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Was Mark Reynolds the right move?

Was Mark Reynolds the right move?
December 10, 2012
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It might not have been the big splash that most fans were hoping for, but the Cleveland Indians at least got their feet wet on Sunday night.

Of course, the move I refer to is the signing of first baseman Mark Reynolds. The Tribe inked Reynolds to a one-year deal worth $6 million with an additional $1.5 million in incentives on Sunday evening.

The 29-year-old Reynolds joins the Indians after a 2012 season with the Baltimore Orioles that saw him hit .221 with 23 HR, 69 RBI and an OPS of .763 in 135 games. Without a doubt, Reynolds fills two immediate needs of the Indians. First of all, he bats right-handed and secondly, he has power for days.

Yet, it’s also quite likely that a handful of Indians fans are somewhat unenthused in regard to the signing. Since the hiring of Terry Francona as Indians manager, fans have heard about a new approach that the Indians will be using in regard to managing the franchise. Unfortunately, a Mark Reynolds signing might not exactly be the approach that fans had expected.

The move is destined to generate some controversy. Because of his incredibly high strikeout totals, Reynolds is somewhat of a polarizing figure. Some fans laud him for his home run potential while others loathe him for the strikeouts.

Nonetheless, he is officially an Indian, so Tribe fans will at least have to get used to him playing first base for one season. Plus, there really are a lot of positives in regard to the signing. While Reynolds is far from a perfect player, he may have been the perfect signing given the Indians current situation. There are a number of different ways to look at the signing, and when all is said and done, the positives do seem to outweigh the negatives.

As most of us know, Reynolds was not the Tribe’s top first base target. The Indians made it clear that their man was Kevin Youkilis, who the Tribe offered a two-year deal worth $18 million to. The move to sign Reynolds basically signals that the Indians are out of the running for Youkilis as it would be hard to imagine that the team could sign Reynolds, Youkilis and still pursue outfielder Nick Swisher.

While Youkilis is clearly the better player than Reynolds, there are still a handful of reasons as to why the Reynolds signing may actually end up being the better move. Sure, Youkilis is better, but is he that much better?

Plus, consider the cost. The Indians were prepared to commit $18 million to Youkilis over two years, but the signing of Reynolds allows the team to have some more financial flexibility. For instance, they may now have more money to use to pursue Swisher. Or, in a perfect world, let’s say they still pursue Swisher and use some of the extra cash to try to sign a pitcher like Edwin Jackson. There’s a good chance they could not have done that had they inked Youkilis.

Also, while Youkilis is definitely the better, more patient right-handed hitter of the two, he is not the better, right-handed home run hitter of the two. Reynolds has power in bunches, and he immediately becomes the team’s top power threat.

For his career, Reynolds has an OPS of .807 and an ISO of .240. Clearly, this is a guy with great power. Outside of starting pitching, the Indians’ top two needs are unquestionably right-handed hitting and right-handed power. Reynolds fills both, and he comes at a cheaper price tag than Youkilis, so it’s really hard to fault the Indians here.

But… at the end of the day, it’s Mark Reynolds. He certainly has his warts and most fans are well aware of them.

Kevin Youkilis once was given the nickname “The Greek God of Walks.” If that’s the case, then Mark Reynolds has to be classified as “The Greek God of Strikeouts.” In his six-year MLB career, Reynolds has a total of 1,122 strikeouts compared to 408 walks. He has also led the league in strikeouts four straight years from 2008 to 2011. Over that four-year span, he struck out more than 200 times on three occasions. Pretty ugly stuff here.

The problem with Reynolds is that the strikeouts really diminish his value. For instance, Reynolds hit 23 home runs in 135 games last year, yet he had a WAR of -0.1. In fact, for his career, Reynolds has a WAR of 5.1 with three of those wins coming during the 2009 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. For a guy with a 181 career home runs, it’s shocking to think that he barely has accounted for five total wins in his career.

The other problem with signing Reynolds is the fact that he simply was not the Indians top choice. Sure does not seem much like a new approach, right?

On so many occasions, whether it was in free agency or a trade, we saw the Indians settle for their second or third options instead of securing their top guy. For reference, consider the Cliff Lee trade from the summer of 2009. The Indians clearly wanted right-handed pitcher Kyle Drabek from the Philadelphia Phillies, yet they ended up settling for other prospects. In reality, they should have stood pat and held out for their guy as they had all the leverage (Lee was not a free agent until after the 2010 season), but they instead folded and took the deal that Philadelphia offered.

In comparison, apply the same theory to the current situation surrounding Reynolds and Youkilis. Youkilis was clearly the Indians top target, but rumors began to circulate that he would likely accept the New York Yankees offer for one-year at $12 million. However, if you truly believe that Youkilis is your guy, why do you let him go? Why not begin the dialogue again and see if he would come to Cleveland if an extra $1-$1.5 million were added to the deal?

As of now, it at least appears like that is an option the Indians did not feel compelled to explore as it now seems unlikely that Youkilis will become a member of the 2013 Indians.

Yet, for all the negatives attached with the signing of Reynolds, it really does seem that there are more positives. Remember that the Indians were prepared to sign Youkilis v. 2013, not Youkilis v. 2009. After this season, we might just find that there’s not as big of a difference between Youkilis and Reynolds as we think. It also comes down to needs, and Reynolds fills two of them immediately.

The bottom line is that at least the Indians did something. It may not have been an ideal first base target, but really no one was. Plus, this now may allow the team to turn up the heat in its pursuit of Swisher. Ask yourself, would you rather the Indians have Youkilis and then fall short in its offer to Swisher, or would you rather the team have a duo of Reynolds and Swisher? I’d certainly go with the latter.

Steve can be reached via email at

User Comments

December 11, 2012 - 9:32 AM EST
It's pretty bad when we're arguing over whether we should have signed the 33-year-old who hit .235 or the 29-year-old who hit .221.

Here's what I like most about Reynolds. These are his 2012 splits.

None on: .205/.726
Runners on : .241/.811
Runners in scoring position: .286/.970
Scoring position and two out: .317/1.131
Bases loaded (9 at-bats): .333/.844

Pitchers aren't going want to face this guys with ducks on the pond. If we bat him behind Santana, Carlos might get more pitches to hit.
December 10, 2012 - 11:51 PM EST
If Dayton Moore were the AZ GM, you could probably call them up and offer Cabrera and Chris Perez. Done deal. Since he's not, you would have to give up a lot. They are both top 15 prospects, right? Cabrera, Perez and Lindor might get them interested. I would make that deal from the Indians' end. Make that trade, and throw money at Edwin Jackson and Swisher until they sign.

December 10, 2012 - 11:33 PM EST
I like Reynolds if they add Swisher, Jackson, and make the trade to add Bauer & Skaggs/Bradley. That trade should include Ronny Rod though not Paulino or Lindor. I hope that is not the hold up.
December 10, 2012 - 10:21 PM EST
Not sure if 30 comments is a milestone, but if that's the case, very honored for my piece to have that distinction.
December 10, 2012 - 10:20 PM EST
I do think bauer or skaggs can provide an immediate upgrade to the rotation. On another topic, is a Mark Reynolds article the first 30 comment article on this site? If so that speaks much more to the growth of this site than the importance of this signing.
December 10, 2012 - 9:41 PM EST
It will be on the head stones of Shapiro/Antonetti
"We wanted them, but no one came".

This is what it is all coming down to. The Indians have been my team for almost 60 years,and even in the bad times, I never thought I would see this.
December 10, 2012 - 7:40 PM EST
I agree Steve. I'd rather take Bauer/Skaggs for the next 6-7 years over 2 years of Shields. I like Shields, but I think as the headliner of the rotation he is going to disappoint some. He's a good #2 on a contender. He'd obviously help the Indians, but I think a duo of Bauer plus Skaggs/someone else could have just as much impact now and more importantly for a much longer period of time. In any case, it is kind of pointless to argue whether the Indians should have gone after Shields. They simply did not have the ammo to complete such a deal. He was not attainable.
December 10, 2012 - 7:16 PM EST
I disagree with the point that Drennan makes. Both Skaggs and Bauer are ML ready prospects. I do think they immediately impact the rotation, and they'll take their lumps along the way, but they'll also keep getting better.
December 10, 2012 - 7:12 PM EST
Like Bruce Drennan said, not that I always agree with him, but Bauer or even Skaggs are not going to impact the rotation immediately
December 10, 2012 - 5:31 PM EST
Dan, if he walks a bunch & piles up XBH's, those a "good at bats".
December 10, 2012 - 5:21 PM EST
Definitely NOT a "good at bats" guy!
matt underwood
December 10, 2012 - 5:10 PM EST
Id rather have Reynolds than Youklis (I think he is done, although if so it would have been just like the indians to sign him so he probably has some years left).

Right now the Royals (yes, Royals) are better than the Tribe - all the more reason it makes zero sense to do anything but blow the whole thing up. Instead they keep pissing away $$$.
Iron Mike
December 10, 2012 - 5:06 PM EST
Tony, the Royals realize you don't win with prospects? They've played that game long enough. They are trying to win games at the ML level. Prospects are assets, assets only used to better the ML team. If they win 10 more games and contend do you realize what that means in $$$? It is now our turn to be the worst team in the division for the next 5 years or until we get a new owner who brings forth the right business model. Yes it it is that simple.

Iron Mike
December 10, 2012 - 4:59 PM EST
Law's being stupid. How many big time prospects do we have to see to realize that they're just prospects. I'm bound to get grief for saying it but I wouldn't have traded Masterson even up for Myers. Shields would be far & away our #1 starter. He's a half step down from the Verlander/Price group but that's it. I woldn't bet on Greinke being better over the next 2 yrs than Shields. Shields is actually Greinke's closest comp on Baseball Reference.
I preferred Reynolds to Youkilis anyway so I'm happy with that. I'd be happier adding Jackson (3-4yrs) also. With Swisher too it would be just nuts.
December 10, 2012 - 4:47 PM EST
Kind of agree with Law. Look, the Royals OVERPAID for Shields. He's a good #2. I think people have over inflated his value as a true ace....there are only 6-8 of those in the game. That term gets tossed around way too much. But he's a good #2 on a playoff team or a good #1 on a second level team, which is what the Royals are. Hey, give the Royals credit for going for it....but it reeks of desperation and I think they overpaid. They'll be improved for sure, but my question, is how much? That rotation is still a giant question mark and looks a lot like the Indians' rotation once you get past Shields.

As for Cabrera, I think if you keep him the lineup will obviously be better.....but the Indians lose out on a great chance to upgrade their starting pitching. He's kind of over valued by the fans and Aviles would be as good or better defensively, so I would take the pitching in a heartbeat. The question still remains if they can get the two ML ready impact arms they want.
December 10, 2012 - 4:28 PM EST
Also Keith Law thinks Moore should be fired for such a terrible lopsided deal. Says probably won't touch 80 wins he says. Agree/Disagree?
December 10, 2012 - 3:40 PM EST
This is true I do agree with that and being less in demand then and what you said.

But what's your thought on trading Cabrera now? I feel like we need to keep him to have the best line-up we can, Aviles isn't the solution if he goes
December 10, 2012 - 2:39 PM EST
Not a bad sign in Reynolds. Only 1 year. No harm. Beginning to believe that Francona is not having the positive effect on free agents that was hoped for. Cleveland has become a very unpopular landing spot these last few years, and players or their agents are not sold on the Indians' new approach. Finally Tony, not seeing much on the Arizona trade proposal aside from the fact that Lindor or Paulino will have to be included to make this deal work. This, to me, would be a step back in building the system. It is not that loaded.... yet.
December 10, 2012 - 1:38 PM EST
Now what r the odds the latter 2 Jackson and swisher sign , also my 3 favorite free agent possibilities. 1 down 2 to go
December 10, 2012 - 1:35 PM EST
Good q Bill, I like the signing. Santana and Reynolds will spell best first base I've seen in Cleveland since thome now swisher too! I like this Cleveland getting Edwin Jackson would make Xmas 20 x better. cheer up tribe fans
December 10, 2012 - 1:33 PM EST
Joey, yes, Cliff Lee was coming off a Cy Young year. But Shields has a ton more value in a trade right now. Hard to compare those two deals. At the time of the Lee trade there were a lot of people in the industry that were not convinced that Lee was the real deal. He had the great 2008 year, but he was also terrible in 2007. And he was an average to slightly above average pitcher the three years before that.
December 10, 2012 - 1:27 PM EST
This is the type of signing that has Antonetti's mark all over it. He's a small thinker. I don't hate the deal, it actually makes sense - except it's about 2 million dollars more than he's worth. I really hope the incentive part is based strictly on BA. But doubt it.

He gives us a RH power bat which is what we needed, but he is by no means a middle of the order hitter.

The good news is he's only here for 1 year and this team's chances of contending this season are pretty remote anyway.
December 10, 2012 - 1:18 PM EST
At this point, Hosmer and Moustakas have not even been greater than Chisenhall/Kipnis. KC is a better team than Cleveland right now (and were before the offseason started), but it really depends on how things shake out from here whether that will be the case on opening day. Since not having Myers downgrades them right now, the overall improvement is pretty marginal for a team that, like the Indians, either needs a LOT if improvement or a ton of things to break right to contend. If the Indians signed Swisher and one pitcher and the Royals made no further improvement, the Indians would again jump ahead of the Royals on paper, and they wouldn't be mortgaging anything to do it. (granted, signing Swisher is remote) If KC hadn't blown $36 million on the fearsome Santana/Guthrie tandem, they could've just gone after someone like Edwin Jackson, kept Wil Myers, and been just as well off for 2013. I suppose if they make the playoffs this year or next it's worth it, but it's a backwards way to go about things. Like the Ubaldo trade, but worse.
December 10, 2012 - 1:03 PM EST
I hope the Indians catch lightning in a bottle but you have to be realistic. Reynolds bats righthanded but hasn't been effective against lefthanders for the last 4 years.

Still, we've suffered through long slumps from so many players at least Reynolds will provide some thump when he's putting the ball in play. Almost half of his hits are for extra bases.

If he does start hot, he'll make good trade bait if the Indians fall out of contention early - as did guys like Kearns and Branyan in recent years which netted them Carrera, Diaz and McAllister.
December 10, 2012 - 1:02 PM EST
Also, think about how much the Phillies gave for Lee for 1.5 years of control and the Royals did for 2 years on Shields. Shields didn't win the Cy Young, close but didn't.
December 10, 2012 - 12:51 PM EST
Call 'em:

First off, velocity out of the pen does not mean success, secondly (and more importantly) the Rays are not SIGNING Shields, they traded most of the farm for Shields. They gave up their three of their best prospects, two of whom were in B-R's top 50, for a 2/21 contract with Shields and 2/7.6 of Davis with club options through 2017 totaling 25 million. Who could Dolan have given up to get Shields? Besides, his great 2011 was fueled by a LOB% spike and incredibly low BABIP, he was still very good in 2012, but he wont have TB's great defense behind him so he may end up with an ERA closer to 4.00

I also wouldn't count Hosmer as a plus, he can't field and like Butler has always done, hits way too many ground balls, I think I'd rather gamble on Reynolds 2013 than Hosmer's.

But to seriously sit there and claim that this deal is terrible because it wasn't the bigger name and frequently injured guy is insane.
December 10, 2012 - 12:44 PM EST
I think when they refer to aggressive approach Antonetti is referring to the Royals.

Youkilis: 122 G .235 AVG 19 HR 60 RBI 108 K's .771 OPS
Reynolds: 135 .221 AVG 23 HR 69 RBI 159 K's .763 OPS

Their stats are somewhat close but I'd still rather only spend 6 million on Reynolds (29) than 18 or more on Youkilis (33).

Since the Royals raised the bar, the Indians need to for sure obtain a legit LF and SP now. Also, trading Cabrera at this point will defeat the purpose of getting Reynolds
December 10, 2012 - 12:40 PM EST
My guess is one of Lars Anderson or Mike McDade are dropped from the 40-man to make room for Reynolds, unless they make a trade beforehand that clears space.

Also, before we go overboard on the Royals lineup, let's be a little real here. If the Indians had those guys people would be negative about them and wonder if they are for real. I mean Hosmer had a .663 OPS last year and Moustakas a .708 OPS. Cain had a .734 OPS. For all we know, those guys would be Matt LaPorta. Now, they are certainly talented and probably will be good....but I always find it interesting how the players on other teams are always so good even in poor or average years, yet the Indians players are so terrible by the same standards. Now doubt that Shields will help that rotation, although after him all the other starters are very questionable if you ask me and a lot like the Indians staff. I view them as a better team than the Indians right now, so it will be interesting to see what the Indians do this offseason.

And Andy and Carl, I agree with you. I think the Indians wanted to move on with other plans, hence the sudden signing of Reynolds. And I agree that really haven't committed anything financially. That should (hopefully) come with the signing of an outfielder and/or starting pitcher to a multi-year deal.
December 10, 2012 - 12:22 PM EST
The Reynolds deal will only look good if we get Swisher and a pitcher. We are paying him only 6 million, we paid Grady 5million to do nothing. In reality we have spent nothing. Let's hope it is true that Tribe is going to spend. We all need to see it to believe it. Show me the Money.
December 10, 2012 - 12:07 PM EST
My take is that the Indians wanted to settle the 1B situation ASAP now that Greinke's deal is done. If the Indians are really going to pursue a legit FA starting pitcher, then they couldn't wait around for Youk. Plus I think Youk is one hard sneeze away from an extended DL stint.

I like the signing and look at it as a cheaper, younger, right-handed version of Carlos Pena. Reynolds is a slightly below average to average defensive 1B that gets killed in advanced defensive metrics for a perceived lack of range. He's definitely a terrible defensive 3B, which is the biggest factor in his underwhelming career WAR.
December 10, 2012 - 11:47 AM EST
For the money ... I'd take Youkilis. It's not really that much cheaper. $3 million less, or $1.5 million, depending on the incentives. The additional financial flexibility is limited. Paying Youk next year would not have been a problem. That said, I don't hate the signing. Either Youkilis was not going to happen, or they figured (correctly) that they needed to lock someone in, or risk being left alone at the altar. And hey, Toronto hasn't gotten anything more from Drabek than the Indians have from Carrasco.

"call 'em as I see", you might want to get some new glasses. Antonetti has done nothing, but, to bring in the Royals, or the horrific moves they've made, as like a positive example, is crazy. I think Dayton Moore's goal must be to have a "terrible trades, signings and draft choices" heading on his Wikipedia page, like Bill Bavasi. I can't even come up with a comparison of a bad trade scenario the Indians could pull off, since they haven't had a prospect like Wil Myers.
call 'em as i see
December 10, 2012 - 11:03 AM EST
Let's see. The Royals have Moustakis, Hosmer, Cain, Butler, Cain and Perez, 4 guys in the pen that throw 95-100 and are signing James Shields this morning. Antonetti's big deal is to spend 6 mil for a guy with the highest strikeout per AB average of any active player in the majors. Paul Dolan, you better take the dildo out of your butt and hit Antonetti over the head with it. You are without a doubt the worst ownership/management tandem in the 100 + year history of the franchise. Disgraceful, nauseating.
December 10, 2012 - 10:57 AM EST
Best part about this deal is the 1 year contract. Should be easy to flip him in June for an A ball pitching prospect when the Indians are 15 games out.
December 10, 2012 - 10:42 AM EST
So who gets dropped from the 40-man roster to make room for Reynolds?

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