This is the time of year when baseball teams decide whether or not to tender offers to arbitration-eligible players.
Slugger Mark Reynolds, who played a major role at first base and third base for last season’s Wild Card Baltimore Orioles, recently received word that he was non-tendered and is now a free agent. Is it possible that he could now become a target of the Red Sox?
Mark Reynolds has been non-tendered.— Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) December 1, 2012
MLB Trade Rumors reported in October that Baltimore had paid Reynolds a $500,000 buyout instead of accepting his 2013 contract option. This still gave the team the option to negotiate a contract with him through arbitration, provided it tendered him a contract.
Ultimately, the Orioles decided it was in their best interest to not offer him a contract.
According to another tweet by Ghiroli, the Orioles declining Reynolds’ 2013 option took his potential $11 million 2013 salary off the books.
The #Orioles have declined Mark Reynolds' $11 mm option for 2013.— Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) October 31, 2012
Should the Red Sox explore signing free agent Mark Reynolds?
Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors estimated that if the Orioles had taken Reynolds to arbitration, the corner infielder stood to make in the neighborhood of $8.9 million next season.
Evidently, the Orioles felt that kind of money was too rich for their blood, but the Red Sox might have different thoughts.
Reynolds is not a star player. While a poor hitter on average (.235 for his career), he does hit a lot of home runs and gets on base enough to make him a useful presence in a lineup. He’s not a great defensive player, but can play third and was surprisingly effective as the Orioles' first baseman during the second half of 2012.
Reynolds has hit .221 in each of the past two years since first coming to the American League. The 159 strikeouts he had last season were his lowest total since his rookie year in 2007 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the first time since then that he hadn't led the league in whiffs.
There seem to be significant reasons why Boston wouldn't want Reynolds, but his value becomes more apparent upon closer inspection. Over his six-year major league career, he has averaged 30 home runs and 83 RBI per season. Because of his ability to draw walks, he has a career OPS of .807.
Not only does Reynolds have a .924 career OPS in 21 career games in Fenway Park, but he has also killed Boston’s archrival, the New York Yankees, during his career. He has hit 14 home runs in 39 games against the Yankees, while posting an impressive 1.024 OPS.
His ability to bother the Bronx Bombers would be highly desirable in Beantown.
The Red Sox currently have a gaping hole at first base and are hoping last year’s rookie third base sensation, Will Middlebrooks, can return from a broken wrist and continue his electric play.
Between those situations, there should be plenty of playing time if the Red Sox decided to pursue Reynolds.
Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino told WEEI that the team is trying to get out of the business of handing out long-term contracts. Such a philosophy would make a player like Reynolds a perfect fit. He will command a decent salary because of his elite power, but isn't likely to receive any contract offers that extend beyond two years.
With the uninspiring pool of available first basemen and free agent Mike Napoli supposedly seeking a four-year deal, according to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, the Red Sox could prefer to go with a more temporary option like Reynolds. He could keep the position warm until a long-term candidate is identified over the next season or two.
Reynolds has previously indicated that his heart lies in Baltimore, but he does understand the business realities of baseball. He recently told The Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo A. Encina that, “At the end of the day, it’s a business and they have to do what’s best for the Orioles and I have to do what’s best for myself.”
Now that Reynolds has been non-tendered, he is eligible to sign with any team he wants. It will be interesting to see if the Red Sox show any interest in bringing the free-swinging slugger to Boston.
Statistics via BaseballReference