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Yankees potential trade target: Bryan Reynolds

The Pirates are always open for business, and though injured, the intriguing Reynolds could interest the Yankees.

New York Yankees v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Pirates inhabit part of Major League Baseball’s perpetual underclass by failing to invest in paying their homegrown players and not sacrificing their firstborn for perpetual competence like the Tampa Bay Rays do (this is a joke). As a result, the Pirates are often open to trade any of their players who might become too expensive before they feel like they have the pieces to make a limited run to the playoffs.

With a paltry 39-54 record and .419 winning percentage, Pittsburgh is definitely not in postseason position this year, and the idea of them making it in 2023 seems pretty far-fetched, too. This all makes their center fielder, Bryan Reynolds, both an intriguing option and a hard sell for the Yankees.

Reynolds is only 27 years old, and he has played primarily center field in 2022, with some corner outfield in previous years. The switch-hitter has had a pretty good offensive season so far, batting .261/.343/.465 with a 127 OPS+ in 83 games. Those are excellent numbers (in the context of this season), especially when considering the fact that he has hit 15 home runs.

Unfortunately, Reynolds’ fielding has regressed this year. From 2019-2021, the Vanderbilt product had provided positive Outs Above Average according to Baseball Savant. In particular, he provided 10 OAA in 2021. During the current season, he has produced -5 OAA from the center field position.

That being said, Reynolds has gone on the injured list a couple of times this season. He went on the IL in April, and he is currently on the injured list with a right oblique strain that will probably keep him out until the start of August. It is possible that he has been trying to fight through the injury and has thus done poorly as a fielder. It’s hard to know for certain, but that could certainly explain the discrepancy between 2022 and past seasons.

Bryan Reynolds 2022 MLB Percentile Rankings
Credit: Baseball Savant

Looking at some of Reynolds’ advanced stats, there are some troubling issues which might make him an unappealing trade target. One particularly concerning issue is the fact that he has 15 actual home runs while his expected home run total is only 11.5. This indicates that he has run into some luck when hitting the ball in the air (though that’s not a bad thing if he’s a Yankee and playing half his games at Yankee Stadium). This is borne out by his inclusion in the bottom third of the league in barrel percentage and bottom half of the league in average exit velocity.

In addition, Reynolds has a worse than average strikeout percentage and chase rate. However, he still has good patience at the plate with an ability to use his speed and spread the baseball around the field to get hits.

Bryan Reynolds 2022 Hits Spray Chart
Credit: Baseball Savant

This all stands in contrast to Reynolds’ superlative 2021 season. During the last campaign, Reynolds was at the top of the league in many categories and made his first career All-Star team. His .302/.390/.522 triple slash stats all stood in the top 12 percent of the league. The 24 home runs he hit might seem relatively low, but he still provided fairly decent pop. He did all of this while providing excellent defense from the outfield, with outs above average in the top four percent of the league. 2021 could have been a career year for Reynolds or it might indicate his true talent level. It’s hard to know which is true, and makes targeting him somewhat of a gamble.

FanGraphs has Reynolds under contract for just $13.5 million during the 2022-23 seasons before he becomes arbitration-eligible again in 2024 (he signed a two-year contract to preemptively avoid the issue next offseason). He does not hit free agency until after 2025.

With the reasonable wages for this year and next, the Pirates are likely not going to rush to trade him. They have no reason to get rid of him while his value is low due to a somewhat down season. Most likely, Pittsburgh GM Ben Cherington would only trade Reynolds for a king’s ransom. He has many years of control and has proven himself to be a very good player.

If the Pirates want to rid themselves of some salary and get limited prospects back, Reynolds would be worth targeting. Paying a premium for a player who is currently injured with a debilitating oblique injury in a down year, however, does not make a ton of sense. This just does not look like a good match — for now, anyway.