Corner infielder Jeimer Candelario has signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds, reports MLB.com. He's a switch hitter who can handle first base and third base and has also served as a designated hitter.
Candelario, 30, debuted with the Cubs back in 2016 and was traded to the Tigers the following season. He signed with the Nationals in free agency last offseason and then was traded back to the Cubs just in front of the trade deadline.
In all, 2023 was one of Candelario's better MLB seasons. He posted his second-highest WAR while establishing new career highs in home runs and RBI. He slashed .251/.336/.471 (119 OPS+) with 39 doubles, three triples, 22 homers, 70 RBI, 77 runs and 2.9 WAR. He made a huge first impression with the Cubs, going 8 for 9 with three doubles in his first two games and had a few more two-hit games in the next two weeks. He closed very poorly, though. In his last 32 games, Candelario hit .154 with a .606 OPS while striking out 35 times in 104 at-bats.
Candelario gives the Reds even more infield depth as he joins a young group that features Elly De La Cruz and Noelvi Marté. Candelario could serve as Cincy's designated hitter, but the deal makes it even more likely that the Reds use that infield depth to upgrade other parts of the roster via trade. Jonathan India, a second baseman and the 2021 NL Rookie of the Year, has previously had his name pop up in trade rumors.
At this point in his career, it's fair to say Candelario is going to be very streaky. He hit .330 in his first 27 games with the Tigers in 2016. He hit .297 in 2020. He hit .203 in 2019. He led the majors with 42 doubles in 2021. In 3,036 career plate appearances, he's hit .243/.325/.414 (102 OPS+), so he generally ends up slightly above average with the potential to hit for great gap power and 20-ish home runs. There's more upside in there, but we've also seen pretty bad downside.
Candelario shouldn't be tasked with a middle-order slot, but if he sits around sixth or seventh in the order, he can be a quality piece.