Chicago Cubs free agent Jeimer Candelario has signed with a division rival.
Candelario, who played the last two months of the 2023 season with the Cubs after being acquired at the trade deadline from the Washington Nationals, has reportedly agreed to a three-year contract that guarantees the corner infielder $45 million with the Cincinnati Reds. The switch hitter can earn an additional $15 million if the Reds pick up a fourth-year option for the 2027 season.
While the Cubs entered the offseason with question marks at first and third base, where Candelario is now expected to get the majority of his playing time with the Reds, they never seemed to be too interested in re-signing Candelario.
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It’s definitely a good deal for the 30-year-old, who was able to capitalize in free agency following one of his best seasons in the majors. Candelario ended the 2023 season with a 3.3 fWAR, posting a slash line of .251/.336/.471, with a career high in home runs at 22 between his time with the Nationals and Cubs. His 117 wRC+ was the second-best of his career.
Yet, since breaking into the majors, first a cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2016, Candelario has only been a slightly above average hitter, slashing .243/.325/.414, good enough for a 102 wRC+ in 746 games.
What makes this signing by the Reds more intriguing is that they already had a roster with a surplus in the infield. The addition of Candelario has thus led to speculation that Cincinnati is pushing hard in the trade market for a top-of-rotation caliber arm and may use its infield depth to acquire it.
No matter how you look at it, the Reds may be on the verge of greatly improving their starting rotation if they can pull off a trade.
In the past few weeks the Cubs and Reds have been named the most in Tyler Glasnow trade rumors with the Tampa Bay Rays. Now, while the Rays may not necessarily be interested in getting an infielder in return, there is another team that could use infield help that has also been engaged in trade talks with the Reds.
That would be the Chicago White Sox, who have been listening to several offers for right-handed starter Dylan Cease. When it comes to the Reds, talks have progressed to the point where names have already been exchanged.
Those prospects ranked 9th and 11th are a pair of young infielders in the lower levels of the Reds minor league system in 20-year-old Carlos Jorge and 19-year-old Sammy Stafura. Maybe the Reds would rather replace one of those two younger prospects or one of the two pitching prospects that the White Sox have asked about with one of their MLB infielders in a trade for Cease.
So, although I think the Candelario signing is fine, it’s not quite scaring me as a Cubs fan. However, if the Reds are able to turn around and deal for a good starting pitcher, then yeah, that would blow and would make the Reds a much more formidable rival in a weak NL Central in 2024.