By: T.J. Zuppe
With the impending signing of free-agent infielder Mark Reynolds by the Cleveland Indians pending a physical, the Tribe has taken the first step in filling one of their many needs this off-season. Reynolds - reportedly signed to a one-year deal worth $6-million with incentives - is expected to play first-base with Cleveland, a position he played pretty well in Baltimore with the Orioles.
Here is a closer look at the pros and cons of inking Reynolds:
- For the first time in a long time, the Indians finally have a right-handed hitter that can mash with legitimate power. He gives the Wahoos a 30+ home run power threat in the heart of their order. He will provide better balance to a left-handed heavy lineup.
- Has been pretty consistent in his power numbers over the years. During the last five seasons, Reynolds averaged 33 home runs, 88 RBI and an .802 OPS. The Tribe would do backflips to get that type of production of what has become an extremely weak statistical position - 1B.
- He played a decent first-base defensively for the Orioles after continuing to be struggle at his natural position, third-base. Took the extra time to mold himself into a respectable gloveman at first.
- Finished the season strong with Baltimore in 2012, surviving a hell of a slump in the early season. He carried the Orioles' offense in the final two months and into the playoffs, connecting on 15 dingers in August and September combined during the thick of a pennant race.
- His one-year deal allows the Tribe front office flexibility to pursue other free-agents this off-season, such as outfielder Nick Swisher.
- At 29-year old, he is younger than another option the Indians have been chasing, Kevin Youkilis. Actually posted a higher OPS (.763) than Youkilis in 2012.
- According to all accounts, Reynolds is a very well-liked guy in the clubhouse.
- His .221 batting average (an often over-valued stat) leaves some fans scratching their head.
- Reynolds is a strike out machine, whiffing 159 times last season. He has lead the league in K's on four separate occasions. He has many holes in his swing making it easy at times to pitch to him (but did perform well last year with runners in scoring position - .286 average).
- Experienced a down season in terms of power numbers, hitting only 23 (which would have lead the Indians comfortably in '12). His isolated power fell from .262 in '11 to .208 in '12. (Owns a career .240 ISO mark)
- While he provides some flexibility in the lineup with his versatility, if asked to play third-base, he is a disaster defensively on the left-side of the infield.
- Has only finished a season with a WAR higher than 1.2 two times in his career (-0.1 last season).
Bottom line: The Indians did well to land a right-handed slugger with pop. They have been craving one for the last few seasons and will provide them with much-needed thump where it matters most - at first-base. A rather inexpensive contract for a guy with 30+ home run potential. A very solid addition for Cleveland, which can now turn their attention towards left-field and starting rotation holes. Reynolds cannot be the only major add but is a good basis for getting the ball rolling on a few more moves - and with a low base salary, that should help.
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