The Cincinnati Reds head into this offseason with fewer unknowns than last year, and there is a move that could eliminate one.
That would be bringing back Zack Cozart.
The All-Star shortstop picked a great time to have the best season of his career, leaving him in position to cash in on the open market.
Unless there is no one out there to bid on his services, in which case the best bet for both the Reds and Cozart could be a short-term reunion.
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The case against Cozart is obvious: He’s 32 and has only had one great year since being called up in 2011.
The Tennessee native has also had more than his share of injuries, including a leg issue that hindered him in the second half of 2017.
A rebuilding team like the Reds doesn’t need to invest long term in a guy that age who isn’t a bona fide superstar like Joey Votto.
And yet… there should be a price at which the team considers bringing him back for a year or two.
Cozart is a plus defender who may just be a late bloomer at the plate. Baseball is a game in which repetition is irreplaceable. Perhaps he’s finally found the approach and swing he needs to be an above-average hitter and that’s what he is going to be from now on.
If so, he’s probably got a few years left (if he can stay healthy).
Cozart can bat at a variety of spots in the lineup, which is a plus for a team that is sure to have some fluctuations as young players endure ups and downs.
He also provides a veteran presence in the clubhouse and could be the type of glue guy needed to help this team transition from bottom-dweller to decent.
The Reds have other candidates to play shortstop, but it’s not clear if Jose Peraza or Eugenio Suarez is really cut out for that position.
Peraza is coming off a disappointing season while Suarez is probably better suited for third base or even the outfield.
Then again, if the Reds aren’t going to be contenders in 2018 — getting back to .500 is probably a more realistic goal — maybe there’s nothing to lose by seeing what they have with those guys and living with the consequences.
We can probably all agree a big, long-term investment in Cozart doesn’t make much sense, but a deal for 2018 might make the most sense for both sides if no one else comes in to offer that to him.