A deeper look at why Bryan Reynolds should or shouldn’t end up in Toronto.
As of now, five weeks before spring training, the industry consensus is that the Pirates will not trade Bryan Reynolds.
Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported Friday that Pittsburgh has been “unrealistic” in its asking price involving a trade for Reynolds. Although he requested a trade in December, Reynolds seems likely to start the season in a Bucs uniform. But if the Pirates front office dropped the cost, should the Blue Jays be interested in trading for Reynolds?
Let’s look at that question from a few angles.
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Blue Jays Roster Fit With Reynolds
A man of Reynolds’ talents would instantly make any roster better, but how well does he fit with a Blue Jays position core that revamped its outfield this season?
For starters, his switch-hitting profile makes him more desirable for Toronto. The Jays’ current outfield group, from left to right field, includes Daulton Varsho (L), Kevin Kiermaier (L), and George Springer (R) could use a platoon buddy. Of course, Reynolds is much better than an average platoon hitter, but he’d need to share space with these guys somehow.
Kiermaier (.661 OPS) and Varsho (.615 OPS) both struggle against left-handed pitchers. Reynolds, while a switch-hitter, is superior against RHPs (.856 OPS) compared to LHPs (.808 OPS), though only by a narrow margin. The fact that Reynolds isn’t a bonafide lefty-killer makes this a clunky fit. Unless the Blue Jays condemn Kiermaier to a full-time fourth outfielder role – which is unlikely given his public comments on playing time – or sit Varsho versus left-handers on a frequent basis, there will be too many mouths to feed.
Defensively, he fits. Reynolds can play all four outfield spots quite well (he was worth 14 outs above average from 2019-2021, then dropped to minus-7 OAA in 2022, which is odd) and brings above-average speed. He’d mesh with Toronto’s new “Death to Flying Things” ethos.
The Blue Jays don’t truly need Reynolds and his career .842 OPS, though he’d be a lovely addition. The club’s assets are better allocated to a fringe platoon hitter, such as AJ Pollock or Adam Duvall, and cost is the main factor in that equation. If the price on Reynolds remains sky-high, then Toronto is out. But, again, to have some fun, let’s see what a trade might cost.
The Cost Of Acquisition For Reynolds
Just before Christmas, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported that a trade for Reynolds would require a starting prospect like Ricky Tiedemann to satisfy the Pirates’ needs. If the price is as astronomical as the gossip around baseball suggests, then we’d assume Tiedemann would be the starting point in a trade for Reynolds.
At that point, you’re facing a fork in the road. I imagine the Blue Jays front office is okay packaging Tiedemann and Orelvis Martinez together, for example, but it’d have to be a logical return. Would the Jays want to punt on their two best prospects for Reynolds, a 27-year-old All-Star with years of control?
The timing would sync up. Reynolds is under team control through 2025 (though he’s pushing for an immediate extension), and Kiermaier could presumably be one-and-done in Toronto, so the 2024 outfield could feature Reynolds in left, Varsho moving to center, and Springer in right field. That’s damn good.
Tiedemann is the key here (Martinez hit for gobs of power in the minors last year but didn’t show enough patience at the dish). Last year, the 20-year-old lefty soared from A Ball to Double A, maintaining top-tiered stats at each level. If Toronto moved Tiedemann now, it could seriously regret the move down the road (there’s a chance Tiedemann helps at the major-league level this season), especially since the club’s pitching prospect depth isn’t super sturdy beyond 2022 first-round pick Brandon Barriera.
Any Blue Jays trade for Reynolds hinges on the “always trade prospects” mentality. Basically, you never know how a guy projects, so it’s best to trade him while his stock is high. With Tiedemann, it’s easy to see (numbers, eye test, etc.) that he has shattered early expectations. Trading him would sting. I’m not doing that if I’m Toronto.
In the end, maybe there’s a middle ground – a Martinez-plus-plus prospect deal could work – but with the current asking price where it is, a Blue Jays-Pirates trade centered around Reynolds doesn’t seem worth it on Toronto’s end.