Reynolds and Ryan express interest in returning to the Yankees

Via Dan Barbarisi: Mark Reynolds hopes to return to the Yankees next season and will have his agent contact Brian Cashman. The 30-year-old hit .236/.300/455 (105 wRC+) — a pretty great approximation of what he’d give you over a full season — with six homers in 120 plate appearances for New York this season. Given how hard it is to find right-handed power these days, the team should definitely consider bringing Reynolds back in a part-time/platoon role next season.

Meanwhile, Brendan Ryan told Chad Jennings he has some interest in returning next year, but also said it’s tough to know what the team will do given their unsettled infield situation. The slick-fielding shortstop hit .220/.258/.305 (51 wRC+) with one homer in 62 plate appearances after being acquired in mid-September. Ryan, 31, is pretty much my last resort at shortstop. I’d rather him play everyday over Eduardo Nunez, but I’d want the Yankees to look for a better shortstop solution — preferably someone who can actually hit — first. There’s a more obvious place on the roster for Reynolds than Ryan.

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Yankees sign Reynolds, send down Claiborne, designate Cruz

As expected, the Yankees have indeed signed Mark Reynolds. He is in tonight’s lineup. Preston Claiborne was sent to Triple-A Scranton to clear a 25-man roster spot and Luis Cruz was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot. Rosters expand in two weeks, Claiborne will be back soon enough. Still, sending him down and keeping Joba Chamberlain makes zero sense if you are trying to win ballgames.

Heyman: Yankees agree to sign Mark Reynolds

Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have agreed to sign corner infielder Mark Reynolds. Because he was designated for assignment and released by the Indians, they only owe him the pro-rated portion of the league minimum. Heyman says four teams had interest. The deal is not yet official.

Reynolds, 29, hit .205/.307/.373 (93 wRC+) with 15 homers before being cut by the Tribe. As I explained in last week’s mailbag, he was very good for the first 50 games but terrible for the last 49. Reynolds did hit .215/.333/.411 (111 wRC+) against lefties though, and that’s why the Yankees signed him. He’ll presumably platoon with Lyle Overbay at first base and see some time at third base and DH as well.

The Yankees will need to clear both a 25-man and 40-man roster spot to accommodate Reynolds, but that won’t be too difficult. They’re already carrying a 13-man pitching staff and could transfer either Zoilo Almonte (ankle) or Luis Cruz (knee) to the 60-day DL. If he performs well, I suppose the Yankees could look to retain Reynolds for next season as a part-time corner infielder/DH.

Mailbag: Lester, Hudson, Reynolds, 2014 Draft

Got six questions for you this week, so this is one of the longer mailbags we’ve had. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything throughout the week.

(Greg Fiume/Getty)
(Greg Fiume/Getty)

Joe asks: Any chance the Red Sox decline their team option on Jon Lester and if so should the Yankees sign him? Also what are your thoughts on Tim Hudson for them next year?

The Red Sox do have quite a bit of pitching depth going into next year, with Jake Peavy, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, and Ryan Dempster all under contract for 2014 with youngsters like Allen Webster and Brandon Workman waiting in Triple-A. Lester, who is still only 29, had an awesome start to the season but has been terrible for more than two months now. Following last night’s outing, he is sitting on a 4.38 ERA and 3.97 FIP, which isn’t much better than what he did last year (4.82 ERA and 4.11 FIP)

Lester has not been a truly dominant ace since 2010 (3.25 ERA and 3.13 FIP), so I don’t know if he’s a guy who simply peaked early or what. He’s definitely worth examining more in depth, in a non-mailbag setting. The Red Sox hold an affordable $13M option for next year, and when you consider that Ervin Santana was terrible last season (5.16 ERA and 5.63 FIP) yet still found a team willing to pick up his $13M option, I’m guessing Boston will pick up Lester’s and look to trade him rather than cut him loose entirely. If they do cut him loose though, I would definitely want the Yankees to look into him. Reasonably young AL East proven lefties are a rare commodity.

As for Hudson, I’m very wary of a 38-year-old coming off a major ankle injury like that. He was good but not great before getting hurt (3.97 ERA and 3.46 FIP) and it’s fair to wonder how he can rebound. Even though he’s not a pitcher, we needn’t look further than Derek Jeter to see how hard it can be for an older player to come back from a traumatic ankle injury. If Hudson’s willing to take a low-base, incentive-heavy one-year contract with no guarantees, sure, look at him. I just wouldn’t want the Yankees to sign him with the idea that he’ll automatically step into the rotation.

Alex asks: If Alex Rodriguez were to get injured this year, say a pulled hammy, can he decide to start serving his suspension before the appeal is heard to get some games out of the way and miss less time next year if the suspension is reduced?

Sure, A-Rod can drop the appeal at any time and start serving the suspension right away. I don’t think he would in the case of injury because he would still get paid while on the DL. He won’t get paid during the suspension and that’s what this is all about. Alex isn’t stupid, he knows his career is probably over after the suspension. He’ll try to stay around as long as possible to collect as much of his contract as he can, especially since it’s front-loaded and his salary goes down the next few years.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Donny asks: How about Mark Reynolds (DFA’d)? He sure has sucked since May 1st, but so has every other third basemen we have run out there this year.

I can’t imagine many teams have cut their leading homerun hitter, but that’s what the Indians did when they designated Reynolds for assignment yesterday. He is hitting .205/.307/.373 (93 wRC+) with 15 homers on the year, but it has definitely been a tale of two seasons. Reynolds hit .254/.340/.503 with 12 homers in his first 50 games and .173/.272/.235 with three homers in his last 49 games. He’s been awful since the end of May.

That said, Reynolds is useful. Limited, but useful. The just-turned-30-year-old has hit .215/.333/.411 (111 wRC+) against lefties this year, plus he can play the two corner infield spots. “Play” the two corner infield spots, if you catch my drift. He’s a bad defender and he strikes out a ton (32.0 K%), but he hits lefties and works the count very well (11.2 BB%). The Yankees could send David Adams, who is unlikely to play all that much anyway, back to Triple-A Scranton and platoon Reynolds at first with Lyle Overbay. It’s probably too late for a move like this to impact the playoff push, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be an upgrade.

Paul asks: Let’s assume for a moment that the season ended today. Where would the Yankees pick in the draft, and is it a strong draft this year? I’m looking for any kind of silver lining to this season, help me out here.

The Yankees currently have the 14th best (16th worst) record in baseball, so they would have the 17th overall pick in next summer’s draft if the season ended today. The Blue Jays have a compensation pick for failing to sign this year’s tenth overall pick (RHP Phil Bickford), which is why it’s the 17th overall pick and not the 16th. New York had the 17th overall pick in the 2005 draft (SS C.J. Henry), which they got from the Phillies as compensation for losing Tom Gordon. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 1993 for the last time they picked that high (RHP Matt Drews, 13th overall).

As for the quality of next year’s class, here’s what an unnamed scout said to Chris Crawford (subs. req’d) back in June:

“On paper, it’s a much better crop (than 2013),” an NL scout said. “It’s not the strongest group of advanced bats again, but there’s so much more depth than there has been the past two years, particularly with the high school hitters and even more particularly up the middle. This year, other than J.P. Crawford, there isn’t one high school shortstop I would have taken in the first round. Next year, there’s about four or five that I’d consider. It’s all speculation, but I feel much more confident about getting a quality player this year than the last two.”

It’s still way, way too early to get a firm grasp on the quality of next summer’s draft class. NC State LHP Carlos Rodon is the clear favorite to go first overall right now, he’s David Price-esque, but everything else is up in the air. We have to wait for the high school and college seasons to start in January and February before players start falling into place.

Brendan asks: Any chance if Gary Sanchez rakes the rest of the season in AA and then in Spring Training he makes the big league club? Or are we going to have to wait until he is 24 to see him?

He turns 21 in December, so let’s not jump off the ledge worrying he’ll be old when he debuts just yet. The Yankees have been relatively conservative with Sanchez so far, having him repeat Low-A Charleston last year and spending most of this year in High-A Tampa. I like that, I do think they’ve been a little overly aggressive at times with their top guys the last few years. I wouldn’t expect Sanchez to have a realistic chance to make the team out of camp next year, though that could come in 2015. Have patience. They need a catcher in the worst way, but rushing the top prospect to fill that hole isn’t the answer, especially not with J.R. Murphy in Triple-A.

Ori asks: Who is the best Yankee pinch-hitter ever? I remember Ruben Sierra being a particularly good one.

Hooray for the Play Index? Hooray for the Play Index! Here are the team’s top ten pinch-hitters during the DH era (since 1973), minimum 20 pinch-hitting opportunities (34 qualifiers):

Rk Player PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Cliff Johnson 23 15 5 0 0 3 6 8 2 .333 .565 .933 1.499
2 Darryl Strawberry 25 19 7 3 0 2 10 6 7 .368 .520 .842 1.362
3 Ron Hassey 28 27 11 1 0 1 5 1 3 .407 .429 .556 .984
4 Hideki Matsui 31 25 9 1 0 1 5 5 7 .360 .452 .520 .972
5 Jason Giambi 24 22 6 1 0 2 3 2 6 .273 .333 .591 .924
6 Daryl Boston 23 20 5 0 0 2 6 2 4 .250 .348 .550 .898
7 Dan Pasqua 31 27 7 1 0 2 8 4 9 .259 .355 .519 .873
8 Pat Sheridan 25 21 4 1 0 2 2 4 8 .190 .320 .524 .844
9 Oscar Gamble 59 48 11 2 0 3 10 8 6 .229 .356 .458 .814
10 Steve Balboni 33 26 7 0 0 1 3 6 15 .269 .424 .385 .809
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/8/2013.

Bernie Williams is 12th with a .768 OPS and Sierra is 21st with a .646 OPS. Hassey has the highest batting average as a pinch-hitter in team history (Strawberry is second) while Johnson has the highest OBP and SLG (Strawberry is second in both).

Johnson, who played with the Yankees from 1977-79, and Strawberry are clearly a notch above everyone else here. I like that pinch-hitting was part of their role too; they weren’t full-time guys who came off the bench a few times like Matsui or Giambi. They were legit part-time players who were expected to pinch-hit in key spots. Strawberry was awesome, still my all-time favorite player to this day.

Indians to sign Mark Reynolds

According to multiple reports, the Indians have agreed to sign Mark Reynolds to a one-year contract worth $6M plus incentives. He’s going to play first base for them.

The Yankees reportedly had some interest in Reynolds for their third base vacancy, but more importantly the signing figures to impact the Tribe’s pursuit of Kevin Youkilis. New York has a one-year, $12M offer out to the former Red Sox, and the Indians were their biggest competition due to their two-year offer and Terry Francona. This is no guarantee Youkilis will sign with the Yankees, but it certainly increases the odds of that happening.

Winter Meetings Day Three Open Thread

(Marilyn Indahl/Getty)

Day Two of the Winter Meetings was busier than Day One for the Yankees even though they didn’t make any moves or announce another Alex Rodriguez injury. Brian Cashman confirmed speaking to the representatives for Kevin Youkilis, A.J. Pierzynski, Ichiro Suzuki, Eric Chavez, and Raul Ibanez. Jeff Keppinger and Mark Reynolds were also said to be on the team’s radar.

Here are Monday’s rumors and Tuesday’s rumors. We’ll keep of any Yankees-related rumblings here throughout the day, with the latest up top (all times ET).

  • 5:14pm: Reynolds is seeking a similar salary to the $7.5M he made in 2012. [Bryan Hoch]
  • 4:42pm: The Yankees have been talking to the representatives for Mark Reynolds about playing third base. [Sherman]
  • 1:20pm: The Yankees have been exchanging trade proposals with other teams about their players, including Curtis Granderson according to¬†Buster Olney. He cautions that this is typical and the not necessarily an indication that something serious is brewing.
  • 1:11pm: A deal between the Yankees and Youkilis is unlikely, and Keppinger remains the team’s top third base target. Agreeing to a contract length will be an issue. [Mark Feinsand]
  • 10:56am: The Yankees checked in with Hannahan but are not very serious about signing him. Due diligence, I suppose. [Jordan Bastian]
  • 10:16am: Nate Schierholtz is making “good progress” towards his next deal and the Yankees are considered the early front-runner to sign him. That would be swell in my opinion. [Buster Olney]
  • 9:30am: The Yankees “really want” Keppinger and he could wind up with a three-year deal worth $13M. They’ve let Keppinger’s camp know they’ll give him two years. [Danny Knobler & Joel Sherman]
  • There are “strong indications” the Yankees will not seriously pursue Pierzynski. A White Sox official indicated the catcher would be more willing to take a one-year deal with the Bombers than with any other team. [Sherman]
  • Free agent infielder Jack Hannahan is also of “some interest” to New York. The 32-year-old is a great defensive third baseman who will draw a bunch of walks, but otherwise he can’t really hit. [Paul Hoynes]

Scouting The Free Agent Market: Mark Reynolds

(Greg Fiume/Getty)

The offseason dynamic has changed quite a bit for the Yankees over the last 24 hours. They went from trying to dig up a utility infielder who could play 100 combined games between short and third next season to absolutely needing an infielder because Alex Rodriguez will have another hip surgery next month. The injury creates two holes as the Yankees lost their starting third baseman and primary source of right-handed power for potentially the entire first half.

The free agent market is light on quality third basemen and the trade market isn’t much better, so the Yankees are stuck picking from imperfect solutions. We know they don’t consider Kevin Youkilis, Placido Polanco, Ty Wigginton, and Marco Scutaro everyday options at the hot corner, narrowing the field of potential options even further. There’s always Eric Chavez, who played very well last season but doesn’t solve the right-handed power problem and is far from a safe bet to remain healthy. Eduardo Nunez is not an option and playing Jayson Nix everyday has Cody Ransom 2.0 written all over it.

The best free agent option may be a player who wasn’t even a free agent five days ago. The Orioles non-tendered Mark Reynolds last Friday after first declining his $11M club option for 2013. He remained under team control as an arbitration-eligible player, but the club decided to cut ties rather than pay a projected $8.9M salary. At 29 years old, Reynolds is one of the few free agents on the right side of 30. Let’s see if the former Diamondback is a fit for New York’s new needs.

The Pros

  • Reynolds has some of the biggest right-handed power in the game. He joins Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Ryan Braun as the only righties to hit at least 23 homers in each of the last five seasons, and over the last three years he owns 92 homers and a .236 ISO. Those rank 12th and 14th in baseball regardless of handedness. Yankee Stadium usually doesn’t mix well with dead pull right-handed hitters, but Reynolds has the kind of power that will play anywhere.
  • In addition to that power comes a whole lot of patience. Reynolds has drawn at least 70 walks in four straight seasons and his 13.2% walk rate over the last three years is the 14th highest in baseball. His average of 4.26 pitches per plate appearances since 2010 is Nick Swisher, Joe Mauer, and Youkilis territory.
  • Guys like Reynolds are easy to typecast as platoon bats, but over the last three seasons he’s posted a .238 ISO with a 116 wRC+ against lefties to go along with a .236 ISO and 104 wRC+ against righties. He can play against everyone.
  • Reynolds has been on the DL once as a big leaguer, missing a little more than two weeks with an oblique strain this season. Prior to that he had been good for 145-155 games played per year every year.

The Cons

  • All of that power and patience comes with a lot of strikeouts. Like a historic amount of strikeouts. Reynolds holds three of the five highest single-season strikeout totals in baseball history and has whiffed in 32.3% of his plate appearances over the last three years. Only Adam Dunn has been worse. If there’s anything good to note here, it’s that his strikeout rate has declined in each of the last two seasons, relatively speaking.
  • Reynolds is a big time fly ball hitter (36.1% grounders since 2010), hence the power production, but fly balls also turn into outs rather easily. As a result, he owns a meager .268 BABIP and .213 AVG over the last three years. Over the last two seasons it’s a more palatable but still awful .221.
  • His best position is probably DH, though he has shown the ability to fake first base these last two years. The various defensive stats rate Reynolds as well-below-average at the hot corner, as in 10 runs or more below-average annually. That’s Johnny Damon in left field bad.

Reynolds has the kind of power and patience the Yankees crave, and the fact that he swings from the right side and doesn’t need a platoon partner fits well with a lineup that is all but devoid of right-handed threats at the moment. He doesn’t hit for average though, which is a problem. A team can live with one low-average, high-walks, high-power hitter in the lineup, but the Yankees already have Curtis Granderson on the roster and squeezing two hitters like that into the regular lineup is less than ideal. Then again, the team is listening to offers for Granderson.

Given the dearth of power hitters and corner infielders on the free agent market, I do wonder if some team will step in and offer Reynolds a two-year contract. He figures to sign for less than the $8.9M the Orioles declined to offer him, but given how the market has played out so far I wouldn’t be completely surprised if some team floats a two-year, $12M offer. Something like that. The Yankees are fixated on one-year contracts and two years for a guy like Reynolds isn’t very advisable anyway.

The real question is whether he can actually man the hot corner on a regular enough basis to be a worthwhile pickup. He doesn’t need a traditional right/left platoon partner, but maybe a third base/DH platoon partner. The Yankees could bring back Chavez and have him and Reynolds split the load at the hot corner while the other plays DH on a given day. It sounds great in theory but is much tougher to actually pull off on the field. The Yankees are losing a considerable amount of offense this winter though, and Reynolds is one of the few available players who can make a real impact with the bat thanks to his power. Again, imperfect solutions.