MILWAUKEE — Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India spent much of his time before batting practice Monday by himself on the grass in left field at American Family Field, stretching and presumably processing the previous 18 hours or so.
After being told Sunday night it was his turn again to rotate to the bench for Monday’s big series opener against the Milwaukee Brewers, he awoke Monday to a report that the Reds have told teams they might be willing to trade the 2021 Rookie of the Year for the right young pitcher.
It’s a report multiple sources say is vastly overstated – falling into the category of there’s no such thing as an untouchable player – and led to conversations assuring one of the most respected players in the clubhouse of the slim-to-none chance he’ll be traded.
It’s an example of life in the baseball spotlight for a contender heading into the final week before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.
It’s also the first time India has dealt with trade rumors in his career. And the typically upbeat and accessible India declined to talk about it Monday.
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The Reds don’t have to look far to find a good reason to resist trading a somebody who means as much to teammates and the lineup as India has meant – especially during this two-month surge into contention involving a steady flow of big-league debuts.
“He’s our guy. Everyone knows that,” said rookie infielder Matt McLain, who debuted on May 15. “It’s obvious when you watch the games. He’s our guy.”
A year ago this week the Brewers tried to thread a needle at the trade deadline with a three-game lead in the National League Central and traded the best reliever in the league in recent seasons, Josh Hader, to the San Diego Padres.
“Obviously, that kind of backfired on them,” Brewers ace Corbin Burnes said.
The Brewers missed the playoffs by one game; the team that beat them for the final berth wound up in the World Series.
Burnes said the deflating emotional impact of that trade on the clubhouse was as real as the talent loss.
Reds players don’t want to see a repeat of that effect in their room this year.
“A lot of guys, they love him. We love him. I love him,” Reds rookie Spencer Steer said of India. “Not having him around going forward would definitely shake things up in here for sure.”
To be clear: Not in a good way, he said.
“I don’t think you can really put into words what he means to this team,” Steer said. “He’s the guy who addresses the team after wins. He’s been with this team when they were fighting for a division [in 2021] and then he went through the so-called rebuild phase [last year], and now he’s still a staple in our lineup when we’re fighting for a division again. He’s been through kind of every phase of what an organization goes through when they’re trying to win. He continues to be a great leader on and off the field, vocally, leading by example through his actions every single day.”
Outside interest in Jonathon India doesn’t mean trade likely
It’s part of why other teams are interested. Sources in Chicago confirm the White Sox – who have several starting pitchers on the trade block – have interest in the infielder who entered Monday leading the league in games played, all but a few recent games batting either first or third in the Reds lineup.
It’s also, perhaps obviously, a big part of why he’s among the players the Reds are most reluctant to consider trading – not to mention the three additional years of club control beyond this year.
“Jonathan’s a huge part of our team,” manager David Bell said, who had multiple conversations with India after the report led to widespread media speculation coast-to-coast about possible India trade scenarios, especially in Chicago.
“It starts with what he does on the field,” Bell said. “But there’s no question Jonathan has gone above and beyond to be a great teammate, to everyone on our team. He cares about our team. He cares about being a Red. He gives his heart and soul to playing the game, for himself and his team.”
Bell might be uniquely qualified to offer support and counsel on the subject of trade rumours, having been traded four times during a 12-year playing career, including three times at summer deadlines.
“Even in some ways you get used to it, we’re human,” Bell said. “It’s like you give everything you have and you’re part of a family. He really sees it that way. I don’t want to speak for Jonathan, but he’s a big part of our team; he loves his teammates.
“It’s always a real test,” Bell added, saying he had faith in India’s ability to handle it. “He’s a tough kid.”
Nobody knows what will happen with trades between now and Tuesday’s deadline. No guarantees.
But teammates know one thing about India.
“He’s the guy you want on your team. He’s not the guy you want to play against,” Steer said. “I’m glad he’s on my team. I’d like him to stay on my team.”