Mark Reynolds took one for a team full of players just like him prior to the 2011 season. New Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers dealt Reynolds as part of an effort to correct the 2010 Snakes’ penchant for swinging and missing. Reynolds was only the most egregious offender: Adam LaRoche, Stephen Drew, Chris Young and Justin Upton averaged 154 strikeouts between them that year.
Still, there’s no question Reynolds exceeded, at some point, the threshold for strikeout rate above which one cannot be a substantially above-average big-league hitter. In 2010, he struck out over 35 percent of the time, hit .198 and got on base at a paltry .320 pace. He improved slightly on that score in Baltimore, but at the same time, watched his defense slip until (in the middle of a race, midsummer) the Orioles felt compelled to completely terminate his third-base tenure and move him to first. Reynolds hit 60 homers in two seasons with the club, but he would have been due a raise on a salary of $7.5 million. The Orioles non-tendered him instead.
Mark Reynolds is just sitting there, is what I’m saying. A fairly patient hitter who can play third base if that’s where you really need him and who has 30-plus-homer power, who never gets hurt, is freely available to the highest bidder. Here are five teams who should bid:
Boston Red Sox: If you believe Nick Swisher can play right field for the full duration of his presumptive deal, sign Nick Swisher. Otherwise, the difference between he and Reynolds (especially at Fenway, where Reynolds would have the Green Monster to toss lazy flies at) is not commensurate with the difference in their costs.
Los Angeles Dodgers: It’s not like money will be an issue, although defense certainly would be with Reynolds and Hanley Ramirez sharing the left side of an infield. The Dodgers’ lineup doesn’t really beg for Reynolds, but positionally, if he still counts as a third baseman, he fits their need.
Oakland Athletics: Oakland really wants to upgrade at shortstop this winter. This would be the deal they could do if they can’t do that. Reynolds could play some third and some first, and add a little bit more patience to a free-swinging power core. He certainly fits what Oakland did as a team last year, when they set the all-time team strikeout record but also launched a TON of home runs for a team playing in their home park.
Philadelphia Phillies: One of my favorite Mark Reynolds facts is that through age 24, age 25 and age 26, Reynolds and Mike Schmidt are one another’s top comparable player on Baseball-Reference. Their careers diverge as Reynolds matriculates the Baltimore Years, but it’s a neat fact. He would have to play third full-time in Philadelphia, of course, which presents the Dodger problem. Given the market at third base this winter, though, it’s really just a question of what you don’t want that guy to be able to do, at all: hit or field. Give me field.
Tampa Bay Rays: Not that Tampa could actually afford it (though maybe…), but Reynolds and Carlos Pena (with a little more of Reynolds than handedness dictates) would be a pretty sound platoon at first base. Both good fielders there, too. The Rays need to find something creative like that to improve their offense. No major help is coming up from the minors for them anymore.
Honorable Mention: At least two teams could view Reynolds as a good stopgap/flippable asset. The Chicago Cubs have a first baseman in place, but non-tendered Ian Stewart at third, and the Miami Marlins might start Yunel Escobar or Greg Dobbs there if nothing changes. Neither team will compete in 2013, but both have some motivation to be less awful than they were in 2012, for public-relations reasons. Both might also want to give Reynolds a club option or second guaranteed year, so as to make him a more attractive trade chip if he just loses it and hits 27 home runs by the All-Star break.
Reynolds has 181 home runs, better than one every 20 plate appearances in the big leagues. He’s a valuable source of power in a game that favors it more than ever. Someone will be knocking on Reynolds’s door very soon.John Lannan and the Five Best Pitchers Non-Tendered Friday
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