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MLB potential trade target: Scooter Gennett

In the midst of the best offensive season of his career, Gennett could help upgrade any team with his versatility.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cincinnati Reds Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Today in shameless self-promotion, I feel a certain attachment to Scooter Gennett because of an article that I wrote about him in early June. In this piece, I detailed Gennett’s rise from being a league-average bat over the first four years of his career to putting up the 15th-best wRC+ in the National League in just over of his team’s first 100 games. All of this began when Gennett had a four-homer game early last June.

Long story short, Gennett’s transformation came in a similar way to many other breakout players’. He started to prioritize both launch angle and exit velocity, and in doing so, he has been more selective, tightening the gap between his walk and strikeout rates. So, while the name “Scooter Gennett” may read “utility player” in your head to you too, he truly has become one of the best hitters in the game over the past year-and-a-half.

The Reds, Gennett’s team, are safely out of contention. While they have played noticeably better since firing manager Bryan Price and replacing him with Jim Riggleman, they are still 44-57 and 11.5 games out of the closest playoff spot. To be frank, Cincinnati is not going to make the playoffs, making them an obvious seller at the 2018 trade deadline.

Consequently, this would potentially put Gennett on the trading block, though it is a tough decision for club officials in the front office. The 28-year-old, who was named to his first All-Star Game this year, is under contract through 2019, has made it known that he would prefer to sign an extension with the Reds rather than get dealt.

Gennett told about two weeks ago that he would like to stay with the Reds long-term, noting that he grew up in the area and was a Reds fan during his childhood. For what it is worth, Gennett himself believes that he is not going anywhere this month.

Just from the talks that I’ve had with the guys in control of all those things, I feel like they want me here. I feel like, just from what I’ve been told, they want me here for the long term. What I’m getting is [CEO Bob Castellini] wants me here for a while.

Still, a good offer could force the team’s hand. The Mariners and Dodgers have already reportedly shown tangible interest in Gennett, but the number of teams with interest figures to rise as the deadline approaches. The Phillies, Red Sox, Braves, Rockies and Diamondbacks could all be involved. The Brewers, another team interested in making an offensive upgrade, do not seem to be incredibly willing to launch a reunion with their former infielder.

Gennett is hitting .313/.363/.501 this season with 16 home runs and 63 RBIs over 405 plate appearances. His 3.0 fWAR this season ranks 28th among all position players in the Major Leagues; his 36.3 percent hard-hit rate is about two percentage points above the MLB-average; and his 6.5 percent barrel rate is about one percentage point above the MLB-average.

In addition to posting phenomenal offensive numbers, Gennett is solid on defense, too. He has historically been the most valuable on that side of the ball when playing second base, his natural position, but Gennett has the ability to play third, left and right as well, having done so at different points throughout his Major League career. Gennett has been the starter at second for the Reds this year and has not played those other positions at least since 2017.

As mentioned, Gennett is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2019 season. He earned $5.7 million after winning an arbitration case against the Reds this offseason, and barring an extension, he would be arbitration-eligible again this offseason. Still, though, Gennett would not become even remotely expensive until 2020, making him a very attractive option for any interested team.

At the beginning of the 2017 season, Scooter Gennett was really an afterthought. Few, if any, expected him to be the owner of a four-homer game, post the 15th highest wRC+ in the NL and be a marquee trade target just over a year later. Sometimes meteoric rises are unsustainable, other times they are the new normal. For Gennett, we have entered a new normal, in which a one-time utility player is now one of the game’s best regulars and a coveted asset in July.

Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.