The Cincinnati Reds had good reasons to believe that Zack Cozart would develop into their everyday shortstop. His range and athleticism at short may be unseen by most of the baseball world, but for those who watch Cozart daily, he’s a Gold Glove-caliber defender.
Cozart’s first two full seasons at the plate were encouraging enough that the Reds felt they could deal shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius before the start of the 2013 season as part of the Shin-Soo Choo deal. Cozart clocked in as a roughly .250 hitter with some pop (over 30 doubles in both 2012 and 2013 and 12 and 15 homers respectively). But in the midst of a dismal 2014 in which he is hitting just .222 with virtually no power, it’s clear that he is not developing as a big-league hitter.
That lack of production should compel the Reds to at least pursue an offensive upgrade this year at shortstop, even if it means dealing Cozart as a part of the trade. The Reds should at least be targeting the likes of Alexei Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Ben Zobrist if they have any intention of trying to revive their 2014 season for a postseason run.
At 28 years old, Cozart may still peak as he enters his arbitration eligible years, but the Reds would be taking a risk that they have nothing more than another Paul Janish on their hands — all glove, no bat. With a dearth of shortstop prospects in their minor league system, the Reds may remain inclined to keep Cozart in the fold at least for another three years, which is fine if they can afford his upcoming salary spike.
But right now, Ramon Santiago is a better option at short from an offensive perspective than Cozart, and that’s pretty bad.