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In what figured to be a slow news day for the Orioles as they travel to San Francisco to begin a three-game series with the Giants on Friday night, the sudden availability of an old friend has sparked debate about a potential reunion.
Cleveland Indians infielder Mark Reynolds has been designated for assignment in what’s been a difficult 2013 season, leaving many to wonder if the former Orioles slugger would be a good fit as the right-handed designated hitter option the lineup has lacked all year. Of course, the Indians are in the midst of their own pennant race and don’t view Reynolds as a viable contributor as he’s hit just .215 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs, with much of that production coming over the first five weeks of the season when he got off to a hot start with his new club. His .680 on-base plus slugging percentage is a career worst by a significant margin.
According to ESPN’s Jim Bowden, the Orioles are interested in Reynolds if Cleveland can secure trade waivers on him, which would be necessary since the non-waiver trade deadline has passed. After a club designates a player, it has 10 days to either trade, release, or place him on waivers in hopes of outrighting the player to the minor leagues.
Since May 7, Reynolds has hit .179 with five home runs and 21 RBIs and has posted an abysmal .532 OPS while striking out 96 times in 267 plate appearances. Always known to be a streaky hitter as many Orioles fans can frustratingly recall, the Indians finally gave up after a three-month slump in which he’s been relegated to the bench for poor play.
The Orioles’ struggles at the DH spot are well documented this season as the position has produced a .210 average with 16 home runs, 46 RBIs, and a .389 slugging percentage, numbers not terribly different from what Reynolds brought to the Indians this year. Rookie Henry Urrutia has been the most recent to receive an opportunity as the DH against right-handed pitching, but he’s shown little power potential while hitting .273 in 44 plate appearances.
Switch-hitting veteran Wilson Betemit began a minor-league rehab assignment earlier this week, but he would only make sense as a DH option against right-handed pitching with his well-documented deficiencies against left-handers.
Currently, outfielder Steve Pearce and catcher Taylor Teagarden are the only right-handed bats off the bench, but a corner infielder wouldn’t provide as much defensive versatility as Pearce. This season, Reynolds is hitting .215 with six homers and 20 RBIs while posting a .745 OPS against southpaws.
Reynolds signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Indians last winter after the Orioles expressed no interest in retaining his services — declining an $11 million club option before eventually non-tendering him — but the 30-year-old was popular in the clubhouse and may feel revitalized returning to Baltimore where he expressed a preference to stay at the end of last season.
His numbers are alarmingly trending in the wrong direction this year after what was already an underwhelming 2012 season with the Orioles, but if he’s simply a waiver claim or the Indians would simply send him Baltimore’s way for cash considerations or a no-name minor leaguer, it might be worth the gamble that Reynolds can get hot for some portion of the final two months of the season.
But if the asking price is any more, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette should aim higher if he’s serious about adding a right-handed DH option to the 25-man roster. Realistically speaking, the executive should be looking to do better regardless of the cost to acquire Reynolds, who seems like more of a fingers-crossed hope than a real solution at this point.
In his two seasons in Baltimore, Reynolds hit .221 with 60 home runs, 155 RBIs, and a .786 OPS in 290 games.