The Cleveland Indians have agreed to sign free agent first baseman Mark Reynolds, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports. The deal is for one year and $6 million, though it includes incentives that could push the value to $7.5 million in total.
Reynolds, 29, was non-tendered by the Baltimore Orioles just over a week ago, making him a free agent. Known for high strikeout totals and high homer totals, Reynolds saw both of those numbers drop significantly in 2012, though he did establish himself as a pretty good defender at first base. Prior to the 2012 season, Reynolds was primarily a third baseman, and not a very good one.
The Indians plan to use Lonnie Chisenhall as their everyday thrid baseman, but in the past two seasons he’s been unable to win at bats away from light-hitting Jack Hannahan. The plan, for now, is to use Reynolds at first base, where he takes over for the disappointing Casey Kotchman. Cleveland has also been pursuing Kevin Youkilis to use at first base and I’m not sure this move takes them out of the market for Youk. Cleveland also has parted ways with long-tim DH Travis Hafner, so if Youkilis agrees to join Terry Francona, his former manager, in Cleveland, Reynolds could be used as the DH. Having both Youkilis and Reynolds would also give the Indians a bit of security should Chisenhall once again come up injuered or ineffective.
Reynolds averaged 35 home runs per year in a four-year period from 2008-2011. He also averaged 208 strikeouts per year in that span, leading in league in each season. Last season, with the Orioles, Ryenolds cut his strikeout number down to 159, which was actually tied for seventh in the league. His home run total also plummeted in 2012, however, as he finished with just 23 to go with a career-low .429 slugging percentage.
If Tribe fans focus on the low batting average and high strikeout rates, they will hate this signing for Cleveland. Instead, they should look at what Reynolds does well. At age 29, he’s still very much in his prime and there is no reason to think last year was anything but a bad season at the plate. Reynolds will be going to a park that plays well for right handed pull-hitters and he’ll rpovide a much-needed right handed presence in a lineup that slants heavily to the left. He won’t hurt you defensively at first base and he will instantly be the biggest power threat in the Tribe lineup.
At $6 million and on a one-year commitment, this signing was an inexpensive way for the Indians to get marginally better. He’s not the final piece they need, of course, but Reynolds can potentially take a weakness in the lineup and make it a strength. Just don’t expect him to hit .280; that’s just not who he is.