Wow. What a difference a few months can make. On May 4, Mark Reynolds was one of the leaders of the Indians, posting a .302/.367/.635 line over the first 26 games of the season, with nine home runs and 25 RBI, while posting a 25:11 K:BB in 109 plate appearances. Sure, the Tribe was just 14-12, but the right-handed bat in the middle of the order to split up the left-handed hitting Jason Kipnis and Michael Bourn and the switch-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, and Nick Swisher was a necessary devil, and the gamble that management took on the all-or-nothing slugger was paying off.
The Indians had gone several years since having a strong, right-handed hitter since Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, and Juan Gonzalez were all there and gone from Cleveland, and Reynolds early productivity was very important in the Indians becoming a contending team.
But then the bad habits came back and Mark Reynolds became the same free-swinging defensive liability that led to his inability to get a multi-year deal this past offseason.
From May 5 through August 4 (his last appearance), Reynolds hit just .180/.284/.268 with six home runs and 23 RBI, while posting a miserable 98:32 K:BB in 275 plate appearances. In 73 games (68 starts), Reynolds failed to match the numbers that he posted in 26 games and his inability to make consistent contact made him impossible to keep around.
While one could argue that Reynolds ability to play first base or third base, in addition to serving as a DH, would make him more valuable to the 25-man roster than Jason Giambi, seemingly a DH-only, his lack of defensive prowess when in the field made him a very limited potential contributor, as his glove could literally cost the club wins.
Now, the team has ten days to deal Reynolds or he will, likely, go unclaimed and hit free agency, when the Indians will be on the hook for the remainder of the contract. He has already said that he has no interest in heading to the minors if he does go unclaimed, so he’ll likely head to a contending team to be a power bat off the bench.
It’s quite an unfortunate turn of events, similar to the disastrous series against the Tigers this week, for Reynolds and the Tribe; however, due to Reynolds complete lack of production, it doesn’t appear that he will be missed, although his career numbers show that August is always his best month:
The team has quite a bit of flexibility with Carlos Santana capable of manning first base and catching, Mike Aviles capable of playing second, third, or short, Nick Swisher capable of playing first base or right field, and possessing three outfielders capable of playing any of the three positions (Bourn, Michael Brantley, and Drew Stubbs).
At this point in the season, the Indians are going to have to hope for production from Lonnie Chisenhall at third (who gets a confidence boost in knowing he only has to share the position with one person (Aviles) instead of two), some consistency out of the starting rotation, someone to step up and become a shutdown reliever in the bullpen, and plenty of help from whoever is playing Detroit, considering the Tribe didn’t take advantage of the series in Cleveland.
Is designating Reynolds for assignment a huge loss? Only if he was ever going to find his early season stroke, but considering the room for error that the club has right now, they just couldn’t take that chance.