The Cardinals pulled their first fish out of this year’s free agent waters on Thursday, by inking first baseman Mark Reynolds. Reynolds, most recently of the Milwaukee Brewers, was a specific target for the Cardinals this winter and his acquisition came to fruition finally today. He agreed to a one-year deal with financial terms yet to be disclosed.
The club entered the off season with a specific need to get a more varied offering from the first base position, after Matt Adams struggled against left-handed pitching again in 2014. As well, there was a pronounced focus on adding more right-handed power to a bench that struggled to find a consistent source of productive depth over the last few years behind its front eight.
The 31-year-old Reynolds is coming off a year where he hit 22 home runs and drove in 45 runs for Milwaukee, while carrying a .196 average. In his career he is an owner of seven consecutive 20 home run campaigns, highlighted by a 44 homer breakout in 2009. Easily capable of significant outburst of power and run production, Reynolds represents a potential find in both of these areas for a team that finished towards the bottom of the NL in both areas. However, he also comes with obviously easy points to detract from as well, as his alarmingly low batting average showcases. So why don’t we go head and extol those areas first and get it out of the way, okay?
Mainly, he strikes out, a lot. It is truly done at an epic rate. He strikes out at such a frequent pace that it has become virtually impossible for him to play every day. He has never had a season where he made 500 plate appearances that he did not notch at least 150 strikeouts, highlighted by the four year run where he led his league in k’s, checking in at 204, 223, 211 and 196 from 2008-11. In his 4,380 plate appearances, 1,398 of them have ended with a strikeout, a 31% overall clip.
That is a prodigious number that is undeniably a red flag. And it is also clipped by the fact that he carries a .229 career average and .324 on-base percentage. Now, the OBP is not particularly horrifying, as he is somewhat adept at drawing walks as well. However he will be the classic example of an edge of the seat option; if he makes an impact, it is either all or nothing.
Now the benefits of it all. All in all, he is a minor disciple of the Adam Dunn School of True Outcomes: homer, walk or strikeout. But in regards to the role he will be asked to man in St. Louis, that is okay. Barring substantial injury to Adams, he is not going to be asked to be an everyday presence, and in the event that he was, he could fit comfortably into the bottom half of the lineup with some regularly and not cause a catastrophic change to the team’s potential.
The one trick pony at the plate brings a quietly diverse element to the overall picture when his potential with the glove is brought into consideration too. While Reynolds considered to be an above-average first baseman, he is versatile enough to shift across the diamond as well if needed. With the non-tender of Daniel Descalso earlier this month, there was a void in who could back up Matt Carpenter if needed as well.
The Cardinals are devoid of many free swingers, which also can play into why they are devoid of very many home runs as well. In 2014, the Cardinals finished with both the fewest strikeouts in the NL (1,133), as well as the fewest home runs (105). Additional of Reynolds is sure to create an upswing in both categories, which creates an increase in a need category, as well as an increase in a manageable negative area. It is the definition of giving some to get some.
All in all, the move to grab one of the few clear cut options on the open market that can increase the team’s potential is a solid, if not spectacular one. But the Cardinals are not in need of spectacular moves, they are in need of finding finishing touches. When tasked with rounding out a roster, there are some edges that have to be covered with not the smoothest all-around options. If Reynolds stays par the course of his usual tendencies (whilst keeping the extremes in check), he offers a definitely needed solution in an area that had few answers last summer.