The Cincinnati Reds decided Zack Cozart would be their shortstop of the future when the team decided to trade another prospect at the position — Didi Gregorius — as part of the one-year rental of Shin-Soo Choo in 2013.
In his two years as the Reds’ starting shortstop, Cozart has not disappointed in the field and showed some pop in his bat, if not much promise as a high average hitter or on-base machine. He’s a career .246 hitter with a meager OBP of .281, but those numbers would now be a welcome sight for Cozart, who has started 2014 with a thud: .148/.188 in 86 plate appearances.
The abysmal start at the plate for Cozart as the team’s primary eighth hitter has to be bad enough to compel the Reds to at least start to consider the notion that the position may warrant an upgrade over the 28-year-old Cozart. That upgrade is not on the bench in the personage of Ramon Santiago and is nowhere in sight in the Reds’ farm system right now.
Despite his age, Cozart won’t be eligible for salary arbitration until 2015, so keeping him makes more sense than dealing him if he can show any sign of improvement at the plate. Defensively, Cozart is nearly Gold Glove caliber, which makes him a valuable commodity even when he is not hitting his weight.
The Reds’ offense on the whole has been lacksluster so far this year as the team’s 11-14 record indicates, but none of the Reds’ hitters have been as bad as Cozart. Should the Reds’ bats not come alive enough to help the team make headway soon in the division, the Reds may not have a choice but to trade for a better hitting option at short.
That could mean sending Cozart to another team, like the Reds also did in the Choo deal by dealing a similarly talented player who could just not produce consistently enough at the plate in Drew Stubbs.