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12.10.2012

Offseason Rundown: Mark Reynolds and Where Tribe Goes From Here

Nino Colla | Monday, December 10, 2012 | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips
I was sitting around Sunday night, minding my own business. I like to use Sunday's to get things in order and be lazy.

Like most of us do, of course. By the end of the day though, I'm preparing for the week mentally and organizing what I have to do. All the while, taking in whatever football happens to be on.

With a victory in hand after the day's games and Aaron Rodgers still having to put in his time for my playoff bound team, I was just hoping to reclaim my weekly high score having already watch Adrian Peterson, Jamal Charles, and Vincent Jackson go off.

I quickly lost care for that, because when the Indians make a move, everything else can take a backseat.

This offseason has been one where the Indians have been classified as "aggressive". They've already pulled off a trade to get a utility man in Mike Aviles, and really the guy that would take over for Asdrubal Cabrera if he were to be traded, which continues to be a very strong possibility with as much he could bring in.

And so far in free agency, although they haven't made a huge Marlins-type splash, they've been making strong offers. Shane Victorino, Kevin Youkilis, Nick Swisher, the team clearly is trying to be a player.

They've had their hand in the discussion surrounding just about every available first baseman and corner outfielder available, and while we know Victorino, Jason Bay, and James Lonely will not be signings, we know the Indians tried to make them be.

The latest, before the activity on Sunday night was that the Indians were simply just waiting on Kevin Youkilis and Nick Swisher to decide what was up.

I guess for the Indians, waiting for Youkilis was just something they had no interest in doing.

[ALL OR NOTHING]

Mark Reynolds is your classic "all-or-nothing" hitter. And to hit you with another cliche, he's a poor man's Adam Dunn. He'll hit a few bombs, but also strike out. He doesn't quite walk as much as Dunn and he even strikes out more (led the league for times, has set the single-season record as well). But he is that type of bat.
Photo - Getty Images via Zimbio

Yet most will look at the strikeouts and run in fear as to what he brings to the table.

"We signed a guy who strikes out damn near 200 times a year? What the heck are we doing?"

So what? That's 200 outs. Everyone makes 200 outs. He still comes through with 100 hits and gets on base with the walk at least 70 times. So if he gets 500 at-bats, you're look at someone who gets on base 34 percent of the time. You're also looking at someone who uses at least 20 of those hits to knock in runs.

You take that, do you not?

You do. The Indians do. The Indians need to. He's a right handed power stick to place at the back end of the middle of the order. He's a guy who slots right into that fifth or sixth hole. He's someone to help add a little muscle behind Carlos Santana.

Does hit hit .235? Sure, but so does Casey Kotchman. Yeah Kotchman saves run with his glove, but he doesn't hit 30 home runs.

We're talking about a guy who averages over 30 home runs per 162 games, as well as over 25 doubles and a .332 on-base percentage. The Tribe is not signing a guy who's going to hit third or fourth in the lineup and expected to be the best hitter. They're also not signing someone who is going to hit eighth or ninth in the lineup.

This is someone who was signed to be an enforcer. This is like the Penguins signing someone to protect Sidney Crosby on the ice. I'm not trying to call Mark Reynolds a goon, but if it gets the point across, I hope he doesn't mind.

Reynolds is 29, he'll be 30 next August. He's right in the middle of his prime and for one year? Six million?

In my opinion, that is money well spent. To me, it looks like more production for the price than signing someone like Kevin Youkilis for a two-year deal. And if Reynolds plays well enough, he'll make $7.5 million according to MLB.com reports.

Youkilis had a two year deal on the table from the Indians to counter the Yankees one year pact for $12 million. He'd make more in one year with the Yankees or get more security and more money long term with the Indians. He's on the back half of his career, Mark Reynolds is still in his first half and he packs a punch.

In a way, I'm glad the Indians were not willing to wait for Youkilis to decide. Reynolds makes a good fit and while Youkilis is a true pro of a hitter and a welcomed veteran presence that I wouldn't have not minded, I like this deal better.

And it sure does clear up the Indians first base situation and make their lineup a little much tougher and better looking.

They still need to fill a designated hitter spot, which could be used as a rotating spot for some players. The host of names that were in the mix for a possible first base job had the Indians not signed someone like Reynolds or Youkilis, could all be in the mix for a roster spot, or the Indians could bring in another bat. I think that is unlikely though, especially if they continue in their pursuit of Nick Swisher.

Which to me, makes a little more sense now that you only committed $6 million to Reynolds.

Yan Gomes, Mike McDade, Chris McGuiness, and Russ Canzler can all be in play for a roster spot, and since some of them, Gomes especially, have a little versatility, it works for their benefit in that any of them could be a part time backup and part time designated hitter, with Francona being able to mix, match, and rest as he sees fit.

How the rest of the offseason pans out after this will be interesting. If they do make a serious run at Swisher, their lineup instantly becomes credible and dangerous, especially if Cabrera sticks around. But even if they don't, and say they do trade Asdrubal, Aviles sliding in isn't the worst thing in the world. It really looks like Choo will be sticking around to at least start the season due to lack of value that can be had for him thanks to the trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere.

So you can mix and match with your combos, but you have Kipnis, Brantley, Choo and Brantley, presumably making up your top four, with Reynolds, Chisenhall, Aviles, a left fielder and a designated hitter filling out the lineup in some fashion.

There's still a lot of questions to be answered and a lot of things to shake out, both with the Indians, but also around the league. However this Reynolds deal makes things a lot clearer for the Indians and settles what has been a real volatile position for them the past few years. It doesn't answer it long term, but it gives them a solid stop gap for 2013.

And it lets them be a little more frugal in spending in other places if they want, because $6 million for one year is a great deal if you ask me. The Indians can really still move around freely in going after someone like Swisher. They can consider keeping a guy like Chris Perez, even if the salary bump is a lot.

Isn't this fun? We have legitimacy in our Indians talk in December. We're not waiting for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder to sign so that Kotchman can sign with the Indians or rattling off names like Ryan Spilborghs, Fred Lewis, and Felix Pie as they come in on minor league deals and hopes of competing for a roster spot.

We're talking about names like Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds.

Make no mistake, the Indians will never sign Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke, but they can make the plays when it makes sense and they have the funds. And that's exactly what we're seeing right now.

[ABOUT THE GUY]

Just some tidbits about Reynolds.

He started with Arizona, drafted out of Virginia by the D'Backs and made his debut in 2007. He made a straight jump from Double-A to the majors and had staying power due to his huge first 15 games. He spent a few years there, hitting home runs, setting that strikeout record of course, having some decent years at third. Then Arizona moved him a few years ago to Baltimore. He started at third in 2011, and then again there in 2012, until his errors became too much and the Orioles shifted him across the diamond.

Which is where he'll play with the Indians. Reynolds has made 16 errors for a .990 fielding percentage in 186 games at first base, compared to the .928 fielding percentage in 655 games at third. Granted those are drastically different numbers, but he's less likely so crew up at first and has been a lot more serviceable there.

Offensively, he struggled last year in the first half. But he broke out of that and came back to put up some good numbers. He's traditionally a better player in the middle of the year, from May to August, as those are where his best numbers come from.

That was especially true last year as he hit .143 in April, with no home runs. He hit his stride in June though and really finished the year strong with nine home runs in September.

And as Rich points out, he has a really cool nickname.

[RANDOM RUNDOWN]

Terry Pluto makes an excellent point though. As noted, the Indians aggressive nature is real this offseason. This is money that they are throwing around and willing to spend on players. But they still have that problem of a rotation, which does not have a lot of definitive answers.

The thing is, there really isn't a whole lot out there to bring in. Which, as Pluto notes, is a reason why you trade Cabrera. You bring in a guy like Bauer from Arizona to fit into the rotation, then things start to change. That isn't to say he is amazing right off the bat, but he fills a spot and has incredible potential.

So for now, you kind of just wait around. They can go at it with Masterson, Jimenez, returning Carrasco, and some mess of McAllister/Kluber/Gomez(ew)/Huff(ew) or whatever you can scrounge up.

But really, with the lineup they are trying to put together, is that really the pitching staff you want to put your faith into? No depth, no options, and a whole lot of uncertainty? More on this in a bit, but with Greinke signed, the market is a little more open for starting pitchers. Guys like Anibal Sanchez can now sign and while I think someone like him is not what the Indians can afford to look at (nor do I think it is a good idea to), I think someone like Edwin Jackson fits the mold. The guy can't seem to get a multi-year deal anywhere and it appears based off some reports, he could be had for under $10 million per year. Would you sign him for two years and $16 million? A little more? I might given this aggressive nature that the Indians have displayed.

Zack Greinke's signing in Los Angeles makes the picture a little more clearer in the Josh Hamilton saga. The Rangers may now turn their attention back to signing Hamilton after missing out on Greinke, which means they'd be out of the Justin Upton race.

Which means the Diamondbacks may not trade him at all. Which means they may not try and get Asdrubal Cabrera. I say may in all of those, because no one really knows. But Greinke is one big domino to fall, Hamilton is the next.

The Rangers also traded Michael Young to the Phillies, which means that they now have a little bit more flexibility in what they do with their designated hitter spot, especially if they don't bring back Josh Hamilton. That means they're likely to hang onto Mike Olt.

The Royals made a huge move Sunday night, pretty much stealing the show with their acquisition of not only a top of the line starting pitcher in James Shields, but another big arm in Wade Davis. It cost them Wil Myers, but they aren't exactly hurting in the outfield department and are desperately looking to infuse their rotation with talent.

Shields gives that rotation a ton of credibility. It's what they wanted. Some are looking at this deal hurting the Royals in that they gave up way too much for two years of an aging pitcher and another mid-to-low guy. I think both teams got what they wanted. The Rays got an outstanding package for James Shields and have no shortage of pitchers in their system while the Royals have no shortage of bats and are looking for starting pitching.

The problem I guess is that the Royals may have given up someone in Myers that could be really really good. That's a prospect for you, even one who is at the top of his organization. Matt LaPorta was supposed to be really really good and we know how that turned out. So really, you can't judge this trade either way right now in that regard, but you can look at Kansas City and be a little scared if you are the Indians and want to contend. They're going to make it a little tougher on everyone.

Even though it won't be happening now with the Indians, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports said that Youkilis turning down the Yankees for the Indians deal would have been surprising. How does he know? Surprising to who? Him because he expects everyone to take the most money and got to the Yankees?

Yes, I'm being a jerk.

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