Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds has been linked to the Yankees for years. There are trade target posts from the past that prove it. However, he was in his pre-arbitration years and a deal was always unlikely … until now.
See, this is the moment in which the Pirates start getting that itch to trade a high-profile player: when he starts to get expensive. Reynolds signed a two-year, $13.5 million contract that covered two years: 2022 and 2023. What about 2024 and 2025? Those are his second and third arbitration seasons, and he probably won’t be a Pirate by then.
Theoretically, since he is signed to an affordable salary for the 2023 campaign, Pittsburgh could keep him for another season. But this might be Reynolds’ all-time high in value because the acquiring team would have a relatively cheap year out of him before the cost starts going up in arbitration. If they are not keeping him, which they probably aren’t considering they have dealt Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, Josh Bell, Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove, Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Corey Dickerson, and Francisco Liriano since 2017, the perfect time to trade him is now.
The Pirates recently released their promo schedule for the 2023 season, and Reynolds is nowhere to be found. Oneil Cruz (still in his pre-arbitration years) and Ke’Bryan Hayes (recently extended) are now the “faces of the franchise,” with bobblehead nights and other things. Much like the Los Angeles Angels left Shohei Ohtani out of their promo schedule after July, the Pirates had no place for Reynolds, who comfortably led the team last year in home runs (27) and wRC+ (125).
Conspiracy theories aside, it goes without saying that Reynolds would fit in the Yankees like a glove. He is young, at 27, has a potent bat, is cheap and controllable, and can play center field in a pinch even though he clearly is better suited to a corner.
He had his best season in 2021, when he hit .302/.390/.522 with 24 home runs, 93 runs, 90 RBI and a 141 wRC+ in 646 plate appearances. He was not too shabby this year either, hitting .262/.345/.461 with 27 round-trippers and a 125 wRC+. Between the last two campaigns, he has accumulated 9.0 fWAR. When he is at his best, Reynolds is a gap hitter with plenty of pop to all fields and a solid batting average floor. He is a switch-hitter with no obvious platoon disadvantage (127 wRC+ as a lefty, 120 as a righty), so he is an obvious lineup fit for the Yankees. He is not an all-out slugger and has plenty of contact ability.
He can also do this from both sides of the plate:
Bryan Reynolds con su bombazo #27 de la temporada. pic.twitter.com/3Yo86VdoiZ— Los Piratas (@piratasbeisbol) October 2, 2022
Bryan Reynolds conectó su segundo jonrón del juego y llega a 20 en la campaña.— Roberth Pérez (@RoberthEperez17) August 19, 2022
Sigue siendo, por lejos, el jugador más interesante de los Piratas de Pittsburgh.#MLB #Letsgobucs pic.twitter.com/zkUCgGZxeg
Defensively, he took a gigantic step back this season. In 2021, he covered center field and had -5 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and 10 Outs Above Average (OAA). This year, he was at -14 and -7, respectively — that won’t cut it, but with Harrison Bader in the fold, he might not be required to play center as much.
His Statcast profile shows he hits the ball hard, but also showcases his defensive issues in 2022:
The one thing that makes this deal particularly unlikely is the fact that the return package would be significant, clearly more than the Yankees would probably feel comfortable paying. The Pirates, understandably, would ask for the moon, and the Yankees might not be willing to part with their best young players.
They do have a need in left field, though, and Reynolds is the type of impact player who can help them take the next step. Aaron Hicks has been below-average for a couple of years now and Andrew Benintendi is a free agent. They could always plug Oswaldo Cabrera there if Aaron Judge returns, but there is space in the lineup and the roster for Reynolds.