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Trading Jonathan India at the Deadline would be Bittersweet – and the Reds Should Do It

Photo Credit: Ryan Casey Aguinaldo, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Look, I like Jonathan India. He might be one of the most popular athletes in Cincinnati. But trading the Reds 26-year-old second baseman – especially for some starting pitching help – is the right baseball move, and the Reds should do it.

It’s kind of a bummer. India was named National League Rookie of the Year just a couple seasons ago. With his leadership, flair, and laid-back personality, he’s quickly become a fan favorite. And it’s not that he’s playing badly – it’s just that, well, the Reds have better options right now. That’s not a bad thing, people. That’s actually the most exciting thing that’s been said about the Reds in thirty years.

The truth is, Jonathan India is an average baseball player. Nothing about his game jumps off the page. He’s a mediocre hitter, runner, and fielder. In the past, average could have been worth its weight in gold for this Reds franchise. Today, though, the situation is a little different.

Take a look up and down the Reds roster. Notice anything? How about the fact that two of the Reds best players, Matt McLain and Elly De La Cruz, are both younger than 24? Did you also notice that they’re both middle infielders? And what position does India play? Oh yeah – second base.

This is really the crux of the argument for trading India now: his average fielding (maybe a bit below-average) doesn’t make him a good, long-term fit at second. His future with the Reds would likely be left field. However, it doesn’t appear India is too interested in making a position switch and frankly, even in left field, I’m not sure India makes a lot of sense on this Reds team. Will Benson is crushing it right now, is younger and on a cheaper contract, and is a far better athlete than India. A trade, as painful as it sounds, might be best for both parties.

Again, it’s not like India is a bad player. If he were, the Reds wouldn’t be getting any interest in him anyway. But given how electric McLain and De La Cruz have been, along with the emergence of Spencer Steer, the infield has just gotten too crowded. India’s bat hasn’t been good enough to make up for the deficiencies on defense. In order to stick, he needs to hit like he did his rookie year.

Some will argue that India’s decline (if you can call it that) isn’t his fault at all: it’s David Bell’s, the Reds manager. After primarily batting leadoff during his rookie and sophomore campaigns, Bell has allotted to bat India lower in the order in favor of some of their young stars. India may be a better hitter batting leadoff than lower in the order, but his bat isn't dangerous enough to be dictating Bell's lineup decisions. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take De La Cruz as a table-setter every day of the week.

The future is now for the Reds, and it’s in their interest to start letting the youngsters take over. The best infield this team can muster is newly promoted slugger Christian Encarnacion-Strand at first base, McLain at second base, Elly at shortstop, and Steer at third base. That doesn’t even include top prospect Noelvi Marte, who’s currently raking down in AAA and projects as a third baseman in the next level. Steer, for his part, has already shown to be proficient at multiple positions, so a position change wouldn’t be nearly as challenging for him as it might be for India. Suffice to say, the Reds cupboard is literally overflowing.

Apologies for repeating myself but this is a good thing! Too much talent is a good thing – even if it means hard decisions have to be made. The Reds have a surplus of competent infielders. They have a deficit of competent starting pitching. Using a surplus to address a deficit? What a novel idea!

According to reports, the Reds are looking to acquire controllable starting pitching, which is exactly what they should be on the hunt for. There’s no need to make a desperate run at a championship this season. The Atlanta Braves stand in the way of any National League contender, and how about we win a game or two against the Milwaukee Brewers before we start planning those World Series festivities, hmmm?

Among teams that could have interest in adding India at the deadline (August 1), the Chicago White Sox stand out as an intriguing spot. After two consecutive disappointing seasons, the White Sox may be looking to blow up their roster and begin a rebuild. With second baseman Elvis Andrus and shortstop Tim Anderson both pending free agents and on the wrong side of 30, India could be a perfect fit in the South Side.

In return, the Reds would almost assuredly be targeting 27-year-old starting pitcher Dylan Cease. I’ve written about Cease a couple times, but the second-place finisher for last year’s American League Cy Young Award is under team control through the 2025 season and would fit perfectly in a Reds rotation starved of a dependable, innings-eating starter – and Cease could be much more than that. He’s having a bit of a down season, but most of his peripheral stats (strikeout rate, walk rate, etc.) are in line with his career numbers. Hopefully, his struggles this year are just a blip.

Could a trade which includes India, Reds #2 prospect shortstop Edwin Arroyo, and Reds #7 prospect starting pitcher Connor Phillips be enough to entice the White Sox? India fills a pressing need and gives the White Sox a cornerstone for their rebuilding effort. Arroyo would immediately step in as their best middle infield prospect in their entire organization, and Phillips could be a future replacement for Cease. It’s the rare trade that could really work out for both parties.

Losing India for Cease at the deadline would be a bittersweet moment for the Reds, but they’re going to need to make moves like these if they want to stay competitive. India is a fun player, a fan favorite, but he’s not essential. Sentimentality won't help the Reds beat the Brewers. If the goal is to win (and it damn well better be), the Reds have to make moves to fix problems. Trading India won’t be the most popular move in town, but it’s a move that could turn the Reds from an intriguing regular season story into serious playoff contenders.

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