MLB Hot Stove: O's Trade for Mark Reynolds, but Does That Solve Their Problems?
It really seems like the Orioles are running in quicksand, doesn't it?
On the day of the biggest trade to hit Baltimore since the Erik Bedard deal, the team is still overshadowed by Boston's trade for Adrian Gonzalez and Toronto shipping Shaun Marcum off to Milwaukee.
Such is life in the American League East.
So, these are the facts: The Orioles completed a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks this morning. The deal will send third baseman Mark Reynolds to Baltimore and relievers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio to Arizona.
Despite Reynolds' swing-for-the-fences-at-all-costs style of play, he still is a fantastic power threat. And he immediately becomes the best power hitter who the Orioles have on their roster, no competition.
And luckily for the Orioles, his contract is pretty friendly, too, which means for all you O's fans who see Reynolds and have night terrors featuring Garrett Atkins, you can rest easy. Reynolds is here to stay, and should be a fixture at the hot corner for at least the next three years.
But as great as the trade sounds, how solid a move will this turn out to be for the Orioles? And what about replacing the talent that left town? And furthermore, what do the O's now do with Josh Bell, the third baseman they traded for two years ago?
As many holes as the O's just filled (power hitter, check; third baseman, check), they just opened up a huge barrel of questions.
Where Does Reynolds Fit In?
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OK, so obviously adding a guy who hit 44 home runs two years ago and 32 last season is a great thing.
Especially when that guy is only 27 years old. Reynolds is the ideal guy the Orioles were looking to add. He plays third base, hits for power and can fit in on this young and improving squad. That he has proven himself for four seasons now at the big-league level cannot be underestimated when trying to gauge what kind of impact he can have on this club.
Reynolds should immediately step in and hit either fourth or fifth in the O's lineup, which right now looks something like this:
2B Brian Roberts
RF Nick Markakis
C Matt Wieters
3B Mark Reynolds
DH Luke Scott
CF Adam Jones
LF Felix Pie/Nolan Reimold
1B Brandon Snyder
SS Cesar Izturis
Reynolds isn't a Gold Glover at third base, but you can do a lot worse than his 18 errors last season. Heck, Josh Bell made four errors in 40 starts last season. Speaking of Bell...
What Happens to Josh Bell?
Bell didn't exactly set the world on fire in his 50-game debut last year.
He hit .214 and struck out 53 times in 159 at-bats. Those numbers sound almost Mark Reynolds-like!
Bell was simply overmatched in the big leagues in 2010. The plan before today was to send him back to Triple-A Norfolk, where he only had 344 at-bats' worth of experience. I'm sure that's still the plan that Andy MacPhail has in mind but, long-term, where does Bell fit into the Orioles plans?
Like Reynolds, Bell isn't exactly a Hall of Fame-caliber defender at third base, but he's tolerable given the power he should develop into. He also strikes out way too much, and that was only exacerbated at the Major League level. To me, it sounds like Bell and Reynolds are pretty much carbon copies of each other, aside from Reynolds having already proven himself in the Majors.
The O's have a couple of options:
1) Move Either Bell or Reynolds to First Base
Bell has only played one game at first base his entire career, so it might make more sense to slide Reynolds across the diamond. The former Diamondback played a total of 34 games at first during his time in Arizona, but made six errors. Still, the O's need a presence at first base, and if Bell hits well enough in his return to the minors, it could be a possibility. Reynolds has also played a little bit of outfield, so that could be an option, too.
2) Deal Bell
Last season, Bell had more helium than any hitter in the O's system. He came into the 2010 season ranked as the 37th-best prospect in the minors by Baseball America, and he lived up to his billing by hitting .278 with 13 homers in 344 at-bats in Triple-A. He's still got to have some appeal to someone.
3) Turn Bell Into a Full-Time DH
Judging from the ridiculous number of strikeouts in his debut, I don't think Bell will simply grow into a patient hitter. I get the unfortunate feeling that he's going to continue along that path until he runs out of chances. By making him a full-time DH, the O's could take a few things off his plate. No more third base to worry about. And Bell would have all the time in the world to work on his swing and cut down those Ks.
Who Replaces David Hernandez in the Bullpen?
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David Hernandez had his ups and downs last season, but he really thrived when he was moved to the bullpen full-time. He posted numbers dramatically better as a reliever and seemed more suited to the role. And before his season ended, he appeared to take a liking to his new situation.
And now he's gone.
And he's left a huge hole in the Orioles bullpen. The Orioles are now left with a few options to replace him:
1) Bring back Koji Uehara
The O's are exploring a deal with Koji, anyway, but bringing him back now makes more sense than ever. Another starter-turned-reliever, Uehara enjoyed a fantastic season once he settled into a bullpen role. If he can perform like he did in 2010, the O's would make up for losing Hernandez.
2) Find a Free Agent
At one time, the O's were rumored to be interested in free agents Kevin Gregg, Bobby Jenks, Jesse Crain and one-time Oriole George Sherrill, who, conveniently enough, was the player who netted the Orioles Josh Bell from the Dodgers.
3) Promote from Within
The O's have some intriguing arms down at Triple-A Norfolk and at Double-A Bowie. I doubt they would risk top prospect Zach Britton's development as a starter by moving him to the bullpen, but several of their other top arms might benefit from a change of scenery. I'm thinking guys like starters Tim Bascom, Troy Patton, Steve Johnson and Rick Zagone. And there are always relievers like Pedro Beato, Chad Thall, Brandon Cooney, Jim Hoey and Wynn Pelzer.
The O's were just starting to get the hang of a bullpen, and guys were settling into roles. I don't even want to think about what might happen if the O's lose two of their best relievers (Hernandez and Uehara) from last season.
Who Emerges As the Orioles Closer of the Future?
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Check out Baseball America's Prospect Handbooks from the past few years.
They have a section for each team where they project what the team's rotation and starting nine will look like five years from now, and for a while now, they've had Kam Mickolio penciled into the role of closer.
Mickolio certainly looked the part. He was big, threw hard and had a bulldog mentality. Unfortunately, he could never put it all together at the big-league level, despite all the support he had from the coaching staff. Eventually, his time ran out, and now he's part of the D-Backs bullpen.
Mike Gonzalez appears penciled into the role for 2011, but his contract is up after the season.
So, who replaces Mickolio and develops into the closer of the future?
Here are a few options:
Cooney throws hard and is a big boy. He has closed the past few years and has developed into one of the team's top relieving prospects.
2) Pedro Beato
Starter-turned-reliever who pitched mostly the eighth inning last season in Double-A. Got some late exposure to closing duties and thrived. Should be closing in Bowie or Norfolk in 2011.
3) Matt Hobgood
The Hobgood experiment hasn't failed yet, but seeing the conditioning of the 2009 first-round pick has led many to believe that his future is in the pen.
4) Jim Hoey
Former castoff has put his career back together and was rewarded with a 40-man roster spot this offseason. Clearly, Buck Showalter sees something in Hoey he likes.
5) Jake Arrieta
Currently a member of the O's rotation, Arrieta has the stuff and the mentality to thrive as a closer.
How Do the Orioles Get Reynolds To Cut Down on the Strikeouts?
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Yeah, Reynolds is going to be a great addition to this young team, but he's only going to bury himself if he can't cut back on the strikeouts.
200 Ks were acceptable when you're hitting .260, but not when you're below the Mendoza line.
Don't get me wrong, the O's would almost surely tolerate his swing-and-miss capability for 30-plus homers, but everyone knows that Reynolds could be the steal of the offseason if he can rein in those whiffs and maybe cut them down to the 150-170 range.
I think Buck Showalter will have a huge impact in Reynolds' development. Showalter is great with young guys, especially ones who have as much experience as Reynolds does. I'm also interested to see what kind of impact new hitting coach Jim Presley has on Reynolds' approach.
How Does This Impact the Orioles Run for a First Baseman?
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The trade for Reynolds solidifies third base for the considerable future.
Now, onto first base.
Unless the O's secretly plan to have Luke Scott switch to first base, or plan on letting Brandon Snyder run with the job, they're still actively pursuing a first baseman.
I hear Carlos Pena is still out there. And apparently he's at least somewhat interested in coming to Baltimore.
The real question is: Can a team that just signed a 200-plus strikeout hitter who hit below .200 REALLY bring in another guy who hit below 200 with 160 strikeouts?
I'm on board, but only if the coaching staff makes turning these guys into decently patient hitters a main priority. Otherwise, the only thing the O's will ever lead the Majors in is strikeouts, and not the good kind.