I don’t know if I have ever seen more of an outcry from a fan base on the release of a player that hit .221 and struck out 36% of his at bats in his two-year stint in Baltimore, but that is what has happened with Mark Reynolds. His ability to hit moon shot homeruns and catch pop-ups while tumbling over the field tarp catapulted Reynolds into a fan favorite that many fear will be hard to replace in 2013. I am on the side that the Orioles can and have to do better than Reynolds if they want to play October baseball again.
The reality, which was clearly evident during their series against the New York Yankees, is that the O’s struggled to make consistent contact and play team baseball and it resulted in averaging two runs a game and batting .187 in the 5-game series.
Obviously, this is not all Reynolds’ fault. He only gets to bat four times a game, so this is a team issue that needs to be addressed and has been a point of emphasis since Dan Duquette joined the organization. However, consider the price it would have taken to keep Reynolds, along with the contract commitments to Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy, while adding in the cheap contracts of Matt Wieters and Chris Davis; Reynolds was going to be the odd man out.
Between these five guys, they combined to strikeout 672 times.
Robert Andino’s trade to Seattle was the first sign that the Orioles are trying to move away from the free swingers and Reynolds becoming a free agent is the second. There isn’t much the O’s can do about the four other guys, but at least in Jones’ and Davis’ cases, they hit for a higher average. I think the O’s are looking at it from the standpoint of, if they can replace Reynolds with a player who hits for a higher average and still draws walks, than they can compensate for the four other guys. It was just too difficult when 5-6 guys on every given night were capable of striking out a couple of times.
Reynolds has always been a head-scratcher to me. How can a guy who can hit the ball so far and draw as many walks as he does, bat for such a low average and look lost at the plate in long stretches? This is why Buck Showalter batted him 7th on most nights. A power hitter that walks as much as he does should not bat so low in the order, but his inability to put the ball in play enough or make productive outs made it impossible to trust him in the middle of the order.
The main argument for keeping Reynolds is his defense at first. He stabilized an awful defensive team when he became the everyday first baseman. I can’t really argue this point. It seemed like every night he made a play that you just shook your head at and couldn’t believe what he just did. He always put the team first and played through injuries. His freak out in Detroit will always be one of my favorite moments of the enjoyable 2012 season, but October exposed the weaknesses of this baseball team. Duquette and Showalter understand that a lot went right for them and they must improve the ballclub to not only get back to October, but this time to advance.
Unfortunately, it appears the fan-favorite Reynolds is going to be at the expense of that.
Winter Meetings Thoughts
The MLB Winter Meetings kicked off on Monday with the biggest announcement being the offseason hip surgery to Alex Rodriguez. I am curious to see what the O’s do. Last year, the “big” move the Orioles made was drafting Ryan Flaherty in the Rule 5 draft. I think they are more active this time around with Duquette being in the organization for an entire year. He has said repeatedly they aren’t signing a high-priced free agent and their best route to improving the team and the lineup is through a trade.
If that is the case, Zach Britton, Chris Tillman, and Jake Arrieta better keep their cell phones close and not buy any Oriole gear for their families this Christmas. The only way the O’s can improve the lineup is by trading from that group, especially when Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy, and Kevin Gausman are off the table, and rightfully so.
The Orioles have drafted pitching over the last few years to position themselves for this. Duquette has even admitted that they have a surplus of arms and with Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter appearing to find their niche in the bullpen, the O’s may feel it is time to move a couple of the guys who were once part of the cavalry. With Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez having more success in a shorter time and Bundy along with Gausman being on the fast-track to the big leagues, the organization should feel more comfortable about letting go some of their young arms.