Despite the potential fits of other right-handed, power-hitting first basemen in Denver ahead of 2016, the Colorado Rockies are now tied to Mark Reynolds for a season, and it's going to cost them less than $3 million. He'll hit a few home runs, strike out a bunch, and then move on after the year, or if he does well, maybe in July.
The signing does nothing for future contention, but it need not be that, anyways; Reynolds is a temporary right-handed power option on a team that will look extremely different one year from today. For the money he's receiving and the responsibilities he'll be given, at no point should smart baseball fans consider Reynolds to be a legitimate reason to indict the entire organization as a failure. Have your gripes with the Rockies, sure, but Reynolds' acquisition for but a single year that will be lost to far better division rivals anyways isn't a smart one.
Scouting Mark Reynolds
Reynolds will do a few things in Denver — hit home runs, strike out, and walk at a decent clip relative to the Rockies' recent rates — the amount and significance of each we can debate all winter and then ultimately judge his performance upon come summertime. He at least partially fills the Rockies' immediate and glaring need of a right-handed power hitter to face lefties, and will split time at first base with Ben Paulsen.
Beyond that, an intriguing aspect of Reynolds' game, at least relative to the Rockies in 2016, is in his flexibility. He played first base, second base (!), third base, and left and right field for the Cardinals in 2015; in his career, he's logged 773 games at third base, including 78 in part-time duty over the last three years. Replace Nolan Arenado he will not, of course, but Reynolds gives the Rockies roster flexibility and a relatively versatile bench option well beyond some of the more limited veteran options the Rockies could have pursued this winter.
With one (or two, or all) of Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon, and Carlos Gonzalez potentially out the door in trades this winter, and the Rockies' unique bullpen needs playing half their games at Coors Field, a flexible pinch hitter/second-unit option like Reynolds is more than welcome in a year like 2016. After all, some of the other potential Rockies' first base targets we profiled — namely Chris Carter and Mike Napoli — don't have nearly the same track record of defensive flexibility.
As for the quality of play with that flexibility, well, Reynolds is going to strike out next year. He won't hit for average. His on-base percentage isn't anything special, either, but that's more a byproduct of his low average considering a decent 11.4% career walk percentage.
Here's a blind comparison of Reynolds and another player:
|Stat||Mark Reynolds (career)||Mystery player (career)||Reynolds 2016 (Steamer)||Mystery player 2016 (Steamer)|
|Slash line vs LHP||.231/.348/.456||.261/.300/.478||Projected (RHP+LHP)||Projected (RHP+LHP)|
|Slash line vs RHP||.229/.314/.450||.287/.333/.480||.223/.309/.406||.252/.307/.421|
|Walk rate (%)||11.4||6.0||10.3||6.9|
|Strikeout rate (%)||31.6||26.4||28.0||25.9|
Make of those stats what you will — and take Steamer and any other 2016 projection system with a pretty significant grain of salt — but Reynolds compares pretty strongly with the mystery player.
To be fair, though, Reynolds' numbers have been on the decline in recent years, as Matt Gross has recently argued, so there's a (maybe significant!) chance the new power hitter continues to decline significantly, and doesn't even meet these projections, or the comparison against the mystery player. That'd be a problem.
(As you may have guessed, the mystery player is one Mr. Benjamin Paulsen.)
What to expect in 2016
I'm bullish on Reynolds in 2016 — but before you pull out the proverbial pitchforks, let's put "bullish" into the context of what a $2.6 million investment in a 32-year-old middling veteran means. Save an injury or something else unforeseen, Reynolds shouldn't break 500 plate appearances, he's probably won't hit 30 home runs, and he might not even fetch anything at the trade deadline even if he has a decent first few months.
But the Rockies found a cheap, temporary way to add something they needed — a right-handed power option that can complement Paulsen — and the guy they picked can also play several other positions and come off the bench, increasing his value to a team otherwise most likely looking at significant at-bats for Kyle Parker.
Again, Mark Reynolds' acquisition ought not be an indictment of the organization. If he manages to play well enough to get flipped in July for a minor leaguer, great! It won't be a top prospect, but a warm body in return for a 32-year-old strikeout artist is just fine. If Reynolds is terrible, hey, it's $2.6 million — a pittance in modern baseball — and he'll be off the books less than ten months from today with no effect on future payrolls when the Rockies might actually be good.
Reynolds isn't anything special, but he doesn't need to be; and I'm sorry, but 2016 will be the furthest thing from a special year, anyways. The Rockies won't get a prize for putting together a veteran roster of ill-advised mid- to long-term moves just to maybe have the chance to win 75 games. Enjoy Reynolds' temporary time at Coors Field, enjoy the dingers (let's hope there are some big ones!), and kick the can down the road one more year as the Rockies figure out the first base situation in Denver.