One of the biggest stories of spring training for the Cincinnati Reds is going to involve top prospect Nick Senzel. After what seemed like a date with destiny for big league action in 2018, a finger injury in June cost him the rest of the season and taking that destiny and pushing it back a season. When the offseason began the Reds started talking about Senzel getting action in the outfield. In instructional league he would spend some time in both left field and center field. Unfortunately, bone spurs in his elbow began barking and it kept him off of the field in the Arizona Fall League where he could have gotten more game action in the outfield.

After he had recovered from the elbow surgery, Nick Senzel was in Goodyear all winter. He worked on learning the outfield spots, doing all he can to find a spot on the Cincinnati Reds roster. The team will have him in spring training (he’s actually still there – he never left) working to win a spot as the outfielder. Earlier today in a meeting with the media, manager David Bell said this about Nick Senzel in center field:

This is more than possible.

Read those words again. Did you get all warm inside? The idea that Nick Senzel could handle center field has to make any Reds fan feel great. He’s projected to be an above-average hitter right now. He’s projected to be an above-average base runner right now. If you can also get that kind of guy to play at one of the most important positions on the field? There’s just so much value to be had in a situation like that.

But there’s also the case of “will the Reds keep Nick Senzel in the minors to start the year?” And it’s a good question. Teams do this often in order to gain an extra year of service time. Call it the Kris Bryant game of ridiculousness if you want. But keeping a player down for 11 days gets a franchise an extra year of control. If the Reds were to call up Nick Senzel in the second week of April instead of on Opening Day, then he would become a free agent after the 2025 season instead of after the 2024 season. Dick Williams, the President of Baseball Operations said this to The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans:

Of course, he’s not going to say that they will do the opposite of that. If so, it could open up some issues with the players association and grievances being filed. But hold that quote in your back pocket just in case.

51 Responses

  1. The Duke

    Think of the situation what you will, but it would be gross mismanagement by the Reds to not gain the extra year of control with Senzel. This is something the MLBPA should probably renegotiate come the next CBA, but under the current rules, it makes no sense to not do it, short of getting an Evan Longoria type of long term deal done before the season starts.

    • Ghettotrout1

      I agree one hundred percent with Duke. If you don’t use the rules as written to benefit your franchise then that is a terrible move.

    • schottzie

      If it costs the Reds 3-4 games by not having what might end up being their best (if only) CF on the MLB roster, and they end up making a WC push but falling 2 games short, wouldn’t THAT be mismanagement? Would you trade a year of service time for the ability to potentially make the playoffs this year?

      If you’re going to win now, and the Reds, for the most part, appear to be of that mindset, then let’s win now and not “three weeks into the season.” I see it very difficult to do things both ways.

      • The Duke

        And the odds that he single handedly wins the Reds 3-4 games in a 11-12 game stretch vs playing Scott Schebler in CF? Slim to none and slim is on his way out of town.

      • $$

        There is no way Senzel not being here will cost his 3-4 games over 11 games. That would imply his WAR is 3-4 higher than who would be in the lineup instead of him over 11 games. Not even Mike Trout is worth 3-4 WAR in 11 games.

      • Stock

        One win I could see. 3-4 wins is over 10 games just is not a reasonable estimate. Mike Trout has never averaged more than .72 wins above replacement per ten games in any season of his career. To think Senzel would be 4-5 times better than Trout is unrealistic.

      • Wes

        It is complete mismanagement as duke states yet it does serve u well when it comes to player pr. That being said- I’m all for giving up that year if it keeps Schebler off the field lol. Senzel might actually win us 3-4 games out of first 11 if that’s who he’s replacing

      • The Duke

        Schebler was an above average MLB hitter last year. 106 OPS+. And he has actual MLB experience in CF.

        And that player PR is great and all, but the player will say thank you and then completely disregard it come contract time (as he should).

      • habesjn

        Are you saying that Senzel is worth 3 to 4 Wins (in 11 games) over Schebler?

        Cuz that’s a pretty insane assertion. What kind of WAR would that project to over 162 games? like 100 WAR?

      • Wes

        No. I was joking. Schebler isn’t any good but he’s surely worth running out there to center field for 2 weeks to save 14 million

    • Bill

      This was a known issue during the last CBA negotiation. The players have agreed to the current terms knowing this scenario remained an option to MLB teams.

      • Wes

        That’s what happens when u send active/retired players to negotiate with some of the most powerful men in the USA. It’s a cruel jape and players get embarrassed everytime

      • Bill

        Wes, give the players some credit; they can afford good attorneys to negotiate on their behalf.

    • Cguy

      Had the Reds won the Realmuto trade, plus signed Keuchel, I’d say Senzel should be in cf from day 1. That’s not the case. Besides that first couple weeks of the season could be used to help sort through Puig, Winker, Schebler, Kemp, Ervin, & Conner Joe; who will be competing for 4 roster spots once Senzel arrives

  2. Champ Summers

    he went on to say that it will take a lot of work but he really likes the athleticism according to Nightengale JR

  3. Colorado Red

    try to extend him for 7 years or so with an option.
    Then it does not matter.
    Whatever happens Nick is happy.

    • Wayne nabors

      I agree Colorado,reds will most likely work a deal out anyways,makes it a moot point

    • Little Earl

      Kind of dangerous to extend Senzel right now when all he does is get hurt or have vertigo every year. He has some proving to do.

  4. Jay

    Wasn’t the expectation that he would have been up last year and only be controlled through 2024 anyway? Why play games? People are concerned that Blandino won’t be ready, Senzel can fill that role and also play CF, with expected superior results than Schebler and Blandino. Short changing your entire organization to save a few dollars isn’t smart, it’s small minded. This is a results business and you need to worry about 2019, so much can happen between now and 2025, including a new CBA, so budget for that when the time comes, not now.

    • Doug Gray

      It won’t save them money. It’ll actually cost them more money. What it will, do, though, is give them an extra year/cost them a year.

      I’m not on the side of keeping him down, for a lot of reasons. But doing so is going to lead to the Reds spending more money on Nick Senzel than bringing him up would.

  5. RobL

    If he’s the best centerfielder on the team at the end of spring training, I believe he will be on the team. This team is on the cusp with a bunch of one year guys. You don’t punt 11 games if you have intentions of going to the playoffs.

    You can call it mismanagement, I call it good player and fan relations.

    • The Duke

      If not having Senzel for 11 games mean we are punting them, then we’re on track to have the worst season in MLB history or expectations for Senzel have gone beyond unrealistic. It’s not like they are running me out there instead, they’d be starting Schebler, who was an above average MLB hitter last year and has MLB CF experience.

      • RobL

        Not fielding your strongest team is the definition of punting those games for 162 games in six years. The question is not HOW MUCH better would the team be with Senzel. The question is WILL they be better with Senzel. I don’t know the answer, but the Reds sure should. And if he doesn’t make them better, then he should be down longer than 11 games.

        I won’t argue that from an organization standpoint, keeping him down is a smart move. I will argue that it is a morally bankrupt move, but that is a topic for a different day.

        But, as an organization, when you accumulate a bunch of players with one year of control (for the cost of many years of future control in prospects), you should probably maximize your team, not decide to monkey around with future control.

        I believe the Reds will bring up Senzel if he is the best option in center. They didn’t keep Leake down.

    • Scott C

      I’m in favor of holding Senzel in the minors for 11 days. As Steve Mancuso (go read the article) aptly wrote over at Redleg Nation, a full extra year of Senzel is much better than 11 games. And I know the Leake argument that some make, but if they had held him back 11 days then he and Cueto would not have gained free agency at the same time. That was for 1 start. Letting Leake start the year on the MLB roster, in my opinion was gross mismanagement and the lack of foresight of one Walt Jocketty.

    • Kinsm

      15 Spring games in CF isn’t going to prove whether he can play there 15+ in the bigs. Not having him on the 25 man for 2+ weeks does not equate to punting.

  6. Stock

    Not to be negative or anything but I am not so sure Senzel will be in Cincinnati in May. If an injury occurs, sure. But outside of that it is not difficult to keep him in the minors mastering CF.

    With both Kemp and Winker in LF I don’t really see many AB there. If Winker goes to the bench it should be to get Kemp some AB.

    He could replace Gennett, Puig or Schebler vs. LHSP and provide better offense and better defense. But vs. RHSP I don’t know that he adds value. He may provide the same value as Schebler but he would without a doubt be inferior to Gennett and Puig. The Pirates and Brewers have zero LHSP so keeping him in the minors 11 days has merit in the fact that he does not add value to the starting lineup.

    The only team in the division with LHSP is the Cubs. The Reds don’t play the Cubs until May 14. I could see the Reds calling up Senzel for this series.

  7. Oldtimer

    If healthy, I expect Senzel to be Reds starting CF on Opening Day.

  8. Andrewman

    Saying it is “more than possible” almost makes it sound like it’s a done deal unless Senzel is just absolutely dreadful in the field which I’m doubting for sure.

    • Kinsm

      How did you expect him to answer the question? No, I don’t see him playing there? Come on, be real. The comment means nothing at this point.

  9. James Phillips

    Any order of Votto, Scooter, Suarez, Winker, Senzel and Puig makes me giddy.

  10. AirborneJayJay

    Senzel’s agent is Scott Boras.
    Extensions + Scott Boras do not compute.
    Take the 7 years over the 6 years. Keep Senzel down at AAA for 3 weeks, not just 2. Put a little distance from the 172 days needed to reach 1 full year of service time. No need to go right up against it like the Cubs did with Bryant and him reaching 171 days. That just creates more of a chance for hard feelings. If he gets to 164 or 165 that doesn’t seem as close.

    • Doug Gray

      The whole “Scott Boras clients don’t sign extensions” thing simply isn’t true.

      Jose Altuve is a Scott Boras client. He’s signed with the Astros through 2024. Elvis Andrus is a Scott Boras client. He signed a long term deal with Texas well before free agency.

      • AirborneJayJay

        You know, it would be interesting to see how many clients Scott Boras has and how many he has worked out extensions for and how many he advises to go to free agency. My bet is the answer to the ones he works out extensions for would be less than 10%.

      • Doug Gray

        Sure. And that’s true for almost every agent. Most guys don’t sign extensions. The difference is that you know Scott Boras and you don’t know Matt Sosnick.

      • Oldtimer

        Tom Reich was the boogeyman (Boras type agent) in 1970s but Howsam worked well with him on signing Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan contracts (among others).

  11. Optimist

    I wonder if the Reds are willing to take the chance the service time issue gets resolved in the next CBA. IOW, make Senzel the Opening Day CF and go from there. Offer Boras an extension for a year to cover this year’s action. If it’s not fixed in the CBA negotiations, then use an option in the next year or two to send him to AAA for a month or whatever is needed to get below 172. He can re-learn infield skills for the next position move.

    So what if Boras screams – it was good faith on the Reds to offer an extension to cover Senzel specifically and good faith to presume it gets cleaned up in the CBA – if not, what else could Boras want?

    • Doug Gray

      There’s zero chance you’re sending Nick Senzel back to the minors in the future unless he just absolutely falls apart. There’s no way you can send a successful player back to the minors like that and not have a grievance filed, and lose it.

      • Cguy

        All the more reason the Reds cannot promote Senzel before 4/15/19. Lest they make themselves culpable for a grievance – whether they intend to commit one or not.

  12. Bred

    I think the MLB owners know what they are willing to give up and what they want in the new CBA. The decision on Senzel may be influenced by that. Maybe they are willing to give up the service time issue for more years of control with earlier arbitration. I think clubs are already negotiating the new CBA via the lack of signing good ball players in the FA market.

    • Tom

      On the surface it appears they could make progress by giving more money earlier in a players career. It would seem like a spending cap would help the money push downward. Grant FA after 4 years. Franchise tag the Votto’s of the world with max contracts. Set an 8 year limit on contracts. Vets should be getting less, young prime players more, the stats just bear that out. Perhaps teams could have 4 options instead of 3 as part of the exchange.

  13. Steve BP

    Even before factoring in service time, he’s only played 44 games at AAA, was hurt most of last year and has never played CF in a competitive game. So there is value in giving him more experience at the non Major League level.

    However, even if he picks it up immediately this spring, there’s no reason to concede a year of control in his prime years for 13 games this year.

  14. Bill

    “Of course, he’s not going to say that they will do the opposite of that. If so, it could open up some issues with the players association and grievances being filed. But hold that quote in your back pocket just in case.”

    Just curious, what would be the basis of the grievance? I ask because there’s actually a paragraph (Article XXII – Management Rights) that immediately follows the section on service time computation and optional assignments that in essence states management can manage their teams as they see fit unless specifically restricted by the CBA.

  15. KSoze

    If the Reds don’t move an outfielder, I don’t see why you would have him on the opening day roster. Winker LF, Senzel CF, Puig RF. With 2 very good players (Kemp, Schebler) riding the pine? If you are to bring up Senzel on opening day, Senzel needs to be a utility player. Winker, Puig, Schebler, and Kemp need playing time to, and are only able to play in the outfield. Every game that Senzel can play in the infield gives those guys more starts.

    • The Duke

      I think playing time for Kemp should be the least of their worries. He wore down hard in the second half of last year. I think he gets maybe 40 starts this year, barring injury to Winker or Puig, filling in for those two and Schebler (Puig to CF) throughout the year and is used as the primary pinch hitter. When Senzel is up if he is playing CF, then those starts dry up a little more unless Kemp is outperforming Schebler. Schebler is another guy who is better with more rest I think. As long as they are healthy, Winker and Puig should be starting 150+ games.

      • Tampa Red

        I’m gonna have to disagree with you on this one. There were only 58 guys in all of baseball who even played in 150+ games last season, and not all of those were starts. That’s less than 10%.

        I just think there’s too much info available now to plug and play guys into the starting lineup every day regardless of matchups and other factors. Especially when you have the depth and position flexibility that the Reds have available to them.

        We’ll see how it all plays out with the new staff and injuries etc, but I just don’t think you’re gonna see any Reds player start 150+ games this season. At least, I hope not.

      • KSoze

        Kemp can be a big time contributor. He had a .353 AVG with runners in scoring position last year. I agree with Tampa Red that 150+ is too many games. I’d use Schebler as a pinch hitter, and I would also use Schebler as a Defensive replacement with rare starting opportunities. I did the math before, but if you use a rule of thumb of 7 days on 1 day off for the 8 best players, JV, SG, JP, ES, YP, JW, MK, NS. Then you’re looking at 141 starts for those guys. I think it will help keep guys fresh, and maximize the roster.

        It sounds as if Bell is going with a 4 man bench. In the above scenario that gives 2 of the bench players (Senzel, and Casali) regular starts. Schebler would get a chance to impact probably every game as either a lefty bat off the bench, or a D replacement. The 4th guy might be a versitale guy like Conner, Farmer, or to a lesser degree Blandino. Or they may go with a Defensive oriented, and speedy guy in Trahan. If they go with Trahan they could shore up their fielding pretty well late in games.

        An example lineup
        1B JV, 2B SG, SS JP, 3B ES, RF YP, CF NS, LF JW
        Defensive lineup late in games
        1B JV, 2B JP, SS BT, 3B ES, RF YP, CF NS, LF SS