Two Guys Talking Trades with Joe Boyd and Justin Verno – Bryan Reynolds, the Forbidden Fruit

Justin Verno- Joe, when we presented how we wanted to approach these articles with Gary, we kicked around the players we wanted to evaluate, who would be a realistic trade candidate, and who we viewed as a stretch. In the end we decided that Bryan Reynolds is a guy we would NOT include in this series. I think that is the first thing we need to put out there.

Joe Boyd – Yep, I think we all agreed that Reynolds was not going to move.  He’s playing awesome ball and he’s under control through 2024.  The issue, however, is that other outlets are throwing his name in hypothetical trades.  Just this week, Jim Bowden and David O’Brien over at The Athletic ($ Subscription Required) offered up a deal for Reynolds (and RichRod!) that was truly paltry.  So Justin and I chatted about the idea of figuring out Reynolds value and even throwing together packages that might get the deal done. Spoiler alert, it would take an absolutely massive package of players/prospects to get a deal done.  Are there teams out there that feel they are a star outfielder away from being a World Series contender? Potentially, but they also have to have the goods on the farm, and be willing to part with several elite prospects to get Reynolds. It’s going to be hard to justify moving Reynolds now, but we wanted to showcase how unlikely that would be at this point. 

JV- Oddly, Joe, I think this exercise will be fun. Nothing is better than building a package that makes fans blood boil, and both Pirate fans and fans of the other teams are going to hate these packages. We will make no one happy here. We will get plenty of, “you’re crazy! Our GM will never give that up for Reynolds,” from the other side. And even more, “You guys are idiots, Cherington isn’t moving Reynolds,” from our side. 

And you know what Bucco fans? We agree Reynolds isn’t going anywhere, but where’s the fun in that?  

On June 4th, 1953, then Bucs manager Branch Rickey traded the face of the franchise, Ralph Kiner, to the Chicago Cubs just before a game, famously telling him, “We finished last with you, we can finish last without you.” So, Joe, let’s do our best Branch Rickey impression!

JB – Ha, sounds like Rickey was lucky that there wasn’t any instant feedback via Twitter!  Alright, alright.  Let’s get down to brass tacks.  How do you evaluate Bryan Reynolds?

JV-I would love to see what 50’s Twitter would look like though! With Reynolds it bears mentioning that Ben Cherington should be hard at work trying to extend him. A core of Hayes, Reynolds, Bednar and hopefully Keller is a solid starting point moving forward and that really should be the priority here. That frankly is something Cherington can actually use in any negotiations.  Reynolds has been terrific since his emergency call up in 2019, despite a terrible 2020. 

JB – My biggest issues w/ Reynolds from an eval standpoint are that he had a dismal 2020 and he’s Super 2 eligible.  The former can be waived off to some degree.  If a team is adamant to depress Reynolds’ value because of 2020 or they point to a projection system like ZiPS being very bearish on him in the future, then Cherington just hangs up.  If I’m Cherington, I point to 2019 and 2021 as the true player that you would receive.  I think when I submit my final Surplus Value for Reynolds, you’ll be surprised by how high it is, but mind you, he’s under control for 4.5 years and if teams want to include that trough last season, then they can just wait until he has a longer track record.  That’s fine.  The latter creates a minor issue from our perspective when we want to put a salary to the player.  I think I reference TPOP every iteration of this article, but they handle how we’ll evaluate Reynolds’ salary, as well.  Going off of TPOP’s research, we can expect the arbitration values for 2022-2025 to be 18%, 33%, 50%, and 69% of Reynolds value, respectively.  So let’s try to narrow down that projection of total value so we can just apply that to those estimates. 

Reynolds has already accrued 2.6 WAR this season, and Fangraphs projects that he’ll tack on another 1.7 WAR to close the season at 4.3 WAR.  In a normal evaluation, I would look to ZiPS here for 2022 and 2023, but as I mentioned earlier, they are way too low on Reynolds at the moment. Until they do a mid-season refresh, I cannot in good faith utilize those values here. This is where I think Cherington could push to say he’s a 4+ WAR player, but I think that price tag would be prohibitive.  Let’s cut to the end of this hypothetical phone negotiation and settle on Reynolds being a 3-3.5 WAR per season player.  If we plug that value into the arbitration estimates we get a total salary of $50.6M. So where do we stand on a valuation for Reynolds?

Justin, what I like about this valuation is that it is actually not THAT steep.  By that, I mean there is a potential that a team could take a swing at this type of value.  I do think it is probably too rich for most, but at least we are not looking at triple digits.  So if you agree with that value, what type of package makes sense in your mind?

JV- The impressive thing with Reynolds when considering that 2020 season is his lifetime slash line is still a healthy 285/361/480  OPS of 842. His 162 game averages-

285/361/481 OPS 842   2B-40 3B-3  HR-22  OPS +-124. Now I get no one plays 162 games a year, but these are excellent numbers, and that he only played 134 games in 2019 and still had a WAR of 3.1 is also impressive. These numbers highlight that Cherington can not sell him at a big discount. He needs all $81.7 million of that value, and I won’t be shocked if he asks for more. 

I imagine a lot of teams could call to check in on Reynolds, but there’s likely only a handful of teams that can pull the trigger. After bouncing back and forth between the Braves and Yankees, two teams that could really use Reynolds, I finally settled on…

Trade partner-San Diego Padres

The Padres have spent a lot over the last two seasons to pass the dreaded Evil Empire West, the LA Dodgers. Reynolds would go a long way there.

MacKenzie Gore–SP–ETA:2021- FV 60 ($60M)

MacKenzie has hit a wall in his development and frankly, the Padres might hang up the phone with the ask. But Cherington has to hold to this ask when it comes to Reynolds. He has a 4 pitch mix all plus grades. FB-60, CB-50, SL-55 and his change grades out at 60. His command needs work and he needs to find that 97 velo again, but the time is right to pry him out of SD arms.

Robert Hasell III–CF–ETA:2024- FV 50($28M)

One of the more polished prep bats in last year’s draft, I think Hasell could be moved to a COF spot. He’s a strider but slacks top end speed. He has some power to develop here, a little stiff in the hips, but with a FV of 50 for raw power, there’s a lot to like with Hassell and the hit tool is there (an FV 55) a good glove(FV 55) He’s off to a solid start slashing 283/683/472 hitting 4 HR in his first 38 games. 

Brandon Valenzuela–C–ETA:2023- FV 40(2M)

Brandon is built differently for a C. He carries a little power and has a solid arm, just don’t ask him to run. His walk rate and K rate are solid, coming in this year at 13% and 24.3% with a 272/362/411. These are encouraging rates and they are in line with his previous seasons showing he has a good feel for the zone. 

This package is an overpay, by about $8 million. But with Gore stuck in Monopoly Jail waiting for his get out of jail card, I feel this is an overpay worth swallowing. Cherington simply can’t settle if he’s going to move B-Rey. It will take some convincing. 

JB – Remember how I mentioned a hypothetical trade that the Athletic suggested?  That was for Reynolds AND RichRod, so in theory the Pirates’ side of the package was $81M + $10M.  The return that Atlanta provided didn’t even scratch $50M.  The Pirates are not in any rush to move Reynolds, so a deal like that should just be scoffed at and Cherington can move along to the next, more serious conversation.  Justin’s trade includes on of the top pitching prospects in the game, I think that that would catch Cherington’s attention.

My big issue with a player, like Reynolds, that has such a high valuation is scarcity of comparable prospect values.  When talking Frazier or RichRod, whose values were both around $15M, there are ample prospects and prospect packages that can equal that value and all teams have that type of package available to make a deal for a player of that magnitude.  For Reynolds? You’re looking at a package around a 65-grade prospect PLUS a 50-grade prospect to hit the necessary threshold to pull the trigger.  According to Fangraphs, there is exactly two prospects that meet or exceed the 65-Grade in all of baseball.  So rather than build a quality over quantity package, we may have to start throwing players in to make the values work.

Trade Partner:  New York Mets

Of contenders that may need an outfield bat and line up rather well on the farm, the Mets seem to fit the best for me.  They are obviously in a win-now mode and have a window that properly would align with Reynolds.  Adding a switch-hitting, outfield-versatile player would pair nicely with Francisco Lindor.

The trade package:

Francisco Alvarez — C — ETA: 2023 — 55 FV ($46M)

I first heard Alavarez’s name during the Starling Marte rumors in 2019.  Back then he was pretty unknown and his value was significantly lower.  Since then he has exploded on to the prospect scene and his valuation is carried by his bat.  Scouts seem to love his ability to hit.  He’s hit everywhere he’s been and he’s a major riser up prospect boards recently. 

Matthew Allen — SP  — ETA: 2023 — 50 FV ($21M)

The Mets saved some bonus money in the 2019 draft to sign Allen as an overslot 3rd rounder and it looks to be paying off.  He’s the top arm in the system and regularly sits in the mid-90s on his velos.  Longenhagen notes that he’s cleaned up his frame which could make his delivery more repeatable.  He notes a “rainbow” curve, but has the feel to develop a slider if necessary. 

Bret Baty — 3B — ETA: 2023 — 45+ FV ($8M)

A massive player with massive power potential, Baty certainly has first base risk due to his size, but adding a bat of this magnitude would be worth the risk.  Fangraphs notes that he has, at least for now, kept his body in check and that could maybe increase the chances he stays at third, but it’s a corner infield profile regardless.  

Pete Crow-Armstrong  — CF — ETA: 2025 — 45 FV ($6M)

The final piece is a potential gold-glove centerfielder.  PCA has a 70-grade fielding tool and a 60-grade speed/running tool. He has a ton of trouble with high heat which could limit his offensive profile, however. 
The haul for Reynolds would be immense, and I’m still not sure Cherington makes the deal.  But look at it from the Mets’ GM’s perspective.  Are you willing to give up this much capital for Reynolds?  That’s your #1, #3, #5, and #6 prospects for one player.  It’s not apples-to-apples, but that would be a package of Priester, Nick Gonzales, Brennan Malone, and Hudson Head.  The Pirates’ braintrust made a move like this to obtain Chris Archer and it cost them their jobs.  It was a lesson learned across the sport.  Giving up so much of your future is too great a risk.  And providing enough value to get Cherington to sign off puts you in that career-threatening territory.


One last thing on trading Reynolds, I think that Cherington will pick up the phone, but he is not inclined to make a deal just to make a deal.  And I just find it too difficult to find a farm with enough value to make it work.  Just because Reynolds is not a household name, does not mean that teams can acquire him at a discount.  And just because the Pirates are in a rebuild does not mean that the assets are available at a discount.  

One thing I would not mind exploring, Justin.  We are all about roster construction here at Two Guys Talkin’ Trades, so maybe we can look at extending Bryan?  See what we each think that that might look like?

JV-Yeah, and since neither of us thinks that a GM will part with either of the packages we suggested, the obvious route that Nutting and Cherington should be considering is extending Reynolds. This is something that Nutting has done with varying results, but that shouldn’t at all dissuade him. Inking Reynolds for 2-3 years beyond his control is still well worth the gamble and exactly how a small market team needs to operate. 

A quick note on my package before we get into the extension math here… The Bucs have no 60 FV pitcher for me to compare MacKenzie to, but Hayes is a 60 FV prospect. Hassell  is a 50 FV  like Nick Gonzales. Valenzuela is a 40. How about adding another Rodolfo Castro to the system? 

Now onto the extension…

JB – I noted above that the estimates for Reynolds’ arbitration values would total about $50M.  So I wanted to utilize that as a jumping off point, that comes out to $12.5M Average Annual Value (AAV).  But I also want to buy out his first few years of free agency, so with a slight bump to get Reynolds on board I could think that years 5 & 6 at $15 AAV would put the extension at 6/$80M.  

I would assume that an extension would happen in the offseason, so Reynolds would turn 27.  I wanted to look at similar contracts that were doled out at similar times for similar players.  There are certain players, like Evan Longoria, that had a significant track record of success prior to signing his 6/$100M deal in 2015/16 or even Kyle Seager before he signed his 7/$100M deal in 2014/15.

The two comparisons that I like the most are Jean Segura and Nick Castellanos.  They both may be slightly higher profile players than Reynolds, but both had years that dipped in Wins Above replacement in the years prior to the extension. They each signed extensions in their Year 27 season for AAVs of $14M and $16M, respectively. So I think that a reasonable settlement for both Pittsburgh and Reynolds would be somewhere in between this range and I think an extension the range of 6 years for $86M, or $14.33 AAV, would get this one done.  Agree or disagree, Justin?

JV- Williams and Cherington can make a splash here with a deal like that. This is something that a lot of fans will laugh at, saying “Nutting will never do that,” or “Nutting is too cheap for that.” But this sounds right to me. Considering his age and his overall impact, he carries power to all gaps. He hits for average and gets on base. He’s solid if not spectacular with his glove. He’s not a liability on the bags. All in all, he’s just really good; he’s underrated. This is the kind of player Nutting should want to extend and should make sure the fan base knows he’s doing it. 

And this would not be the first, consider:

-Andrew McCutchen 5 years $51 million with a team option at $14.75 million.

-Starling Marte 6 years $31 million with 2 year team options at $13 million for each year.

-Gregory Polanco 5 years $35 million with 2 team options $12.5M and $13.5M

-Jose Tabata  6 years $37.25M, and I won’t go into his because it was highway robbery that actually was still a bad deal for the Bucs. 

This would be right down the Pirates alley, but I think Nutting has some recruiting to do with Reynolds and Hayes. Nutting needs some wins, publicity wise, and getting Reynolds and Hayes done would absolutely do the trick. Get it done fellas!

Parting shots

JB – The Pirates are in a rebuild. That’s not conjecture, it is clear that the team is trading present day assets for future assets. But that does not mean that you slash the entire roster and take what you can get. In certain instances, you may have a player that is so valuable that you build around him for that next period of contention. I think that we have laid out the facts here that Bryan Reynolds is one of those players. The trade package required to make a deal worth while for Pittsburgh would be so large and so risky for the other team, that it just doesn’t make sense.

What does make sense, however, is trying to get Reynolds to be a foundational piece of this roster for the window of contention. Justin and I have laid out what it might look like to retain Reynolds and that does not look all that intimidating, at least in my opinion. To keep a player of Reynolds’ magnitude in Pittsburgh for under $15M AAV while showing the city that you are committed to improving the roster sends the correct message. Justin alluded to one other pillar that could show true commitment to winning, and that would be signing Hayes to an extension, as well. These are risky moves, they can backfire. But it’s important for a franchise to show this type of commitment to their city to ensure some light at the end of the tunnel. So I’ll conclude by saying that I do not believe Reynolds is going anywhere (at least this year!) and if it were up to me, I would try to lock him into being a Pirate for the foreseeable future. 

JV- Really Joe, I’m not sure what else I can add to that. It’s a perfect summation.  I get that if a team is willing to part with this kind of return it can be tempting, but at some point Nutting has to convey his desire to win a World Series to the fan base and this is a perfect chance to do that. I promise Mr. Nutting, the money that flows in on Hayes and Reynolds jerseys and shirseys in the first 72 hours will make this a well worthy venture. Get. It. Done. 

One thing we should probably bring up here, Joe, is if the team tries to get that extension done and can’t, the Bucs should look at moving Reynolds at some point in the future. What time frame should the GM set there? Do the Pirates have a “deadline” in mind, where if Reynolds isn’t signed by this day, we will look at moving him?

JB – I don’t want to paint either side into a corner here, but I think that this offseason would be the ideal opportunity to get a deal done and next offseason would potentially be that absolute deadline.  And to me, I’m not sure I want to get it done next season.  This offseason would hit before his arbitration years, and he would be 27.  My biggest concern would be aging, and we all know Father Time is undefeated.  If you’re interested, Fangraphs/Hardball Times did an interesting piece on the Age Curve that I try to incorporate into my projections. When extending a player, you want to capture his ascent at a discount and also potentially buy out some free agency years. The perfect past example, Andrew McCutchen, was already mentioned by Justin.  The perfect current example is Ke’Bryan Hayes, not Bryan Reynolds.  

If the Pirates were to try to extend Reynolds beyond that 2022/2023 offseason “deadline”, there would be a higher risk of paying for his decline. So that being said, I think that’ll be my cutoff  that you mention. If that doesn’t happen, and he continues to play at a high level, you may be looking to deal Reynolds in 2023 or 2024. Depending on how the window of contention begins to unfold, this could be a deal that makes or breaks the rebuild.  But that’s an article for the 2023 versions of JB and JV to unpack!

6 thoughts on “Two Guys Talking Trades with Joe Boyd and Justin Verno – Bryan Reynolds, the Forbidden Fruit

  1. Fantastic article and great summation of where things stand with Reynolds. Personally I think you extend even if he is on the wrong side of the curve but try not to agree to too many seasons past age 35. He would be a great piece of the next good, hopefully, Pirates team.


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