Was Mark Reynolds the right move?

It might not have been the big splash that most fans were hoping for, but the Cleveland Indians at least got their feet wet on Sunday night.

Of course, the move I refer to is the signing of first baseman Mark Reynolds. The Tribe inked Reynolds to a one-year deal worth $6 million with an additional $1.5 million in incentives on Sunday evening.

The 29-year-old Reynolds joins the Indians after a 2012 season with the Baltimore Orioles that saw him hit .221 with 23 HR, 69 RBI and an OPS of .763 in 135 games. Without a doubt, Reynolds fills two immediate needs of the Indians. First of all, he bats right-handed and secondly, he has power for days.

Yet, it’s also quite likely that a handful of Indians fans are somewhat unenthused in regard to the signing. Since the hiring of Terry Francona as Indians manager, fans have heard about a new approach that the Indians will be using in regard to managing the franchise. Unfortunately, a Mark Reynolds signing might not exactly be the approach that fans had expected.

The move is destined to generate some controversy. Because of his incredibly high strikeout totals, Reynolds is somewhat of a polarizing figure. Some fans laud him for his home run potential while others loathe him for the strikeouts.

Nonetheless, he is officially an Indian, so Tribe fans will at least have to get used to him playing first base for one season. Plus, there really are a lot of positives in regard to the signing. While Reynolds is far from a perfect player, he may have been the perfect signing given the Indians current situation. There are a number of different ways to look at the signing, and when all is said and done, the positives do seem to outweigh the negatives.

As most of us know, Reynolds was not the Tribe’s top first base target. The Indians made it clear that their man wasKevin Youkilis, who the Tribe offered a two-year deal worth $18 million to. The move to sign Reynolds basically signals that the Indians are out of the running for Youkilis as it would be hard to imagine that the team could sign Reynolds, Youkilis and still pursue outfielder Nick Swisher.

While Youkilis is clearly the better player than Reynolds, there are still a handful of reasons as to why the Reynolds signing may actually end up being the better move. Sure, Youkilis is better, but is he that much better?

Plus, consider the cost. The Indians were prepared to commit $18 million to Youkilis over two years, but the signing of Reynolds allows the team to have some more financial flexibility. For instance, they may now have more money to use to pursue Swisher. Or, in a perfect world, let’s say they still pursue Swisher and use some of the extra cash to try to sign a pitcher like Edwin Jackson. There’s a good chance they could not have done that had they inked Youkilis.

Also, while Youkilis is definitely the better, more patient right-handed hitter of the two, he is not the better, right-handedhome run hitter of the two. Reynolds has power in bunches, and he immediately becomes the team’s top power threat.

For his career, Reynolds has an OPS of .807 and an ISO of .240. Clearly, this is a guy with great power. Outside of starting pitching, the Indians’ top two needs are unquestionably right-handed hitting and right-handed power. Reynolds fills both, and he comes at a cheaper price tag than Youkilis, so it’s really hard to fault the Indians here.

But… at the end of the day, it’s Mark Reynolds. He certainly has his warts and most fans are well aware of them.

Kevin Youkilis once was given the nickname “The Greek God of Walks.” If that’s the case, then Mark Reynolds has to be classified as “The Greek God of Strikeouts.” In his six-year MLB career, Reynolds has a total of 1,122 strikeouts compared to 408 walks. He has also led the league in strikeouts four straight years from 2008 to 2011. Over that four-year span, he struck out more than 200 times on three occasions. Pretty ugly stuff here.

The problem with Reynolds is that the strikeouts really diminish his value. For instance, Reynolds hit 23 home runs in 135 games last year, yet he had a WAR of -0.1. In fact, for his career, Reynolds has a WAR of 5.1 with three of those wins coming during the 2009 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. For a guy with a 181 career home runs, it’s shocking to think that he barely has accounted for five total wins in his career.

The other problem with signing Reynolds is the fact that he simply was not the Indians top choice. Sure does not seem much like a new approach, right?

On so many occasions, whether it was in free agency or a trade, we saw the Indians settle for their second or third options instead of securing their top guy. For reference, consider the Cliff Lee trade from the summer of 2009. The Indians clearly wanted right-handed pitcher Kyle Drabek from the Philadelphia Phillies, yet they ended up settling for other prospects. In reality, they should have stood pat and held out for their guy as they had all the leverage (Lee was not a free agent until after the 2010 season), but they instead folded and took the deal that Philadelphia offered.

In comparison, apply the same theory to the current situation surrounding Reynolds and Youkilis. Youkilis was clearly the Indians top target, but rumors began to circulate that he would likely accept the New York Yankees offer for one-year at $12 million. However, if you truly believe that Youkilis is your guy, why do you let him go? Why not begin the dialogue again and see if he would come to Cleveland if an extra $1-$1.5 million were added to the deal?

As of now, it at least appears like that is an option the Indians did not feel compelled to explore as it now seems unlikely that Youkilis will become a member of the 2013 Indians.

Yet, for all the negatives attached with the signing of Reynolds, it really does seem that there are more positives. Remember that the Indians were prepared to sign Youkilis v. 2013, not Youkilis v. 2009. After this season, we might just find that there’s not as big of a difference between Youkilis and Reynolds as we think. It also comes down to needs, and Reynolds fills two of them immediately.

The bottom line is that at least the Indians did something. It may not have been an ideal first base target, but really no one was. Plus, this now may allow the team to turn up the heat in its pursuit of Swisher. Ask yourself, would you rather the Indians have Youkilis and then fall short in its offer to Swisher, or would you rather the team have a duo of Reynolds and Swisher? I’d certainly go with the latter.


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