Extend a Qualifying Offer of $18 Million
The first thing the Reds should look at is extending the $18M qualifying offer to Cozart. First, we look at his plate production and what he brings to the table. As a number two hitter, he had a slash line of .297/.385/.548 in 2017. This is exactly the production the Reds need out of Cozart. This was a career year for him, even though he did two DL stints. Because Billy Hamilton struggles to get on base, Cozart could serve as a leadoff guy with his .385 on-base percentage. He also showed the ability to hit for power and average as well. Cozart is no slouch with the glove either, as he has a .980 career fielding percentage.
Let Cozart Walk, Dive into the Free Agent Pool
This could be tricky. Cozart is going to be 32 years old. The average age of the 2017 Free-Agent Shortstops is 32 years and 3 months. So the Reds are definitely playing with fire by not signing Cozart. The best possible shortstop on this free agent list not named Zack Cozart is probably either Asdrubal Cabrera or Eduardo Nunez. The Reds could go the younger route and put out money for Nunez, who is only 29, but would have to shell out about $18M for him. The Reds may look to do this if Cozart denies their qualifying offer.
Sign Cozart, Trade him for Starting and Relief Pitching
Another route the Reds could take is signing Cozart, then trading him in return for quality starting or relief pitching. Everybody knows the story, the Reds staff posted a league worst 5.67 ERA in 2017, and that was just the starting rotation. To make matters worse, the bullpen was equally bad. Really the only consistent relievers they had were right handed closer Raisel Iglesias, and lefty setup man, Wandy Peralta. The only quality starters they had were a rookie by the name of Luis Castillo and sometimes Sal Romano. There are plenty of teams willing to trade pitching for Cozart. We know this because the last two summers, both deadline deals have fallen apart. It’ll be interesting to see if the Reds go this route to bolster their rotation at all.
Let Cozart walk, Move Suarez back to Shortstop, Sign a Free Agent Third Baseman
Here we go with the “let Zack Cozart walk” idea again. This is an interesting decision though as Eugenio Suarez is a natural shortstop, and the third base free agent pool is pretty deep with talent this year. Names that appear on said list include, Mike Moustakas, Conor Gillaspie and a familiar face in Todd Frazier. Suarez produces well enough that you can slide him back over to his spot he previously played, and spend some money to bring in a good or above average corner infielder.
Try to Sign Cozart Cheaper in Free Agent, Trade Jose Peraza for Pitching
The final option could be to let Cozart walk into free agency, and then try to resign him cheaper. That probably won’t happen, as he will most likely demand his $18M that he’s due. But let’s say he signs cheaper. The Reds could then trade Jose Peraza for starting or relief pitching. This option is a long shot considering the Reds don’t have the money to play around with, but it could possibly be done.
In the end, Zack Cozart is one of the league’s best shortstops. He can hit and he is a whiz with the glove. Wherever he may end up, he will work hard and be a great locker room guy. Hopefully that continues with the Cincinnati Reds.
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