CINCINNATI -- No one from the Reds office asked, but I’ve got some advice: Don’t trade Zack Cozart.
The reasons for trading Cozart are many. He’s a free agent. He’s a 31-year-old shortstop. He won’t be around when the Reds contend again. His value will never be higher, given that he’s putting up the best numbers of his career. So flip him for a prospect or two.
Cozart knows he’s in for another ride on the rumor mill.
“There’s no doubt,” Cozart said. “I don’t have a long-term deal. I’m going to be a free agent. It’s inevitable that it’s going to happen. The talks will get pretty heavy.”
Trading makes sense in the cold, numeric/economic baseball world. But in the real world, it makes no sense.
In simple terms, you’re not going to gain enough from trading a half-season of Cozart to offset what you lose in his absence. And I’d be writing the same thing if Cozart was hitting .248 instead of .348.
Cozart brings a lot to the Reds besides great defense and his bat. Dusty Baker called him the best prepared player to come through the minor leagues in Baker’s tenure as Reds manager.
Think about the last time you said: “Wow, that was a dumb play by Cozart.” Now, think the same thing about any other Red.
Cozart does the little things right. The young infielders -- third baseman Eugenio Suarez and second baseman Jose Peraza -- can learn from him. Remember when the Reds got the bowling shirts for the trip to San Francisco? Cozart’s nickname was “Coach.”
I think it would be a huge (A Donald Trump-pronounced huge) step forward if the Reds could make a run at .500 this year. I think they can if the starting pitching gets just a little bit better before the reinforcements return.
Playing winning baseball would do the young core good even if the Reds don’t contend for the postseason. Winning breeds winning. Losing breeds losing. We saw it in the nine straight losing seasons. Players begin to accept losing.
I also think the fans need to see the club take a step forward. The fan base accepted the rebuilding, but their patience has limits.
Trading Cozart makes winning less likely. If the Reds trade him, they would likely move Peraza to short and play Scooter Gennett at second. (The second baseman of the future, Dilson Herrera, is hitting .236 at Triple-A).
Going with Peraza and Gennett weakens you at two positions defensively and instantly turns a good bench into a bad one.
I think the Reds could re-sign Cozart at a manageable price. Cozart ranks pretty high on the list of reasonable big leaguers I’ve met.
He’s as down-to-earth as they get. Not sure what he drives, but I’d take a mini-van over a Maserati if we were betting. He’s a family guy. He’s live close to Cincinnati (Nashville).
He wants to stay, and he thinks something could be worked out long-term.
“I love Cincinnati,” he said. “It’s all I know. Of course, there’s that scenario. We’ll see what happens. It’ll be interesting.”
What Cozart would like to do is force the Reds' hand a bit.
“I want to win,” he said. “If we win, it will make it tough on everybody up top to make that decision to whether to trade somebody. That’s where my mind’s at. I want to win and we’ll see.”
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org