3-23-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Bryan Reynolds and the Pirates are headed to arbitration.
Every team has their own process for arbitration, and the Pirates system has both sides submit a blind number and guarantees unless a multi-year deal is reached they’ll head to the negotiating table where Bryan will get to hear a team representative likely talk about 2020 as though it was more than a blip in an otherwise stellar career. They’ll talk about some obscure metric that means X or point to a comp player who makes Y, and more than anything, they’ll probably piss him off but good.
They could of course avoid this pissing match over $650.000 dollars, by pursuing and agreeing to a multi-year deal, but it sure doesn’t look like the Pirates have made it the clear priority it should be.
This morning the reporters did their job and asked Bryan about having talked with the club about an extension.
Now, Alex didn’t stop there, he pressed Bryan on what we’re all really concerned most about and to nobody’s surprise Reynolds took the high road.
Hey, good for the kid, as much as some little birdies have told me he hates talking about any of this, he handles it like a seasoned veteran. I’ll never call him a liar, but I will say it’s one thing to know this is part of the game and another to actually go through it.
Neil Walker actually told me a story once about how it was brought up in arbitration that because he was so involved in Pirates community outreach programs (you know, cause the Pirates asked him to be) he wasn’t focused enough on his game.
I mean he’s human, so the more he’s asked about this stuff, as the Pirates have ensured will happen now due to their own slow footing of any kind of approach, he’s bound to start changing tone. In fact here’s another version of the same answer to a different reporter.
You can already taste the frustration that he is answering questions like this instead of how he’s worked to do even better recognizing breaking pitches this season.
That’s Bryan, and I’m not going to go much farther on how this process will or could make him feel, trust me as this goes on you’ll watch the responses evolve all by yourselves, but we need to talk about what this says to fans.
The roster is bottomed out. The payroll is somewhere in the 35 million to 40 million dollar range.
If Bryan Reynolds isn’t part of the “core” that’s going to win or at least go for winning, who is? The excuse people love to toss around of “he doesn’t want to sign here” we hear every free agency period doesn’t apply, this dude has said multiple times now he wants to be here, wants to win here.
As someone covering this process, it’s pretty clear this team has enough talent coming to at least look like a high probability exists that this team is going to be pretty good in the middle of this decade. If Reynolds isn’t part of that, I’m not sure how I can believe Hayes is either. If this team thinks they’re now the Rays and can trade everyone and anyone at peak value, I’d argue first that they aren’t the Rays, and second this market won’t support that methodology. This city likes their stars. Before you try to rub Wander Franco in my face, realize the Rays will absolutely trade him too, regardless of the contract he signed.
Reynolds would be no different. If they signed him through 2029, he’ll be moved in 2027 or 2028 unless the team is literally right there in the conversation and even then, I’d be shocked.
Much of the complaint about the payroll is irrational, I’ve said this for 2 years now, it was always going to bottom out. Arbitration alone over the next several years will raise the payroll considerably, but as I mentioned earlier, this isn’t St. Pete, this fan base wants to know WHO will help them win almost as much as WHEN or IF.
I’d love to be wrong here. I’d love the Pirates to shock us all and sit down to discuss something before they hit this process. Both sides have said they want to do it, but this isn’t on Bryan to approach them with an offer, that duty is squarely on the shoulders of the team itself.
Yesterday on the broadcast Tarrik Brock the Pirates First Base and Outfield coach mentioned how much he had leaned on Bryan Reynolds as the leader on this team to help push others to improve. Ben Cherington in the booth said what an incredible leader he is on an off the field. All the while in the background the Pirates were actively choosing to make sure he knew just how valuable they thought that was, by pinching relative pennies.
When you aren’t selling a good product currently, you at least have to sell hope. Allowing $650 K to create a potential chasm between you and your best player doesn’t exactly instill that in the fan base does it? Put as bluntly as possible, Bryan himself who’s camp asked for 4.9 million, didn’t go far enough. Even if only symbolic, I’d ensure he makes more than Roberto Perez at 5 Million. That to me would put forward the message, we know what we have, we want to work with you and we want the fans to know that too.
Baseball is a business, nobody disputes that, and nobody believes the financial realities of this business favor every team equally, but if the Pirates can’t see the benefit of avoiding this process, selling hope isn’t just impossible, it’s idiocy.