The big story surrounding the Indians this week was the three-way blockbuster deal that sent Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds and brought Trevor Bauer and Drew Stubbs to Cleveland. But the Tribe made another noteworthy transaction this week that has since gotten lost in then shuffle: signing corner infielder Mark Reynolds to a one-year, $6 million contract.
In this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists: What did you think of the Mark Reynolds signing? Joining us this week as guest contributors as Dave Roberts from Did The Tribe Win Last Night? and Jim Piascik from Indians Prospect Insider.
Dave Roberts (Did The Tribe Win Last Night?): In a perfect world the Indians would have All-Stars manning every position on the diamond but unfortunately Major League Baseball is anything but a perfect world and in this case, I’d say Mark Reynolds was a solid sign. Sure, he strikes out a ton evidenced by the fact that he is the only major leaguer to ever have turned in at least two seasons of 200+ strikeouts but he’s got the pop this line-up has been missing since the old days of Pronkville and he is a right-handed bat to boot.
If 2012 was a down year for Reynolds as his stats indicate then I feel completely confident in the sign. In six years of playing in the league, Reynolds has an average slash line of .235/.332/.475 with 30 homeruns and 68 RBIs. I don’t know about you but how nice would it be to have a 30-homer guy in the line-up again> Many would argue that we should have focused on signing Kevin Youkilis, who granted has put together a solid major league career, but at four years Reynolds senior and clear evidence of offensive decline, he just didn’t seem like the best two-year investment.
In the end, it comes down to the fact that the Indians cannot afford another bad contract and I think Reynolds presents a much better low-risk high-reward situation for the club. Let’s face it, Reynolds is not the answer to our prayers but he is a step up from Tribe first basemen of the last few seasons. Add the fact that the Indians saved some money in the signing and hope that they allocate those resources to bettering the team at another position and I would say it is a job well done.
Jim Piascik (Indians Prospect Insider): Mark Reynolds may not be the most sexy signing, but Cleveland did well with this deal. It is hard to complain when such a left-handed hitting lineup gets a much-needed infusion of right-handed power, especially one that averages 30 home runs per season. I know about the strikeouts and the potential for some rough defense, but the team needed this in a huge way.
An added plus of the Reynolds price is the cost. Instead of two years and $18 million for Kevin Youkilis, Cleveland gets a fairly inexpensive $6 million contract for one year. If Reynolds falls apart (a possibility when you strikeout once every three times you go to the plate), there will be no albatross contract in 2014; he is simply let go.
Jeff Mount: In a vacuum, a .764 OPS for $6 million makes sense, especially since he fills one of the three big holes without creating another one. I have never bought the sabermetric view that the strikeouts are irrelevant, because there will come a time this year when there’s a guy on third with one out and we just need someone to make contact, and Reynolds won’t. We have our best hitting first baseman since Thome, and the lineup looks better than it did last week.
Evan Vogel: I absolutely loved the Reynolds signing; although, I really don’t see the direction of the signing after dealing Shin-Soo Choo. Reynolds solidified the lineup with his powerful, right-handed bat. If you were going to try to attack your current weakness, you go out and sign a Mark Reynolds. You can’t really follow up attacking your weakness by dealing from your strengths.
The Indians have no direction. Are they built to contend or are they going to be selling? I feel that it would have been more reasonable to hold Choo up to the trade deadline after making changes this winter…or they should have made those changes prior to locking up a guy who strengthened the roster as it stood before trading one of the team’s superb talents.
After the Reynolds signing, the Tribe got Trevor Bauer, Drew Stubbs, and a couple of bullpen arms in Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers, while giving up Choo, Jason Donald, Tony Sipp, and Lars Anderson. They got a great defensive center fielder and a potential No. 1 starter in the deal, so maybe the direction is taking on a win while you build, Tampa Bay Rays mold. Lord knows the team needs to do something, but you can question attacking the weaknesses of a roster by signing Reynolds only to scrap that mold and have two guys who are going to strike out around 200 times each in Stubbs and Reynolds in the lineup.
Steve Kinsella: I was extremely happy with the Mark Reynolds deal. Although he is known as extremely streaky the good news is that his cold streaks are more often around league average rather than extremely poor. A one-year, $6 million dollar deal for a power hitter who can play the corner infield spots and fills the Indians need for a right-handed bat is a great signing. His salary doesn’t inhibit the chase of any other players and he certainly isn’t impeding the progress of any young player from Columbus. Despite the high strikeout rate he seems to have the ability to get on base and perform well in clutch situations where a strikeout is frowned upon.
Lewie Pollis: I’ve already made my argument in greater detail, but suffice to say thought it was a terrific signing. He’s a good hitter who fits in perfectly with the Tribe (he’s a right-handed power bat who fills one of the team’s biggest holes), and on a one-year deal it’s not as though the Indians have much to lose. This isn’t the kind of move that wins championships, but Cleveland got a good player at a reasonable price—especially considering that the Yankees gave Kevin Youkilis $12 million.
Katrina Putnam: As the lone Wahoo’s On First writer with no tolerance for players who have high strikeout rates, I was less than thrilled with the Mark Reynolds signing. His strikeout rate is over 30 percent, which seemed unfathomably awful to me. However, thanks to some very convincing arguments by the rest of the staff, I’ve been persuaded that the signing might not be such a bad thing after all. Will I enjoy watching his 200 or so strikeouts? Of course not, especially now that it will be in combination with another 200 from Drew Stubbs. But he has a career OPS of. 807, will probably hit 30 home runs and is surprisingly good at first base.
There are more positives than negatives, and the Indians can certainly use a bat with some power. Reynolds will be a major improvement over many, if not all, of the players used in the middle of the lineup last season. It was actually a very good signing by the front office, and he should be a huge asset to the team next year.
Ed Carroll: The Mark Reynolds signing was a bit of a surprise to me, as I thought the Indians would go balls-to-the-wall for Kevin Youkilis, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the final contract information. Admittedly, I’d sign almost any player to a one-year deal because one-year contracts limit risk and commitment, and they are usually easy to trade. Besides, it’s not my money.
Signing Reynolds, a not-yet 30-year-old first baseman who can play third base (in the event every other third baseman dies) for under $8 million is a steal (he’s actually signed for $6 million, but can earn about $1.5 million more in incentives) for two reasons: he’s never posted a sub-.320 OBP in six MLB seasons and his only season with fewer than the 23 home runs he had last year was his rookie year (when he had 17). In other words, they guy gets on base and can mash.
Any mention of Reynolds would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the dude strikes out a ton. However, strikeouts aren’t that much worse than any other non-double play out, and Lewie made a great argument about why his strikeouts shouldn’t be much of a concern. I’m willing to take the strikeouts with the home runs though, and you can’t really complain about the price. Reynolds may not work out, but deal this low-risk and high-reward won’t hamper the Indians even if that’s the case.
Merritt Rohlfing: Even if I did write last week about how I’d rather have Kevin Youkilis over Reynolds, I like the direction this (hopefully) represents for the Indians. Like our Steve Kinsella has said, we’re in the grape-smashing phase of contender creation, and Reynolds is far removed from the Casey Kotchman era, giving a veteran influence and some offense where there was none. Baby steps.
Reynolds is probably the best regular offensive first baseman the Indians have had since Jim Thome, and for once there’s a powerful bat in the lineup from a position that is supposed to have that. Mark is going to strike out a ton, but the Indians were near the bottom in K’s last year and were dreadful at scoring runs, so I’ll take a ton of whiffs if it means a bushel of runs. His glove is reportedly coming along at first so I’m not worried about any defensive issues.
In all, this was a great, economical move that filled a need and doesn’t tie down payroll long term. For what more could you ask?
Brian Heise: I loved the signing of Mark Reynolds. It was an affordable contract for a player who has shown in the past that he is more than capable of being a premier power-hitting bat in the middle of a lineup. So what if he strikes out a ton and owns the single-season record for strikeouts and three of the top five strikeout seasons overall in baseball history? (Coincidentally, Drew Stubbs has the fourth highest single season total ever.) Just the threat that Reynolds can take any pitcher deep at any time is something that has been severely lacking from the Tribe’s lineup in recent years.
He’s also a great clubhouse guy by all accounts so that should help in building chemistry for the new look Indians. So, while his defense is below average at best and he’ll probably make us miss Casey Kotchman at times in 2013, we have to remember that’s not why Mark Reynolds was brought to Cleveland. Reynolds is here for his bat first and foremost. Let’s just hope he can find the strike that made him such a force during his years in Arizona.