Retread Reds – Tony Fernandez 1994
When Chris Sabo left Cincinnati following the 1993 season in search of a big contract, the Reds were suddenly in the market for a third baseman.
Young Willie Greene was not quite ready for the starting line-up so the Reds instead opted to sign a veteran shortstop to play the hot corner.
Tony Fernandez, who 1993 split between the New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays, signed a minor-league deal with the Reds after the start of spring training.
The one-year deal was with the Reds’ Triple-A farm team, the Indianapolis Indians, but allowed Fernandez to attend Reds the training camp as a non-roster invitee. This type of deal was one of the hallmarks of Jim Bowden’s Retread Reds.
With Barry Larkin entrenched as the Reds’ shortstop, Fernandez, a .285 hitter through 11 major-league seasons, was displaced to third base. However the four-time all-star and four-time gold glover was not happy hugging the foul line. He was also thought to be a candidate to be Cincinnati’s lead-off hitter.
To complicate matters, speculation was rampant that Cincinnati signed Fernandez to use as trade bait.
Jose Rijo, who provided Fernandez a character reference to Bowden, told the media. ”He’s here today but I think within a month he’ll be traded to Toronto or someone else who needs a shortstop. ‘ think we’ll trade him. Someone will get hurt.”
Even though Fernandez played the entire season in Cincinnati, it did not mean as was well. Fernandez made contoroversial statements in mid-May when he said that Latino players’ actions werre judged by more stringent standards than American players.
“I think because we come from so-called Third World countries, some people label us as having bad attitudes,” he said. “What is a bad attitude? It’s telling the truth. . . . We as Latin ballplayers were taught as children to be honest.”
Unhappy about playing third base, Fernandez did not stick around for a second season in the Queen City. After totaling a .279 batting average, 50 RBI and 12 steals he signed with the New York Yankees.