Colorado Rockies first baseman Mark Reynolds left in the seventh inning of the team's 12-9 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday with a hand injury that could result in a stint on the disabled list, according to multiple reports.
If Reynolds does have to miss a significant period of time, it will affect the Rockies in multiple ways. First, in more than 800 innings of action at first base, Reynolds has been an above-average defender -- and possibly better than that, if you go strictly by the eye test. Second, with Trevor Story out for the season and Ryan Raburn entrenched in an extended slump, Reynolds is the Rockies' only real right-handed, non-Nolan Arenado power threat at the plate. His bat is only league average when adjusting for park, but Reynolds does have 12 long balls to go with 23 doubles.
That puts the Rockies in a precarious position, particularly because the non-waiver trade deadline has passed. The club doesn't have much in the way of first basemen in the minors; Jordan Patterson can play there, but he hits from the left side and would require a 40-man roster move. Tom Murphy -- a prolific hitter who has been tearing up Triple-A -- is a catcher who hasn't seen any time at first base and doesn't seem like a realistic option there. The club has talked about moving Carlos Gonzalez to first base, which sounds even better when considering the condition of his ankle at the moment, but that doesn't address the issue of lack of right-handed power in the lineup.
As a result, there are limited options for the Rockies, but that doesn't mean there's nothing out there. Let's take a look at three things in particular the club can do to try to make up for the loss of Reynolds, if he does indeed wind up on the DL.
Promote Triple-A 1B Ben Paulsen, give Raburn more OF starts
This is the most boring option, but if you've followed the Rockies closely over the years, you'll know that it's probably the most realistic one, too. Paulsen has proven he can hold his own against big league pitching; even if he's unspectacular overall and has struggled in the PCL this season, his career major league stats paint a pretty similar picture to what Reynolds has done at the plate in 2016.
Raburn has made a career out of bashing left-handed pitching, even though he's been basically non-existent since May 1, hitting just .190/.284/.327 during that time. More playing time might help him find his groove, but it also compromises the Rockies' outfield defense, even if not dramatically.
Promote Triple-A OF Stephen Cardullo, move Gonzalez to 1B
Perhaps the Rockies can be motivated by the success of David Peralta, whom the Arizona Diamondbacks signed out of independent ball a couple of years ago. Cardullo, a 28-year-old, right-handed hitting outfielder, has hit well at Triple-A Albuquerque this season, posting a .310/.376/.514 line with 14 homers and a good strikeout-to-walk ratio despite never playing above rookie ball during his affiliated pro career.
Of course, Cardullo spent the previous four seasons in independent leagues and has never even sniffed a big league roster (not to mention, like Patterson, his addition would require an accompanying 40-man roster move). And, though the Rockies have been talking about CarGo getting some time at first base for quite a while, the star outfielder has never actually played there.
Acquire recently designated OF Carlos Gomez, move Gonzalez to 1B
The right-handed Gomez wasn't good for the Houston Astros this season, hitting just .210/.272/.322 in 323 plate appearances before being designated for assignment earlier this week. But his bat was league-average last season and in the previous two years with the Milwaukee Brewers, he received MVP votes. Gomez, just 30 years old, might just need a change of scenery, and playing half of his remaining 2016 games at Coors Field certainly wouldn't hurt.
There are several ways the Rockies could acquire Gomez, who was signed through the remainder of this season. Colorado could put a waiver claim on Gomez and assume the remainder $9 million he's owed or work out a trade with the Astros. Or, if Gomez goes unclaimed on waivers and elects to become a free agent, the Rockies could sign him for as little as the prorated league minimum.
That last one is admittedly the long shot, and -- of course -- it's dependent on whether the Rockies think they're contenders and want to take the sort of risk that could at the very least allow them to stick around in the race much later than anyone thought. There are some other August deals the Rockies could try to spin -- Billy Butler of the Oakland Athletics, though limited at first base, comes to mind with a $10 million salary that would likely clear waivers -- but it all circles back around to where the team views itself at this point of the season.
Regardless of what the Rockies decide, I'm sure we can all agree on one thing: Who knew that replacing Mark Reynolds would be such a big to-do?