Down another player, Reds acquire Santiago Espinal from Blue Jays



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GOODYEAR, Ariz. — With second baseman Matt McLain starting the season on the injured list because of a shoulder injury, the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday acquired 2022 All-Star Santiago Espinal from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for minor-league right-hander Chris McElvain.

Espinal, 29, will be a utility player for the Reds, while Jonathan India retains his spot at second base, the only defensive position he’s played in the big leagues.

McLain injured his non-throwing shoulder on Monday diving for a ball in practice. He had an MRI on Tuesday and will seek a second opinion on the injury.

The Reds will now start the season with at least a third of their presumptive Opening Day lineup unavailable. McLain and center fielder TJ Friedl will begin the season on the injured list while third baseman Noelvi Marte is suspended for the first 80 games of the season for violating the league’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs.

The Reds have enough players to cover the starting nine — Jeimer Candelario will man third, Christian Encarnacion-Strand first, and Stuart Fairchild and Will Benson will spend time in center.

“With McLain going down and TJ Friedl going down, we’re just trying to get more versatility on the club,” said Nick Krall, the Reds president of baseball operations.

Wednesday morning, Reds manager David Bell mentioned that surgery isn’t out of the question for McLain, but no decisions have been made.

Krall said the deal for Espinal came about Wednesday in the wake of the McLain news. Already aware of what players may be available ahead of the start of the season next week, Krall said he got in touch with the Blue Jays in the morning, the first offers came around noon and the deal was announced before 5 p.m. in Arizona.

Espinal has played the majority of his career at second base but has also started games at third base and shortstop. He started nine games at short for the Blue Jays last season. Espinal was a replacement for Jose Altuve in the 2022 All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium. After putting up a .267/.322/.370 slash line in his All-Star season, he hit .248/.310/.335 in 2023. He is also under team control through the 2026 season.

“He plays three different positions and he’s hit in the past,” Krall said. “He knows his role and I think he has a chance to be a quality player on this club.”

McElvain, 23, was an eighth-round pick out of Vanderbilt in the 2022 draft. He was expected to start the season at High-A Dayton, where he started 11 games last season.

With McLain on the shelf, the Reds didn’t have a backup shortstop on the roster. The plan was to have either McLain or Marte play shortstop when Elly De La Cruz needed a day off. The team had lost last year’s Opening Day shortstop, Jose Barrero, on waivers earlier this month. He was claimed by the Texas Rangers the day before the team learned of Marte’s suspension.

The team also had veterans Josh Harrison, a two-time All-Star, and Tony Kemp in camp, but both were told they weren’t making the team. Both are now free agents. Erik González, in minor-league camp after starting the spring in big-league camp, started one of the two split-squad games the Reds had Wednesday while De La Cruz started the other. González is a reliable defensive shortstop with big-league experience but has not hit at the big-league level.

Adding to the organization’s poor run of luck, their top shortstop prospect, Edwin Arroyo, had season-ending surgery on the labrum in his left shoulder Wednesday morning. While Arroyo throws right-handed at shortstop, he is ambidextrous and pitched left-handed in high school, hitting 90 mph off the mound as a lefty.

(Photo of Espinal: Nathan Ray Seebeck / USA Today)





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