Monday, December 6, 2010

Orioles, Diamondbacks Making Progress on Reynolds Trade

Why do I get the impression he struck out before this picture was taken?

UPDATE (12/6/2010 1:10 pm):  It is official.  The Diamondbacks have traded third baseman Mark Reynolds to the Orioles in exchange for relief pitcher David Hernandez and minor league reliever Kam Mickolio. 

I’m not sure what this means for prospect Josh Bell (picked up in the George Sherill trade), but presumably it gives him a little more time to develop.  At 24, he shouldn’t have too much more development remaining.  The O’s are looking at some short term solutions at first base (rumored to be interested in Derrek Lee), so it’s possible they end up moving Reynolds from third to first in 2012 to make room for Bell.  At the very least, it would shore up their defense.

11:30 am:  Orioles President Andy McPhail has admitted that the Orioles have made significant progress with the Diamondbacks regarding a trade for third baseman Mark Reynolds. 

Early reports had the Orioles trading highly regarded pitching prospect Chris Tillman (one of the centerpieces of the Eric Bedard trade) to the Diamondbacks, but apparently they aren’t interested.  Tillman has had a lot of trouble transferring the success he’s had in the minors to the majors.  Plus, he’s an extreme flyball pitcher with a penchant for giving up home runs.  That’s not exactly the ideal skill set you want a pitcher to have in homer friendly Chase Field.  Instead, they’ve requested David Hernandez, a hard throwing reliever.  Hernandez struggled as a starter, but flourished after stepping into a relief role.  Many baseball insiders think he could develop into an effective seventh or eighth inning guy. 

One season after mashing 44 home runs, Reynolds struggled last year registering a .198/.320/.433 (.328 wOBA) line.  While I’m not one to make a big deal about batting average, a .198 average is pretty bad.  Reynolds’s line drive rate dropped from 17.4% to a paltry 13.3%, while his fly ball rate jumped from 47.3% to 54.9%.  When you factor his strike out totals (42.3% of his at bats), it becomes pretty clear that he wasn’t cursed by bad luck. 

If I was the Orioles, I would be very concerned by these numbers, in particular his line drive rate.  While his chronically low line drive rate (the primary driver of batting average) might be due to a mechanical issue in his swing, it’s also possible his bat speed is slowing.  While Reynolds is a bit young (27 years old) to be suffering from slowing bat speed, it’s certainly not unheard of.  If this is the case, his numbers will only get worse from here.

Reynolds’ skill set (“old man skills”) is one that has a tendency to regress quickly.  Offensively, he has little to offer a team other than home runs and walks.  Defensively, he has below average range and an erratic arm at third base.  Despite his high stolen base totals, EqBRR (which measures base running ability) shows him being a below average base runner in three of his four seasons.  This number is supported by his low success rate on stolen base attempts.

If I was Andy McPhail, I’d pass on Reynolds, and focus on Adrian Beltre.  There’s just too much baggage to justify the risk.  Unfortunately, it looks like the O’s aren’t interested in Beltre. 

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