Mark Reynolds almost didn't play for the Rockies this season. Not only that, but if Jeff Bridich had not signed the Sheriff of Swattingham to a minor league deal, the veteran slugger might be playing in Korea right now.
This wasn't the plan. At least we didn't think that was the plan, and we certainly hoped the team would aspire to a more exciting course of action this past winter after they signed Ian Desmond.
Once the team signed Desmond, we wanted follow-up trades. We wanted Desmond to play the outfield or be a super-utility guy. We wanted Mark Trumbo or Edwin Encarnacion to plug that hole at first base and sock a bunch of dingers. The plans we dreamed of did not include Reynolds as the everyday first baseman, and if you try to claim otherwise you are a silly liar.
Now we can be grateful that they didn't make those follow-up moves, and we can think about how good luck and depth sometimes go hand in hand.
Reynolds was nothing more than an insurance policy on a minor league deal. It's hard to overstate the far-reaching impact, then, of the moment that Desmond was hit on the hand with a pitch this spring and the Rockies had to use that insurance.
As an insurance policy, what Reynolds has done would be the equivalent of getting in a fender bender and having your insurance company give you a Bentley. It would be like making a claim on a small house fire and having your insurer respond by adding on a four-season porch and installing heated floors in your bathroom.
So now the Rockies have Mark Reynolds at first base. Let’s look at what else they have thanks to the moves they didn’t make.
Depth in the outfield
Yea sure, this is obvious, but aren’t you glad I didn’t say versatility?
As they seek consistency on offense, the Rockies will essentially have four options for three spots in the outfield. Maybe Carlos Gonzalez will get things going or maybe Desmond will be more consistent. Maybe David Dahl will build on his great debut last season.
That cluster might create some awkward questions, but that’s what real depth looks like for a contending team. It also shows how the floor has been raised on that depth thanks to Reynolds, because you’ll notice I didn’t mention Gerardo Parra until right now.
Charlie Blackmon is still here
When Desmond signed, a possible series of follow-up moves would have centered on trading the man known as Chuck Nazty for pitching. Trade Blackmon, move Desmond to left field, and move Dahl to center field. Had the Rockies gone this route, they still would have had a bunch of outfielders and they would have had clearer paths to playing time for Dahl and Raimel Tapia.
But you know what they wouldn't have? Blackmon, and Blackmon is just so damn good. He's one of this team’s two best players, along with that Nolan Arenado fella. Sure, we think Dahl might be that good or better someday, but Blackmon is that good right now.
This might be the point where you would reasonably argue that Bridich should have cleared that outfield glut by dealing Carlos Gonzalez. Unless the rumors were just really quiet, however, the team wasn't looking at trades with CarGo this past winter.
The Rockies were either looking at deals with Blackmon or no trades at all. They kept Blackmon, and that surely affected their decision to pursue Reynolds on the cheap. Now they’re both raking.
The young pitchers got their chance
Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland have taken advantage of their opportunities in the rotation. German Marquez looks like he's on the verge of doing the same, and the team might face a tough decision when Jon Gray comes back.
It's impossible to say if the Rockies are better off riding their young guns than they would have been if they had made follow-up moves for pitching this winter. What we can say is that, like Reynolds, these rookie pitchers are here because those trades didn’t happen, and they also happen to join Reynolds as the ridiculously fun surprises of 2017 so far.
No stress if Reynolds starts to struggle
His injury in 2016 means that Reynolds still needs to prove that he can sustain his new and improved approach over the course of the long season. The longer he keeps it up, the more it feels like this new version of the veteran is here to stay. If it's not, though, the Rockies can gradually move him to the bench and try Desmond there. And on they would go, enjoying that depth and versatility (sorry, had to do it).
The way things have come together around Mark Reynolds points to a combination of depth and luck. Even if there is some good fortune involved—and winning teams always benefit from some degree of good fortune—Reynolds is sure making Bridich look smart for the moves he didn't make before the season started.