Buying for the Future: Jonathan India

Detroit is in a bit of a unique position across the league. An overperforming starting staff, a jumbled up matchup dependent offense, a pathetic AL Central, and a score of pitcher injuries create a perfect storm for the team to compete for a horrid AL Central crown without pushing their chips in for rentals and relievers. They're clearly not "one piece short" like so many good teams. But this does allow them the unique opportunity to strike for a controllable asset that fills a present and future need. The flexibility of the current roster and the lack of blue-chip offensive prospects means that pretty much any position can be targeted for an upgrade in 2024 and beyond.

With that in mind, I present Jonathan India, the Reds starting 2B. With an enviable glut of MLB level infield prospects - seriously, who let one team accumulate Elly de la Cruz, Matt McClain, Spencer Steer, Noelvi Marte, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand - speculation has started abound that the Reds may move on from India. The elder statesman of the group at an ancient 26 years old, India is entering the first of his three arbitration seasons, meaning the acquiring team would have 3+ seasons of his production in their infield.

The 2021 NL Rookie of the Year, India is a fairly well known commodity. He perfectly fits Harris' described mold of a hitter; he doesn't chase, he doesn't strike out, he walks, he hits line drives across the field, and he slugs fastballs up in the zone. He maximizes his average raw strength and quick bat to punish inside fastballs where the pitcher supplies the power, and hits breaking pitches where they're pitched for average and doubles power. That's his entire offensive profile, and it's the simplest path to success. Think of a lesser version of Alex Bregman.

The biggest downside is a fairly significant lack of defensive value. Defensive metrics agree he's average or worse at 2B in his career, and a weak arm prevents a move to 3B or RF in the near future. He's probably athletic enough to handle LF, but primarily, he's a bat first 2B who won't really hurt you in the field. That's fine, because Detroit's roster flexibility would let India slot in as an everyday option at 2B, with players such as Zach McKinstry, Colt Keith, JHM, and Kerry Carpenter mixing and matching in some obtuse 2B/3B/LF/RF/DH matchup dependent permutations. If enough players hit for there to be a legitimate lineup crunch, all the better. I'd be a little surprised, all things considered.

Now, the trade itself.

Detroit Tigers acquires Jonathan India; Cincinnati Reds acquire Wilmer Flores, Jace Jung and Roberto Campos.

Cincinnati needs pitching and outfield help, and if India moves, that should be the primary focus. Baseball Trade Value's simulation thinks an offer like this is fair; it sounds a little rich to me, but I really like Campos' upside. Subbing in another 40+ FV type prospect, like Wenceel Perez, makes the deal a lot more palatable for me, but it's a matter of professional preference. Between the MLB IL and the upper minors, the organization has about a dozen controllable rotation assets for 202. Pair this with a tendency of pulling valuable pitchers from unheralded places, a pitcher prospect like Flores or Ty Madden prospect pretty expendable to my eyes. Moving either as the centerpiece for a controllable, well-suited asset makes a lot of sense for the club right now.

To be completely transparent, I don't find this likely. If India is made available, I would expect no shortage of competitors for the premium infield asset on the market, and Detroit isn't in position to win a bidding war. But India is an excellent player who fills Detroit's biggest long term need: an above average hitter up the middle. Most importantly, he does so in a way that should entice the new front office. Harris would probably prefer to stay the course, move some expiring assets for lottery ticket prospects, and play for 2024 and 2025. But with the framework for a competitive team in place, adding a proven player for the years to come could pay off big time. Few situations match Detroit's needs, timeline, and fungible assets like India's with the Reds. If there's a player for Detroit to go in on, it's Jonathan India.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.