CINCINNATI — When you look at potential double-play combinations for the Reds in the coming years, the possibilities approach infinity.
You’ve got the incumbents — shortstop Zack Cozart and Brandon Phillips. And you’ve got the young infield prospects the Reds have been stockpiling — Jose Peraza, Dilson Herrera, Eugenio Suarez, Nick Senzel and Alfredo Rodriguez.
Some of this will play out over the next couple of months. If Opening Day was tomorrow, Phillips and Cozart would be the starters. But both are under Reds control for only 2017.
The Reds tried to trade both in last 12 months. Phillips vetoed a trade to Washington about a year ago. A deal that would have sent Cozart to Seattle fell apart at the July 30 deadline.
Cozart, 31, will keeping his eye on mlbtraderumors.com when the Winter Meetings begin Monday.
“It’s kind of continued from deadline,” he said. “I don’t know anything.”
Cozart fills a very specific need for a team. He’s a solid shortstop without a great bat who is on the brink of free agency.
Seattle has since traded for Jean Segura.
There is no other contender with a glaring need at shortstop. But Cozart knows things are fluid. He’s used to riding the bubble and is OK with some more time on it.
“It’s actually easier in the offseason,” he said. “You don’t have to go somewhere right away if you’re traded. I’m home with family and my son and I’m working out, so my mind is occupied where I’m not worried about baseball or anything. That’s the easier part.”
The hard part? Leaving the only organization he’s known.
“I’ve voiced my opinion plenty of times about how much I love being with the Reds,” he said. “That’s all I know. It’s a business. This next week should be interesting to see what comes to fruition.”
Phillips, as a 10-year veteran with five years with the same club, can reject any trade. He used that power to nix the Washington deal.
General manager Dick Williams talked to Phillips after the season and reiterated the Reds' plan.
“We’ve talked to Brandon about the realities of the situation,” Williams said. “We’ve got depth. We’ve got young guys who need playing time. Brandon’s aware of our situation.”
Phillips, 35, would be difficult to move. He’s due to make $13 million in ’17. He ranked 24th in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) among major league second basemen with 400 or more at-bats last year.
The Reds could grease the skids for a deal by paying a portion of his salary.
For ’17, the pressing need is finding Peraza a place to play. Peraza, 22, hit .324 in 241 at-bats last year. He could play either spot. Keeping him in the minors makes no sense.
Reds manager Bryan Price says Peraza will get plenty of playing time whether the Reds move Phillips and/or Cozart or not.
“We'll have a clearer understanding of how we're going to get him regular playing time once we get to Opening Day and we see what our roster looks like,” Price said. “As much as I love the players we have, quite often between the Winter Meetings and Opening Day, the rosters have a tendency to change a little bit.
"If the roster stays intact, that roster will include Jose Peraza in the lineup with some frequency. It may be at a myriad of positions, which I'd prefer not to do. If that's my option, that's how he'll be used until there's an everyday opportunity for him.”
No matter happens this year, the middle infield will remain a question. The Reds invested $9 million in Rodriguez, the 22-year-old Cuban shortstop.
Senzel, the No. 2 pick overall in this year’s draft, is now the No. 1 prospect after a terrific year at Single-A Dayton. He’s playing third now, and if he stays there, Suarez would have to switch positions. Suarez can also play short or second. Senzel could be moved to second. Herrera is a second baseman. He was the principal in the Jay Bruce.
Lots of choices. Lots of combinations. Williams says that’s a good thing.
“What my strategy is going forward building a roster is to sort of get away from eight everyday players and four bench guys," Williams said. "I think Peraza fits very well into that model. So do some of these other guys like Suarez and (Adam) Duvall.
“A lot of guys we’re building with are multiple-position guys ... we’re looking for versatility and flexibility. I don’t feel compelled to find a set position for Peraza. I feel he’s good enough to help us in a lot of different ways.”
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.