to ask for. Reds fans need to enjoy every single minute of it. By the time it’s over, Suarez is very likely to be among the all-time Cincinnati greats. In fact, he’s almost there already.
Chad Dotson authors Reds coverage at Cincinnati Magazine and hosts a long-running Reds podcast, Redleg Nation Radio. He wrote about the 1970s Reds as part of the magazine’s “10 Events That Shaped Cincinnati” package. His first book, The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds, is available in bookstores and online.