Price facing overloaded middle infield

Manager hopes to find way for youngsters to get playing time

Price facing overloaded middle infield

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- As he takes part in the Winter Meetings, Reds manager Bryan Price knows there is plenty to sort out for his club before Spring Training starts. But as of Wednesday, there is an overload of depth in Cincinnati's middle infield.

It currently features two veterans -- shortstop Zack Cozart and second baseman Brandon Phillips, who are both available for trades. The two young players are Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera. If general manager Dick Williams isn't able to move either Cozart or Phillips, it will fall on Price to find a way for his younger players to play.

Hot Stove Tracker

"The one thing we were able to define last season is that Jose Peraza is a Major Leaguer," Price said. "He's not a guy that, in my opinion, is better served playing Triple-A."

Peraza is primarily a shortstop, but he can play second base, left field and center field. Price and Williams have envisioned scenarios where Peraza gets starts at different spots at least four times a week.

Peraza's great play

"I prefer not to have to sprinkle him around and take time away at short, second, maybe left and center field a game a week. But he's got to play," Price said. "He's a guy that's got to play."

Peraza, 22, demonstrated his offensive skills as he batted .324/.352/.411 with three home runs, 25 RBIs and 21 steals in 72 games in 2016.

Also 22, Herrera came to the Reds from the Mets in the Aug. 1 trade for right fielder Jay Bruce. Although Herrera has some big league experience in New York, he spent all of 2016 in Triple-A -- including his final 24 games with Louisville.

Herrera appears less likely to be with the club on Opening Day if both Cozart and Phillips are still on the Reds.

"[We'll] get a chance to have a full spring with him and define if he needs a little bit more time in Triple-A to play or if he's ready to come up and be a guy," Price said. "But he's also not a guy for me that I would like to have him there as a bench player. I don't think that's going to help his progress at all. I think between Dilson and Jose, they're in a little bit [of a] different spot going into Spring Training."

During the Meetings, there has been little in the way of rumors about Cozart and Phillips. The Reds lost a trade partner last month when the Mariners acquired shortstop Jean Segura. Phillips is hard to move because he has full no-trade protection and he is set to earn $14 million in 2017.

Price hasn't discussed with Phillips and Cozart how he might take some playing time from them to give to Peraza.

"I think what we have to do is get to Spring Training and see where we are," Price said. "There is no question this is a picture that's painting itself. If we come fully intact, we're going to be heavy on middle infielders and we're going to have two real young guys and two veterans, and defining who is going to be a part of 2018, '19, '20 and '21 is going to in large part define who is playing in 2017. And that's something that organizationally will be defined by the time we get to Opening Day."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.