Bryan Reynolds has been the subject of trade rumors for quite some time, given that he’s been a strong performer on a rebuilding Pirates club. Plenty of teams around the league have reportedly expressed an interest in his services, including the Yankees, Blue Jays, Marlins, Red Sox, Braves, Rockies and Mariners. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic adds the Rangers to the list, reporting that acquiring Reynolds is one avenue they’re considering in their pursuit of outfield upgrades.
The interest of the Rangers, and all the other clubs, is perfectly understandable given how Reynolds has performed so far in his career. He debuted in 2019, hitting 16 home runs and batting .314/.377/.503 for a wRC+ of 130. He struggled badly in the shortened 2020 season but was back in form over the past two campaigns. Over 2021 and 2022, he hit 51 homers and stole 12 bases while walking in 10.4% of his plate appearances and striking out in just 20.6% of them. He produced a slash line of .282/.368/.492 over those campaigns for a wRC+ of 133, indicating he was 33% better than the league average hitter. That mark put him in the top 25 among all qualified hitters in that stretch, as was his 9.0 wins above replacement from FanGraphs.
Despite the high amount of interest around the league, the Bucs have yet to put together a deal with many sources highlighting their asking price as being very high. Jon Heyman of The New York Post reports on the Reynolds matter today and reiterates that framing, with one source characterizing Pittsburgh’s questions as “unrealistic.” Despite the apparently sky high asking prices, Heyman reports that the Yankees are one of the teams that is “consistently” interested in Reynolds.
Of course, the Pirates are under no obligation to find a trade for Reynolds, even though he has reportedly requested one. He’s not slated to reach free agency until after the 2025 campaign and the club could plausibly return to contention in that window. If no one blows them away with a monumental offer, they can simply hang onto Reynolds as their rebuild progresses.
There’s also the possibility of an extension, although there doesn’t seem to be a lot of optimism in that department at the moment. Recent reporting indicated that the two sides had been about $50MM apart in their negotiations, with Heyman providing some more details on those talks today. He says the club offered $75MM over six years while Reynolds and his representatives were asking for something a bit lower than the eight-year, $168MM extension. Matt Olson Got from Atlanta.
The Olson comparison is an interesting one, although not a perfect analogue. When Olson signed his extension in March of last year, he was two years away from free agency, one year closer than Reynolds is now. But from an on-field comparison, there is some logic to it. Both players had a swoon in the 2020 season but had three strong campaigns around it. Olson’s four years from 2018 to 2021 resulted in a batting line of .254/.348/.501 and a wRC+ of 130. Reynolds, from 2019 to the present, had less power but a better batting average, leading to a slash line of .281/.361/.481 and a wRC+ of 126. Olson produced 12.8 fWAR against a 12.5 mark for Reynolds. Olson was about to turn 28 when his deal was signed, same as Reynolds now.
Given the similar level of production, it’s not surprising that Reynolds’ camp would set Olson as a target. The one year difference in their timelines will limit Reynolds somewhat, but Heyman does report that their asking is indeed lower than that. How much lower isn’t known but it seems to be well beyond Pittsburgh’s current comfort zone. Their six-year offer would seem to take Reynolds through his age-33 season, while Reynolds seems to be trying to get another couple of years and go through his age-35 season. That doesn’t mean that talks are necessarily doomed, as large gaps can sometimes be quickly overcome. Not too long ago, the Red Sox and Rafael Devers were reportedly about $100MM apart in their negotiations before the club decided to step up and meet his asking price.
For now, it seems Reynolds is destined to have his name pop up in trade rumors until a deal comes together, whether that’s a trade or an extension. The interest from the Rangers is quite sensible, since the top items on their to-do list this winter have been the rotation and the outfield. They addressed the rotation in a huge way by re-signing Martín Perez while signing Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney and trading for Jake Odorizzi. The outfield, however, has yet to be addressed.
As things stand now, Adolis Garcia seems to have a lock on the right field while Leody Taveras can provide a glove-first option in center. Left field, however, is far less certain Josh Smith, Bubba Thompson, Brad Miller, Ezequiel Duran and Mark Mathias some of the options. Miller, Smith and Duran have each spent more time on the infield in their careers and are coming off subpar seasons at the plate. Mathias just came over from the Brewers in the Matt Bush trade and hit well down the stretch, but he’s also more of an infielder who can play the outfield in a pinch than an everyday option on the grass.
Thompson is arguably the most straightforward solution currently on the roster. He has excellent speed, having stolen 49 bases in the minors last year and another 18 in the majors. However, he strikes out a lot, including in 30.9% of his 181 major league plate appearances so far. That led to a .265/.302/.312 slash line and a 77 wRC+ despite a .389 batting average on balls in play.
It’s possible that one member of that group could take the job and run with it, but it behooves the Rangers to look for upgrades if they plan on competing in 2023. The most appealing free agent outfielders have already signed, leaving AJ Pollock and David Peralta as some of the best names still available. Rosenthal adds that those are two of the names being considered by the Rangers alongside Reynolds.
Reynolds is certainly a more attractive option than those guys, especially for a Rangers club that’s starting to get close to the luxury tax. The club’s competitive balance tax figure is currently $220MM, according to the calculations of Roster Resource. That puts them within striking distance of the lowest tax threshold, which is $233MM this year. Reynolds is going to be making $6.75MM this year as part of the two-year deal he signed with the Bucs last year, with two further arbitration trips to come.
Adding that kind of salary to their books would allow the Rangers to make a huge outfield upgrade while staying under the tax for now. Of course, that combination of low salary and high talent is what makes him so appealing as a trade candidate and why the Pirates are asking for the moon in return. The Rangers have shown plenty of willingness to hand out huge free agent deals over the past couple of years, but whether they would have an appetite for parting with premium prospects in order to upgrade the roster is another question.
Adding someone like Pollock or Peralta would also likely allow the Rangers to stay under the tax, as they aren’t expected to fetch huge salaries. However, their expected impact is certainly below that of Reynolds. Pollock, 35, hit .245/.292/.389 last year for a wRC+ of 92. Peralta, also 35, had a strong first half with the Diamondbacks but wilted after a trade to the Rays, hitting .255/.317/ .335 for a wRC+ of 91.