Back in 2009, the Arizona Diamondbacks thought they had the next big name slugger in Mark Reynolds. That year, Reynolds hit .260 with 44 home runs, and while he has maintained his reputation as a power hitter, he has failed to hit better than .221 since, while not hitting more than 23 home runs since 2011.
The Diamondbacks eventually traded Reynolds to the Orioles, who granted him free agency prior to the 2013 season. That year, Reynolds signed a 1-year, $6 million contract with the Indians, but the streaky hitter was released in August, after hitting just .098 in July.
Later that month, the Yankees added the 1B/3B to their infield potpourri. Reynolds’ numbers improved in the Big Apple, where he posted an OPS of .755 (versus .680 in Cleveland).
After again becoming a free agent prior to this season, Reynolds joined the Brewers in Spring Training as a Non-Roster Invitee, then agreed on a $2 million base salary for the season, with the Crew intending for him to platoon at first base with fellow NRI-turned-Brewer, Lyle Overbay.
Reynolds and Overbay’s modest performances in 2013 had allowed for the Brewers to bring in two veteran bats for less than $4 million base salary combined, and while neither has really outperformed expectations at the plate, Reynolds has shown good range and soft hands at first base. Defense and power numbers like Reynolds’ are something the Brewers saw little of at first base last season.
Reynolds does have Yuniesky Betancourt & Co. to thank for the low expectations at first, but the improvement really is immense. Rather than dead last in 1B WAR, the Brewers are sitting comfortably at 15th, respectable considering the patchwork, low-cost nature of the signings.
Reynolds has also hit homers as advertised, and is currently tied for second among Brewers with 14 four-baggers. He has likewise been useful as a backup for Aramis Ramirez at third base, which has helped keep defensive-minded UT Jeff Bianchi from facing too many big league pitchers.
While Reynolds is far from a hot piece in the Brewers lineup, his addition to the team at a discount price has helped stop the bleeding at first base. Also important is that Brewers do not have an obvious heir at either corner infield position for 2015 (assuming Ramirez is not re-signed), and Reynolds could hold down either spot briefly, or until a younger player with a higher ceiling can take over.
That would of course require the Brewers to re-sign Reynolds, but he seems to have settled into to an affordable performance level. Reynolds has cemented himself as a big strike-out and walk player with a .200-.220 batting average and good pop, something the Brewers are perfectly fine with given their recent history at first base.
Reynolds will have a bad month now and then, but should even them out with strong ones, and if the Brewers- and their fans- are willing to roll with the punches, Reynolds should remain a decent piece for a team that desperately needed his presence.