Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds has requested a trade, and in response to his report, Jim Bowden named the Boston Red Sox as the top landing spot for the switch-hitting slugger (along with other large market teams like the Mets, Dodgers, and Yankees).
Reynolds will be 28 years old next season and is under team control through 2025. His current contract goes through the end of next season and according to the terms of that deal he will be paid $6.75 million in 2023 (regardless of the team he plays for). He is then arbitration-eligible for the following two seasons (2024, 2025).
Should the Red Sox trade for Bryan Reynolds?
Sox fans might not be familiar with Reynolds’ caliber of play (particularly as a hitter), but he did offer a glimpse back in August when the Red Sox played a 3-game set at PNC Park. In the series, the 2021 All-Star notched 5 hits in 11 at-bats, including 3 home runs.
As a whole, his 2022 campaign was impressive, though a step back in many ways from the year before. After hitting .302/.390/.522 in 2021, he hit .262/.345/.461 this year. While he actually hit a few more home runs in fewer games, his plate discipline took a serious hit. His walk rate fell 2.5% and his strikeout rate jumped from 18.4% to 23%, which is more in line with the first two seasons of his career.
The Red Sox struggled to hit home runs last season (finishing 20th in MLB) and have since parted ways with JD Martinez, Franchy Cordero, and possibly Xander Bogaerts, so adding another impact bat to the middle of the order this off-season is paramount. With only 2 outfielders currently on the roster who are expected to be in the starting lineup on Opening Day (Alex Verdugo and Kiké Hernández), adding an everyday outfielder is also a clear need.
It is worth noting that the team inked Rob Refsnyder to a 1-year deal earlier this off-season, avoiding arbitration. With that said, he is expected to play a 4th-outfielder type role, with opportunities to break into the starting lineup when facing a left-handed starting pitcher.
Overall, Reynolds is a below-average defender. His Outs Above Average (6th percentile) and outfielder jump (23rd percentile) metrics are abysmal. The Sox probably wouldn’t be able to put him in centerfield, where he had -14 Defensive Runs Saved and -7 OAA this year, but it is fair to reason that he could be serviceable in left. His sprint speed (75th percentile) and arm strength (80th percentile) are well above league average, so after learning how to play left field at Fenway, he could utilize his strengths to throw out runners who try to take an extra base on hits off the Green Monster.
The case for the Red Sox benefiting from the acquisition of Reynolds, given the team’s major OF and DH gaps, is straightforward. However, he’s far from a perfect solution to their problems and the path to acquiring him via a trade with the Pirates is far less simple. He will inevitably be a very valuable trade chip for many reasons:
- He won’t turn 30 until the 2025 season.
- He’s a bargain, only owed $6.75 million in 2023, and arbitration-eligible through 2025.
- He’s a switch hitter. In 2022, he posted an OPS over .750 from both sides of the plate (.787 OPS as a righty, .814 OPS as a lefty).
- He hits for average and power. He owns a .281 batting average over 493 career games and hit 24 home runs in 2021 and 27 in 2022.
- He’s durable. Since making his MLB debut in 2019, he has never played fewer than 134 games in a season (excluding the shortened 2020 season).
To acquire a player like Reynolds via trade, Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox will need to be willing to dip into the organization’s pool of high-valued prospects. In recent years, the front office has avoided parting with top prospects in a deliberate effort to strengthen what was a very depleted farm system. The unyielding policy has paid off; in 2019, Baseball America (subscription required) ranked their farm dead last; between 2021 and 2022, they jumped from 21st to 11th.
When asked during a NESN broadcast back in October if the newly improved farm system would make him more inclined to execute trades this off-season, Chaim Bloom’s answer was clear: “Yeah I think that makes it more likely.”
During the same discussion, he noted that the depth of prospects (as well as those added to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft) would be considered in trade discussions.
It’s anyone’s guess what specific trade package the Pirates would accept in exchange for Bryan Reynolds. However, the hypothetical trade below is a reasonable guess.
Red Sox receive:
Bryan Reynolds, OF (MLB)
This would leave a hole in the bullpen (with the loss of Houck) and catcher (with the loss of McGuire). Perhaps it opens the door to a reunion with old friends Adam Ottavino and Christian Vázquez; both players are currently free agents. Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure…
The Hot Stove is officially heating up!