With the 57th pick in MLB’s 2016 June Amateur draft, the Toronto Blue Jays selected outfielder J.B. Woodman from the University of Mississippi. Two picks later, the San Francisco Giants selected outfielder Bryan Reynolds from Vanderbilt University.
It was a very fertile stretch of that draft, with current Phillies OF Brandon Marsh drafted at #60, Rangers IF Nick Solak going at #62, Mets 1B Pete Alonso at 64, Jays swingman Mitch White at 65, and high schooler Bo Bichette drafted by the Blue Jays at 66.
Fast Forward to 2022 and Woodman is out of baseball, released by the Cardinals in August 2018. But Bryan Reynolds has flourished at the MLB level, much like Alonso and Bichette. After being traded to the Pirates in the January 2018 trade for OF Andrew McCutchen, he made his major league debut in 2019, slashing .314/.377/.503 with 16 home runs in 134 games.
While that might have garnered a Rookie of the Year award in many seasons, he was up against Pete Alonso, Mike Soroka and Fernando Tatis Jr., and finished fourth in the 2019 NL RoY vote. He was an NL All-Star in the 2021 season.
Bryan Reynolds has requested a trade. Should Blue Jays be interested?
Why this should interest Blue Jays fans now is because Reynolds has requested a trade, as per Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. As per Jon Heyman of the NY Post, contract talks between the Pirates and Reynolds have hit an impasse, triggering the trade request.
However, the Bucs have released the following statement on the request: “While it is disappointing, this will have zero impact on our decision-making this off-season or in the future. Our goal is to improve the Pirates for 2023 and beyond. With three years remaining until he hits free agency, Bryan remains a key member of our team. We look forward to him having a great season for the Pirates.”
Reynolds, who will be entering his age 28 season in 2023, is one of the better offensive outfielders in baseball. He’s also a switch hitting CF, who could move the oft-injured George Springer to RF to reduce wear and tear on the 33 year old’s joints, as well as replace the since traded Teoscar Hernandez, thereby solving for two major offseason requirements.
He’s got pop from the left side of the plate, with 14 doubles, 4 triples and 20 HRs to go with a slash line of .258/.345/.469/.815 as a LHH in 2022. And that was in a lesser Pirates batting lineup, which didn’t offer the same sort of protection that the potent Blue Jays line-up would.
In other words, he’s exactly what the Blue Jays need to balance out their hitting lineup and improve their OF. While not a great defensive player, patrolling CF at Rogers Centre might be less daunting a task than the cavernous CF at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, which is 389 feet through the left field power alley (compared to 375 feet at Rogers) and reaches its greatest distance of 410 feet at a nook located just left of center field (Rogers is 400 feet to CF).
Despite being a Gold Glove finalist for CF in 2021 with +10 Outs Above Average (OAA), as per MLBTR, “[Reynolds] spent the bulk of 2021-22 in center, logging a combined 2,196 2/3 innings to mixed reviews. OAA had him worth ten in ’21 but -7 in ’22, while Defensive Runs Saved pegged him for -5 in ’21 and -14 this season. Nonetheless, he does grade out better in left, where he was worth a total of 7 DRS across 931 2/3 innings between 2019-20.”
What would a a potential trade package for Reynolds look like? It certainly wouldn’t be insignificant, with the Seattle Times reporting that the Pirates asking price from the Mariners at the 2021 July trade deadline started with CF Julio Rodriguez, who was an All-Star in his rookie season, and went on to win the 2022 AL Rookie of the Year and Silver Slugger awards this offseason after helping Seattle to the ALDS.
Reynolds is coming off two consecutive seasons of OPS+ of 125 or higher, and has three years of team control remaining through the 2025 season. He’s also on a reasonable $6.75 million salary for 2023, in the second year of a two year, $13 million extension that bought out his first two years of arbitration eligibility before two more years of arbitration in 2024 and 2025.
Which means any trade package for Bryan Reynolds would have to likely start with top Jays prospect Gabriel Moreno. However, the Pirates top prospect is switch hitting catcher Endy Rodriguez, who was acquired from the Mets in the January 2021 three team deal that saw Joe Musgrove go to San Diego.
As per Baseball America, “[He] took another leap forward in 2022, hitting 25 homers and posting a .996 OPS across three levels and ending the year with Triple-A Indianapolis. Rodriguez was especially impactful from July 1 to the end of the season, ranking first among qualified minor league hitters in average (.377), slugging (.723), OPS (1.181) and extra-base hits (43).’
His scouting grades are: Hitting: 60. Power: 60. Speed: 45. Fielding: 50. Arm: 55. To compound their prospect strength at catcher, the Pirates also have right-handed hitting Henry Davis who was the 1st overall pick in the June 2021 amateur draft. He reached Double-A Altoona this year, and has outstanding scouting grades: Hitting: 55. Power: 60. Speed: 45. Fielding: 40. Arm: 60.
Pittsburgh General Manager Ben Cherington knows the Jays farm system, having served as a VP of Baseball Operations under Jays GM Ross Atkins from September 2016 to November 2019. And according to The Athletic on each teams’ biggest offseason needs, “The Pirates want to add a veteran starting pitcher who can help with the development of their younger arms. They want to improve their lineup to take pressure off their core, which includes outfielder Bryan Reynolds, third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes and shortstop Oneil Cruz.’
Given three years of team control remaining for the soon to be 28 year old, the fact that he ranked third among all center fielders with at least 600 plate appearances since the start of 2021 in OPS-plus, averaging 136 per season, and a cumulative bWAR of 8.9 over that stretch, trading for Reynolds would require a haul of MLB ready top prospects. In addition to Moreno if the Pirates wanted another top catching prospect, that means LHP Ricky Tiedemann and 3B/SS Orelvis Martinez.
However, like at catcher, the Pirates are already set at 3B with Ke’Bryan Hayes signing an eight year, $70 million extension through the 2029 season, with a $12 million club option for 2030, as well as at SS with Oneil Cruz who just had a solid rookie season, finishing 6th in the 2022 NL RoY vote.
Given the Jays don’t really match up well with the Pirates in terms of potential prospects at catcher, 3B and SS in Moreno and Martinez, lefty Tiedemann would have to be included. Would the Pirates also take a flyer on potential power arms like right handlers Nate Pearson and Yosver Zulueta, not to mention LHP Yusei Kikuchi if the Jays picked up most of his remaining $20 million on his 3 year, $36 million deal through the 2024 season?
Could adding Lourdes Gurriel Jr., sweeten the package? That might allow Toronto to play Reynolds in LF if they could sign a free agent, LHH CF like Brandon Nimmo or Cody Bellinger?
Certainly many teams will have interest in Reynolds, especially with his trade request coming right on the eve of the Baseball Winter Meetings starting Monday in San Diego. Jon Heyman of the NY Post reports that the Mets, Giants, Yankees, and Rays could all have interest. The Yankees are already “very much” in on Reynolds. “They’re on it,” according to an industry source quoted by Pirates beat writer Jason Mackey. Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith has reported on Blue Jays interest, as has Jon Morosi of MLB Network.
As Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic concludes, “The Pirates should trade Bryan Reynolds, and not simply because he wants to be liberated from their miserly ways. They should trade him because they cannot agree with him on an extension. They should trade him because they will not spend enough to build around him. And they should trade him because his value from this point will only decline... The relationship is broken. It’s over between the Pirates and Reynolds. Time to make the best trade possible, and move on.”
Could the Blue Jays front office finally swing a deal with their old colleague Ben Cherington? Certainly the hot stove is heating up as we start the Winter Meetings from Monday!