The Layers to the Bryan Reynolds Situation

1-8-23 – By Ethan Smith – @mvp_EtHaN on Twitter

Bryan Reynolds has been the talk of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball since he requested a trade last month, or last year if you want to add some comedic relief to the situation.

When the trade request came to our social media airwaves, many Pirates fans panicked, rightfully so, because the most consistent and best, not even arguable, player over the course of his tenure in Pittsburgh requested a trade openly to the team.

But let’s take a step back for just one second and consider why Reynolds and his agent made that decision, to make a trade request public information. Reynolds has never had anything bad to say about the Pirates as an organization, I’d even go as far to say he’s enjoyed his time here… shocker.

The first thought that went through my head when Reynolds request came to my attention was simple, “What have the Pittsburgh Pirates ever done for Bryan Reynolds to want to be a Pittsburgh Pirates?” The answer is also pretty simply put, absolutely nothing, yet he wants to be here.

We can argue on the multitude of reasons on why we don’t want Reynolds anywhere else, but ultimately we have a soft spot for Reynolds because he was the prize of the Andrew McCutchen trade to the San Francisco Giants. That’s the first layer of all this, do the Pirates get a Bryan Reynolds level player in a trade for him? The likely answer is no.

Take a look at what the Pittsburgh Steelers did earlier this season, they traded Chase Claypool, a player they invested a second-round pick into just a few years ago, for a second-round pick. They got exactly the same amount, if not better, value than what they put into him when drafting him out of Notre Dame. You know how often that happens in any sport? Hardly ever.

So when a Bryan Reynolds trade is considered , take note of the fact that any of the players the Pirates receive in turn have a minute likelihood to be the same caliber player as Reynolds.

The second layer digs more into the future. We get upset that the Pirates have “too many prospects” in the middle-infield and “not enough prospects” in the outfield that will amount to any of valuable to make this team competitive. That allows me to pose a question, “Do we ever truly know what prospects will be of value to this team in the coming years at this exact moment?”

Prospects are like shooting darts at a dart board, we know that, so do we know what the lineup will look like three-years down the line with or without Reynolds in it? No, we can have a general idea based on arbitration and contractual obligations, but we truly don’t know who is a guy and who isn’t.

It can be a pretty easy and general assessment that the Pirates do not have a loaded stash of outfield prospects on the way, but with the loaded stash they likely do have at the middle infield, guys are more than capable of moving somewhere else, especially if their bat is good enough to stay in the lineup everyday.

So when you wonder where Nick Gonzales, Ji-hwan Bae, Liover Peguero or others will play, well if they play well offensively, they’ll play. Baseball is a sport that is willing to sacrifice defense for offensive output, we’ve seen that shift for years. Let’s also remember that Mookie Betts, one of the best players in the game, shifted from second base to the outfield and has worked out perfectly fine, it happens all the time, players rarely stay in the position they were drafted in.

Enough about prospects and position changing, that can be an entire story in itself, which brings me to layer three.

Would we be having this same conversation about Reynolds and his camp requesting more money if the Pirates did not sign Ke’Bryan Hayes to a 8-year, $70 million contract last year? I’ll let you decide that in the comments, but my answer is no.

Why do I say no? Well, for starters, Hayes signed the biggest contract in Pirates history, something the front office was praised for. Holding onto Reynolds despite his immense value for the past two years is another thing the mostly inept front office of the Pirates was praised for, but it’s also something that has put the Pirates in the position they currently sit with Reynolds.

The front office has verbally come out and said they want Reynolds on this team long-term. So that implies signing him at what he’s valued long-term to keep him in the 412 right? You’d think so, but “low-balling” him at 6-year, $75 million or a little higher than that has obviously created a rift between what the Pirates want to give him and what Reynolds wants.

Long-term commitments are commonplace in baseball now. Aaron Judge, Xander Boagaerts, Wander Franco, Fernando Tatis Jr., and that’s just naming a few. Long-term commitments to one player come with a risk, but when was the last time the Pirates made a major risk to improve this team?

Oh yea, the Chris Archer trade. Yea it didn’t work out, but baseball franchises have to take risks to be competitive in the long-term or even the short-term.

That’s my final layer to all of this. Yes, extending Reynolds would make everyone happy and he’d be getting paid what he wants and stay where he wants. Are the final two or three years risky with his age? Sure. But at some point this front office has to step out of its comfort zone to bring winning baseball back to PNC Park, and fixing this situation, shelling out a hefty paycheck to your best player would be stepping out of their comfort zone, even though it shouldn’t be that way.

Reynolds is a phenomenal baseball player any way you look at him. The Pirates and Reynolds are about $50-million off per reports, so I’ll wrap with this question for you, the reader, “Are the Pittsburgh Pirates really going to lose their best, tick off their entire fanbase and set themselves back, again, for $50-million over a six-to-eight year span?” You be the judge of that.

2 thoughts on “The Layers to the Bryan Reynolds Situation

  1. Important considerations for sure. Please allow me to add some thoughts:

    1. In line with your thoughts on the return value, Reynolds’ value has dropped from 10 months ago, thanks to a down year by his standards and, of course, being one year older and having one fewer year of team control.
    His value can also be perceived as more defined. A potential trade partner can assert (with little meaningful rebuttal from the Bucs) that 2021 was likely a career year, Reynolds’ production likely begins to taper in three or four years, and he is a leftfielder masquerading as a centerfielder.
    “Maybe 4 WAR, if he’s lucky again,” someone using that stat could very easily say. “A good everyday leftfielder who won’t be an All-Star on a contender.”
    *Reynolds’ camp knows this makes a trade more unlikely.*

    2. Given an actual trade’s more unlikely, why request the trade publicly?
    Well, it could be a rift, but otherwise it’s merely to bolster negotiating position in extension negotiations. Why would that be necessary? Here again, given Reynolds’ down year, it makes sense that the Pirates are hesitant to pay him like 2021 B-Rey when that seems to have been unusually high performance; likewise Reynolds doesn’t want to take an offer that limits his earnings when he believes he is that 6-WAR(!) player, hence the impasse.

    3. I couldn’t care less at this point how the Bucs acquired Reynolds, for one thing, but depending on one’s evaluation, he was nowhere close to the proper return value for McCutchen. He rated as a 45 FV in Fangraphs’ 2019 report. Some would say they got lucky with him.

    4. On the note of 45 FV, we’ll see in a matter of days where the current crop of outfield prospects ranks for 2023, but as for 45s from 2022 rankings, MLB Pipeline has Fraizer (bad year), Swaggerty (uninspiring year), and Gorski (overage surge) as the only 45 true outfielders in the upper minors (Fraizer a 45+ for Fangraphs but likely to settle at 45; Gorski off the list entirely). It’s highly unlikely any of these approaches Reynolds’ value regardless. I think blindfolded dart tosses after being spun in circles might be more apt.
    Bae also was a 45, and although he won’t provide high power value, he is the one I see as likeliest to stick as an everyday centerfielder. The value for defense, on-base rate, and speed should be solid. Mitchell raked in AAA last year, and although some scouts say he doesn’t have the arm for right field, that was his primary spot. CSN hasn’t been healthy but showed good OBP in the minors with some speed and … not much else. Jared Oliva ranked ahead of both–yikes.
    So even assuming success from Bae, unless one of these magically hits beyond mediocre, yeah, they’re going to have to get creative with positioning. And I think Cole Tucker is a much more realistic version of forcing that adjustment to the outfield in MLB than Mookie Betts.

    5. I don’t think the Hayes contract or the Archer deal are meaningful to this discussion.
    As an MLB player at this point, Hayes appears to have a high floor and a low ceiling at a totally different position; Reynolds has a high floor and a high ceiling–one that he achieved in 2021. That distinction and the new norm of long contracts trumps any effect the Hayes contract would have. Without the Hayes contract, I think this discussion beleaguers a bad front office all the more.
    The Archer deal was not a calculated risk or even a gamble. It was foolishness clear from Mars–not PA, the fourth planet of the solar system. It’s exactly what small-market teams should never do and something NH never did up to that point. I get what you’re going for, but I think you can make the same point while using the more relevant and known examples of Tabata, McCutchen, Marte, and Polanco–all outfielders extended (just like Reynolds) before they reached arbitration, which helps hammer home this front office’s mistake in not deciding long-term on Reynolds sooner (perhaps with a partial pardon from the high unpredictability and uncertainty 2020 supplied).

    6. “Are the Pittsburgh Pirates really going to lose their best, tick off their entire fanbase and set themselves back, again, for $50-million over a six-to-eight year span?”
    I agree with the point of this question: No, the Pirates should not let a discrepancy of $6,250,000 to $8,333,333,333 per year dictate this decision. This is why I still think a backloaded extension makes sense for both sides. Once it’s time to rebuild–or, ideally, someone such as Shalin Polanco, White, Head, etc. emerges as a good to great replacement–trade the contract to a big market while he still plays pretty well and recoup some value instead of dumping as a bribe two future adequate major-leaguers (hindsight, yes, but pretty much expected at the time).
    I don’t know any particularities of sports contract insurance, but doesn’t insurance pay most of the contract when a player suffers serious injury, anyway? The risk I don’t feel like is as big as Pirates financiers might believe … unless they think giving out big money to anyone contributes to losing their battle to suppress wages or something. (Queue Rooney’s face when agreeing to the Roethlisberger contract. X-D)


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