Think of Mailbag Day as a celebration of the readers. You guys control the content today…
Kevin asks: What do you think of the Yankees acquiring Mark Reynolds? Obviously his strikeouts are ridiculous, but maybe Kevin Long can pull another rabbit out of his hat and his power as a super sub would be very valuable.
Just to address the obvious first, yes, Reynolds strikes out a ton. He’s now spent three seasons as a full-time big leaguer (2008-2010), and those represent the three largest single season strikeout totals in baseball history. Even more amazing is that his strikeout rate is going up, not down. He struck out 37.8% of the time in ’08, 38.6% of the time in ’09, and a whopping 42.0% of the time this season. As you’d expect (hope), the strikeouts do come with the trade off of mammoth power (.236 ISO, which would trail only Alex Rodriguez on the Yanks) and lots of walks (10.4% in ’08, 11.5% in ’09, 14.0% this year). Reynolds is the epitome of a three true outcomes player, with 1,145 of his 2,281 career plate appearances (50.2%) ending with strike three, ball four, or a leisurely trot around the bases.
Although he’s primarily been a (poor) third baseman (-7.1 UZR/150 career) in the desert, Reynolds does offer a smidgen of versatility. He played more shortstop than third in the minors and has dabbled at second base as well, so if nothing else he could at least handle those spots in an emergency. A corner outfield spot is more realistic, where he has three innings of experience in the big leagues and 23 games worth in the minors. I can’t imagine he would be worse than Marcus Thames out there. Reynolds has also played his fair share of first base, so he can definitely spot start there if needed. In a perfect world he’s the righthanded half of a designated hitter platoon (.385 career wOBA vs. LHP, .337 vs. RHP), so basically just a better and younger version of Thames.
There is one significant drawback here, and it’s not the strikeouts or his .198 batting average (.257 career hitter coming into the season). Reynolds is under contract for two more seasons at $5M and $7.5M respectively, plus there’s a $500,000 buyout of his $11M option for 2013. It’s not huge money, but it ties up a roster spot for two years with a glorified designated hitter, something the Yanks already have a few of. He would also represent another roadblock for Jesus Montero, unless the Yanks are comfortable with playing the kid behind the plate full-time in the near future.
The Yanks and Diamondbacks have an obvious connection now with Kevin Towers taking over as GM in Arizona, and he knows New York’s farm system as well as anyone outside of the organization. Towers has already expressed an interest in getting his team to cut down on strikeouts (the D-Backs lead MLB with 1,495 strikeouts, and it’s not particularly close) while improving his pitching staff, so dealing Reynolds for a young arm or two is a good way to kill two birds with one stone. Kevin Long has done some amazing things in his time as hitting coach, and I’m sure he could help Reynolds some, but if he managed to get him to decrease the strikeouts while making more consistent contact, well then that’s his Mona Lisa. Just give the man a lifetime contract, he’s earned it.
So to answer the question, I’m going to say no. I definitely think Reynolds is undervalued right now and a fantastic buy low candidate if you’re willing to live with his warts (I can live with 100+ strikeouts, but damn, 200+?), but he doesn’t exactly fit what the Yankees need with Montero coming up and Jorge Posada inevitably needing time at DH next year. If he was on a one year deal it would make a ton more sense since he could serve as Montero insurance, but two guaranteed years makes me hesitant.