Central Notes: Senzel, Stephenson, Nevin

MLB Trade Rumors

Reds outfielder Nick Senzel is starting the 2023 season on the injured list as offseason toe surgery delayed his start to Spring Training. It was expected that he would be taking over the regular center field job in Cincinnati once healthy but he might transition into more of a utility role. Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the club is preparing him to serve in such a role and he could play third base and the corner outfield positions during his rehab.

Senzel, 28 in June, has a very small amount of third base experience in the big leagues, 32 innings over the past two seasons. He has a slightly largely tally of 49 innings at second base but then over 2,000 innings in center field. Switching things up while also trying to get ready for the season will be a challenge, but it’s understandable why the club would want him to try. He’s hit just .240/.303/.360 in his career so far for a wRC+ of 74. That production isn’t great for a lineup regular but would be more palatable for a multi-positional role player.

2023 is seen by some as a make-or-break year for Senzel, as he’s now into his arbitration years and is making a $1.95MM salary. Despite his tepid production so far, he’s continued to get chances based on the fact that he was once one of the top prospects in the league. Baseball America had him in the top 10 of all MLB prospects in three straight years beginning in 2017. He could be retained via arbitration through 2025, though he’ll have to show the club he’s worth the continued investment. Taking a step forward at the plate would be great but he may also add more defensive versatility this year.

More notes from the central divisions…

  • The Pirates have informed reporters, including Justice delos Santos of MLB.com, that right-hander Robert Stephenson is beginning a rehab assignment tonight with Triple-A Indianapolis. The righty had been slowed by some arm discomfort this spring and was placed on the 15-day injured list yesterday, with the club describing his ailment as elbow inflammation. Stephenson had a lopsided season in 2022, posting a 6.04 ERA with the Rockies but a 3.38 mark after the Bucs claimed him off waivers. His strikeout rate went from 18.8% with Colorado to 36% with Pittsburgh. The Pirates were bullish enough to give him a $1.75MM salary for 2023, his last arbitration year before he’s slated for free agency. IL placements on Opening Day can be backdated to March 27, meaning Stephenson could be activated April 11 if all goes well between now and then.
  • The Tigers announced that infielder Tyler Nevin is beginning a rehab assignment today. Acquired from the Orioles in an offseason trade, Nevin suffered an oblique strain three weeks ago and was placed on the injured list yesterday. He hit just .197/.299/.261 with the O’s last year but had a strong .291/.382/.479 line in Triple-A. Prior to the injury, he was in the mix for a third base job alongside Nick Maton and Ryan Kreidler, and the club also recently acquired Zach McKinstry. Nevin still has an option and could potentially stick in Triple-A Toledo when his rehab is done. With his IL placement backdated to March 27, he’ll be eligible to be reinstated on April 6.

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