With a paucity of transaction news and rumors around the league right now, I’ve been extra keyed up for any little bit that we might get this week. With rosters due on Thursday, not unlike the end of normal Spring Training, I wonder if we’re gonna see some waiver-related transaction maneuvering.
To that end, I did take note of utility man Derek Dietrich opting out of his deal with the Reds, possibly because he was not going to make their 30-man roster. Dietrich, 31, only just arrived in Reds camp last week after being delayed by a positive COVID-19 test. He is now a free agent.
I can’t speak to whether Dietrich will be ready for Opening Day, and I also can’t tell you for sure that he’s an obvious fit for the Cubs. But since he’s a bench guy I’ve wanted to see the Cubs go after in the past, I had to mention his availability. He’s going to find a job somewhere, and I wonder if the Cubs might try to grab him as a depth option. There has been rumored interest in the past.
Dietrich has long been able to capably play at every defensive position outside of shortstop, center field, and catcher. He rakes against righties, and he’s pretty much always hit very well when not playing at cavernous Marlins Park. And get this: last year with the Reds, Dietrich put up a 111 wRC+ against righties … despite a .168 BABIP! The guy had a 40.1% hard contact rate against righties, and his expected stats at Statcast suggested he was third most unlucky batted (by expected BABIP) in all of baseball last year (min. 300 PAs).
It’s highly likely that Dietrich can still really rake against righties. And from a guy who can play all over defensively, in a league that now has the DH, I just get a little greedy wishing the Cubs could find a way to sign him and stash him – maybe add him to the player pool, and then let him work back into game shape for a couple weeks.
But if he were to require an Opening Day roster spot to sign with a team, then the roster fit would be more challenging, as we discussed earlier today. With David Ross confirming that the preference is to open with 16 pitchers and 14 position players, I already left Daniel Descalso off my proposed roster in favor of a third catcher (Josh Phegley). Dietrich really only fits if the Cubs don’t carry a third catcher, if Nico Hoerner is shockingly going to start at South Bend, or if someone like Steven Souza is determined to be just not ready. Of course, there is also the possibility of an injury between now and Friday, or someone opting out of the season. But that’s extremely speculative.
In the end, I just wanted to tee up the fact that there is a guy who is probably a very good bench player for almost any team now freely available to be signed. It’s also fun to think about the Cubs being able to field a lineup that has a lefty bat at seven out of nine spots if they wanted to do it.
Bonus? Dietrich could pass along any insights about Reds pitchers he’s picked up over the past year …