12-3-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
So that happened.
The Pirates and Bryan Reynolds were actively negotiating a long term extension, the were doing it rather quietly, then the Reynolds camp declares an “impasse” and put out into the universe that he had requested a trade.
The Pirates almost instantly reacted, leading one to believe they weren’t shocked to see his camp put it out there.
Look, there’s simply no way to spin something like this. It’s not a good situation, it has potential to get really ugly, and everyone will absolutely pick sides, heavily leaning toward the player who doesn’t have a history of being malcontent or outspoken toward the team.
Let’s start with the facts. Always a good place to start.
- Bryan Reynolds is under team control through 2025 and under contract this year for 6.25 Million dollars
- Bryan is entering his year 28 season, then has two more years of arbitration
- The Pirates offered him a contract that would be monetarily the biggest ever offered by the franchise. All this really means is it was worth more than 70 million and without knowing the length of the deal or exact number, that first sentence is really all we can say.
- A player requesting a trade does not obligate the team to accommodate and if their statement is to be believed, they don’t plan on doing so.
- Baseball’s Winter Meetings start on December 4th, and you can expect 25 GMs to see just how much the Pirates meant their statement.
Now that’s what I can reasonably call fact right now. There are other nuggets floating around about his exact request, but I can’t confirm them, and haven’t seen anyone credible do so either.
I can say, from what I’m told, this is a lot more a out term than it is value. In other words, Bryan wants to stay longer than the Pirates feel comfortable committing to.
That’s the lay of the land as I know it right now.
So, He’s Getting Moved Right?
Well, it certainly didn’t become less likely did it? First thing to say is, the Pirates statement is relatively useless. Even if they were fully convinced to move him now, of course they’re going to act like they don’t want to.
Couple reasons there of course, one, they genuinely don’t want to move him, and two, when someone finds out you have to sell something, they aren’t going to offer top dollar are they?
All that being said, I believe Ben Cherington truly had no intention of moving him this year, instead opting to just let him play out arbitration.
A miscalculation on his part, but something that happens every year to players all over the league. A very similar situation played out with Juan Soto last season, on a much larger scale, but similar in amount of team control remaining and genuine effort to make a deal happen from both sides.
Soto of course started 2022 with the Nationals and was dealt at the deadline to the Padres for a bunch of prospects.
Now that’s how they’re similar, here’s how they aren’t. The Nationals at that moment made the decision to enter a full rebuild, the Pirates just a couple weeks ago decided to start making an effort to take a step forward.
That means a couple things. One, the Pirates are likely not interested in a haul of young prospects with super high upside that start in Bradenton and Greensboro and don’t arrive in Pittsburgh if they pan out until 2025 or 2026. And if they ask for MLB talent and or AAA talent they deem close, they have to be very careful or they repeat the mistakes of the Gerrit Cole trade.
Even though Joe Musgrove worked out and ultimately became a star pitcher, it took too long to have the desired effect of losing a huge star and somehow not falling off a cliff.
There is simply no winning a deal like this. You survive it, or maybe overcome it, but you don’t win it. That’s reality.
There is no way to see trading Reynolds but to accept the team is taking a step back and the timeline is going to have to adjust.
And that’s if. IF there are some stars, even if only to the level the Reynolds is currently in this batch of players that remain and will arrive in 2023. Even then, to expect a kid to be Reynolds in his Rookie year is unfair, unlikely, and setting yourself up for disappointment that might rival losing Reynolds in the first place.
Any Way This Can Be Salvaged?
Nobody serious has an answer here. What I can say is as recently as October Reynolds spoke openly about understanding where the team was, and wanting to grow with this group and win with this group.
As recently as October the Pirates spoke openly about how much they respected and wanted to have him be a part of this.
The Pirates made an offer, and they have before.
Maybe this is all about pushing and they find a way to make it work, but typically when these things reach the point of involving the media, the writing is on the wall.
I mention the first part, because this isn’t about the team performance or the like, it’s about a player valuing himself, at the very least for a longer contract than his ball club wanting to go.
If it were simply he was tired of losing, probably too far gone.
All that being said, it seem likely he’ll wind up being moved. I said signing him this offseason was crucial if they planned to have him here when the window truly opens, and here we are. It was crucial because next offseason had they not done the extension, he was likely going to have to be considered for a deal at the very least.
Never say never, but…
Now What if He’s Moved?
I already covered that it’s gonna be a hit, regardless of return, so lets for right now not worry about who comes back.
The outfield would be some mix of Suwinski, Smith-Njigba, Bae, Mitchell, Andujar, Swaggerty, Vilade, Gorski, Fraiser, and beyond that you have guys like Endy, Triolo, Castillo, and Marcano.
Lots of names, not very much you can say is established.
Let’s face it, the outfield for 3 years has been Reynolds and everyone else. Take Reynolds out and you have everyone else.
It’s gonna hurt.
Now, that return could have an option in there, or god forbid they could spend what they would have on him and buy a free agent.
Now, My Thoughts
First things first, Bryan hits free agency as a 31 year old, and if he waits for a big contract until he reaches it naturally he’ll likely not get the term he’s looking for. He has every right to reject any offer he gets and bet on himself.
I don’t think he’s looking for an unreasonable deal, and at the same time, by most accounts from reporters and my own discussions, I think the Pirates made a decent offer.
From the time the Pirates started this rebuild, Reynolds and Hayes were the two players in the strangest positions. Reynolds more so.
They were both going to exhaust team control sometime smack in the middle of when this thing started to take shape. The Pirates took care of Hayes, making sure he would be here and have bumbled the handling of Reynolds predating the arbitration flap from last season.
The two year deal that Bryan signed last year was essentially forced by Bob Nutting, who stepped in to tell his GM he didn’t want to see this play out. When he signed that two year deal, it wasn’t a great sign that the two sides were close, and today, it would seem they haven’t significantly moved closer.
I’m not a big grandstand guy. I won’t be calling for heads or demanding things from people who aren’t listening anyway. What I will do is point out that the process this team is trying to pull off is already arguably the hardest thing to do in professional sports management.
Trying to long term develop a system, field a team entirely sprouted from your own seeds, time them all up so the team isn’t filled with expensive holes and keep your eyes peeled on how the team keeps itself on the verge continually after you reach a certain competitive level, by moving strategic veterans for youth as new prospects mature.
It’s what the Rays do, and anyone that follows them knows that hard decisions are made every season.
Here’s the thing though, they retain players. Not all of them, not forever, but they lock up a Wander Franco for 10 years. They lock up a Blake Snell for 6 or 7, even if they do move him anyway.
The Rays system ceases to work if you fail at any step and or fail to perform all the steps.
The Pirates at this stage, by potentially letting their best (current) player go is not going to set them up for maximizing this first wave. It means Cruz can’t just be very good, he has to be a superstar. It means Hayes can’t just be a great defender, he now has to hit. It means you better get 3 or 4 gems out of Henry Davis, Liover Peguero, Quinn Priester, Endy Rodriguez, Jack Suwinski, Nick Gonzales, Ji Hwan Bae, or Mike Burrows.
This General Manager can’t get caught flat footed like this.
You can lose players, but you better not lose them before you expect, or dare I say, want to lose them.
When you’re playing a game that requires very few mistakes, you sure as hell better know that 6 years of control means 6 years of control. If you want that 6 to be 10 you better make sure you don’t piss around and make it so.
Here’s the really annoying thing, I actually think they believe they could just ride out his arbitration, be decent in 2025, and I mean like playoffs decent folks, and let him walk believing they’d be ready with another guy by then.
Can you imagine what you’d have to say when that happens? I can, I too was alive in 2016.
Doesn’t sound as different as we were told it would be does it?
They’ve decided at 30, Bryan won’t have 4-5 more years in him, at least not for what they’d have to pay. Bryan has decided he will.
Look, I’m always going to follow this team, and I’ll cover them for as long as you all keep wanting me to, but this is the stuff that tanks rebuilds. An unscheduled stop on the dismantle train or a horrible trade can literally send this management team into damage control, and in damage control, GMs do dumb things, or worse they get stubborn and freeze.
Pivotal times for this franchise right now folks.
No sugar coating, no spinning it positive, just real talk for you.
Your team just got smacked in the face with the reality of operating in a business they really haven’t spent money on since 2016.
The offseason just took a turn, and honestly, it could go in about 10 different directions including Bryan wearing black and gold all year long.
Whatever happens, I’ll live in the reality the Pirates so often avoid.