What To Do About Scooter

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You already know about The Legend of Scooter Gennett. Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free. Raised in the woods, so he knew every tree. Killed him a bear when he was only three.

No, wait. That’s a different legend.

The Legend of Scooter Gennett, about which you should be familiar by now, began taking shape on March 28, 2017, when the (then-)26 year-old second baseman was waived by the only professional team he’d ever known, the Milwaukee Brewers. He was claimed by his hometown team and made his Cincinnati debut less than a week later, when he entered the game in the 7th inning as a pinch-hitter. That first at-bat, he hit into a double play. Later, however, Scooter hit a two-run ninth-inning home run and was off to the races.

At the time, the acquisition of Gennett appeared to be a solid move by Reds general manager Dick Williams to shore up the bench with a somewhat-versatile and still young infielder who had been the starting second baseman for a division rival for parts of four seasons. Five months later, Scooter has presented the Reds with a conundrum they hadn’t anticipated.

In 2017, Scooter has hit a career-high 24 home runs—including four in one memorable game—and driven in 85 runs while hitting .299/.349/.541. Midway through the season, he supplanted Jose Peraza as the starting second baseman on the way to a career year.

As the season began, the competition for starting second baseman on the Next Good Reds Team(™) appeared to be a race between Peraza and young Dilson Herrera, acquired last year from the Mets in the Jay Bruce trade. Now the waters are much murkier. Scooter is under team control for the next two seasons, so there isn’t necessarily any urgency to make long-range plans for the guy. But the Reds will have to confront the question of what Gennett’s role will be in 2018, and beyond. Is Scooter the long-term answer at second base for the Reds? There are a few other names in that conversation.

Jose Peraza: The 23 year-old Peraza was handed the job out of spring training, based on a good minor league pedigree and his performance for the Redlegs last fall. The first half of 2017 was pretty much a disaster, and Peraza lost his job as the full-time second sacker.

At some point, Peraza and hitting coach Don Long tweaked his swing, and he’s been a different hitter. Since the beginning of July (53 games), Peraza has posted a .331 on-base percentage, with 14 walks. In the previous 75 games, Peraza had walked just five times (.280 OBP). Impressive improvement, and if it’s real—and not just a sample size thing—Peraza needs to remain in the conversation for Reds’ second base duties next year and beyond.

On the other hand, there’s a good chance that Peraza will be the shortstop next year and beyond, depending on whether the Reds re-sign Zack Cozart.

Dilson Herrera: Herrera made his big league debut at age 20 for the Mets, back in 2014. Ever since, he’s been plagued with a shoulder injury that just will not go away. He’s always been a hitter, and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be able to hit at the big league level. But his defense doesn’t get rave reviews, and he just can’t get healthy and stay healthy.

After Herrera was acquired in exchange for longtime star Bruce, many Reds fans dreamed about Herrera and Peraza combining for an outstanding middle infield for years to come. He’s only 23, so it’s not time to give up, but Herrera—whose season ended in July with shoulder surgery—has certainly taken a step backward.

On the other hand, Herrera may get a real shot next spring, because he’s out of options; the Reds would have to keep him on the big league roster or risk another team snatching him up off waivers.

Alex Blandino: Blandino makes this list because he’s a former first-round pick (2014, out of Stanford) who had a bounce-back year for Triple-A Louisville this season, posting a slash line of .270/.390/.444. He played second, third, and short (Blandino was drafted as a shortstop), and I could see him developing into a decent big leaguer.

On the other hand, he’ll be 25 soon and likely profiles as more of a good bench bat.

Eugenio Suarez/Nick Senzel: Wait…what? You know about Nick Senzel, third baseman and top prospect who tore up the minor leagues this year after being drafted #2 overall out of the University of Tennessee in 2016. You also know about Eugenio Suarez, who established himself as one of the best third basemen in all of baseball this year.

Assuming that Senzel’s positional vertigo isn’t something that is going to prevent him from continuing his assault on professional pitching—and I’m going to assume that, because the alternative is more than I can bear—Cincinnati will need a place for both of these guys to play in their infield very soon. Senzel played a lot of second base in college. Suarez used to be a shortstop. Either could likely handle the position, and it makes sense to shift one a couple of spots over in the infield.

So…what about Scooter? The best bet: the Reds should try to trade him this off-season.

I know, I know. The Reds trade everyone, you say. Well, there will never be a better time to deal Gennett. He just played his age-27 year and had a really nice season that was likely his peak. Can he sustain that for the next couple of years, while the Reds still control his destiny? Yeah, maybe. I wouldn’t bet against it.

On the other hand, his value on the trade market may never be higher than it is right now. Since the Reds have a number of other options for second base going forward, it makes sense for Williams to shop Scooter around, possibly in the hopes of landing a good starting pitcher. If Gennett can be a piece in a blockbuster deal like that, the Reds should trade him in a heartbeat If they can find a trade partner, the Legend will have to end in another locale.

On the other hand, hanging onto the guy isn’t the worst option either. The Reds could leave Scooter as the presumptive second baseman until someone—Senzel, anyone?—takes the position away from him. If and when that happens, he can go back to being the quality bench bat the Reds thought they were getting back in March.

If nothing else, Scooter has given the Reds more options at second base than anyone thought they were going to have when Brandon Phillips was dealt away. Too many good players and too few positions…well, that’s not a problem at all.

And who knows? Scooter may keep surprising everyone, and even add another chapter to his growing legend.

Chad Dotson is a contributor to Nuxhall Way, ESPN’s SweetSpot blog, and the founder of Redleg Nation. You can follow him on Twitter at @dotsonc.

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