There are no players on the Orioles, and few in Major League Baseball, perhaps few in the history of Major League Baseball as confounding or as difficult to assess as Mark Reynolds has been. In fact, when it comes to assessing Reynolds’ skill set and therefore his value, the discussion can be downright divisive.
Those who have no tolerance for Mark Reynolds will point to his battles with the Mendoza line and his annual assault on the 200-strikeout plateau as evidence of his not having much of a clue at the plate. The walk numbers that he routinely amasses however seem to tell a different story. Reynolds goes to the plate with an idea of the strike zone, and rarely seems willing to compromise that idea or to cater it to the game situation at hand. His inability to move runners with productive outs seems to stick in the crawls of his bashers, while the resultant lack of double plays provides plenty of fodder for his supporters.
It’s not easy these days to suggest that Buck Showalter is doing much, or anything wrong, when it comes to managing the Orioles. We seem to be in universal agreement (a rarity among baseball fans) that JJ Hardy is misplaced at best in the #2 spot in the order, but even that has given way to the “In Buck We Trust” mantra and mindset. So far though, throughout his Orioles career, Buck Showalter has handled “the Mark Reynolds situation” badly.
Reynolds is clearly not a good 3rd baseman, a reality Orioles fans were forced to face head on last season, and a reality seemingly corrected once Reynolds transitioned to first base last season. Still, for some inexplicable reason, Showalter and the Orioles sent Reynolds home last off-season with the idea (and intention) of sticking him back at 3rd base. They did so, unsuccessfully again, and how much of an impact that has had on the other elements of his game is, like everything else about Reynolds, debatable.
The Photo Shopped pictures of Reynolds eating sunflowers seeds in various comical locales fed the notion (and may have led some to believe) that Reynolds was indifferent to the game going on around him. Others believe Reynolds may care too much and that maybe having to make the throw from 3rd to 1st, across the diamond , had a mental impact on his game and caused him to be less than focused elsewhere. Whether that’s true or not, Reynolds at first base has been at the very least better than serviceable, and lately he’s arguably been pretty good there. And, coincidentally or not, he seems to have picked things up at the plate since being assigned to first as well.
For those who find themselves counting the days until Reynolds’ departure…beware. Reynolds’ contract situation is like all other Reynolds related subjects precarious. He has an $11 million club option at the end of the season, but will also finish 2012 short of the 6 years of MLB service time required to make him a free agent. That would seem to make the Orioles likely to buy out his option and offer either arbitration, or a longer-term compromise of a contract.
As things stand today, Reynolds’ .347 OBP ranks him 25th in the American League. In simpler terms there are only 24 guys in the entire AL this year who are more difficult to get out than Mark Reynolds. Of the 12 guys sitting above him in OBP, about half have anywhere near the power potential Reynolds possesses, in fact only 12 of the 24 players above him have more than the 16 homeruns that Reynolds has in this, a down year for power based on his career standards. Turning Reynolds walks into singles puts him in good company (OBP and power-wise) with guys like Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Josh Hamilton, all of whom are looking down the barrels of $20 million or so per season paydays while Reynolds (at $11 million) is being treated like a plague on the Orioles.