After Barnhart, will Reds lock up Suarez next?

Third baseman slated to enter arbitration for first time this offseason

After Barnhart, will Reds lock up Suarez next?

CINCINNATI -- The Reds moved quickly to sign catcher Tucker Barnhart before he ever entered into the arbitration process for the first time. Could the same fate await third baseman Eugenio Suarez?

For now, Suarez is taking the hands-off approach, but he wouldn't mind signing a multi-year contract.

"Everybody wants to sign a contract," Suarez said on Saturday. "I want to play better and not think about anything but playing. Sometimes I think I'd want to, but right now I just want to finish hard this season. We'll see what happens. I'm open for everything."

On Friday, the Reds signed Barnhart to a four-year, $16 million contract with a $7.5 million club option for 2022. Like Suarez, he would have been eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason. Barnhart's deal runs through all three years of eligibility and up to two years of possible free agency.

Suarez, like Barnhart, is having a career year in his third season with Cincinnati, entering Saturday with personal highs in home runs (26), RBIs (81) and OPS (.850). He is 4.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), according to FanGraphs.

Defense is where Suarez has made his biggest improvement. He hasn't committed an error since July 2 -- a 67-game stretch going into Saturday -- and it's the longest errorless streak of his career. According to Fangraphs, his 8.2 rating is third in the Majors behind National League MVP Award candidates Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon, and he's sixth with six defensive runs saved.

Statcast: Suarez's 451-ft. homer

Suarez, 26, has better offensive numbers than Barnhart and would likely command a larger salary. Regardless of what happens in the offseason, Suarez will get a significant raise from the $595,000 he is earning in 2017.

"I don't think about how much I want. I just want to sign with this team," Suarez said. "I don't want hesitation or arbitration."

Bullpen rookies competing for 2018 jobs

A few times this month, the Reds have wound up using only rookies on the mound throughout a game. It happened again during Friday's 5-4 loss to the Red Sox. After Sal Romano started and gave up five runs in four innings, Ariel Hernandez, Asher Wojciechowski and Deck McGuire combined for five scoreless innings and one hit allowed.

"In a one-run game against the first-place team in the American League East, to be able to get through those last five innings scoreless with three rookies, I thought was pretty cool," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It's good to see guys take advantage of opportunities and just pound the zone. You live with the base hits and games where are you getting hit. It's harder to get through when a guy is pitching behind and getting into trouble with base on balls."

Romano fans Bradley Jr.

Going into the offseason, only closer Raisel Iglesias and lefty setup man Wandy Peralta are locks for the bullpen. Right-handed setup man Michael Lorenzen might get a chance to compete for the rotation. But Drew Storen (Tommy John surgery, free agent), Blake Wood (released) and Tony Cingrani (traded) are all gone. Kevin Shackelford is getting a lot of chances this month, and lefty starter Cody Reed is also being used as a reliever.

"It's a pretty open slate right now for guys to start plugging their names in," Price said. "I'd like to see these guys do the same thing that [Luis] Castillo has done and what Sal is doing quite well [in the rotation], leaving an imprint on all of us that these guys should be on our team. … We just have faith that they should be part of the team as we enter the offseason going into 2018. That's what I really want. If not, then you really have to think about the free-agent market."

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.