Cleveland finally adds right-handed bat in Mark Reynolds

Jim Piascik

Now that Mark Reynolds agreed to become Cleveland’s first baseman for 2013, Chris Antonetti and Terry Francona finally have a right-handed power hitter for the middle of their lineup.

Reynolds, 29, is not the flashiest move Cleveland has been working on in recent days. He is a definite step below Nick Swisher, Cody Ross, or an Asdrubal Cabrera trade, but Reynolds is a move in the right direction.

In Reynolds, Cleveland is filling a gaping hole at first base. After the Casey Kotchman failure last season, the team decided to acquire someone with actual power. No one will be mistaking Reynolds for Kotchman in the batters’ box in 2013, as Reynolds averages over 30 home runs per season.

Of course, that power comes with a price. Reynolds strikes out almost a third of the time he goes to the plate (32.6 K percentage) and struck out over 200 times in three separate seasons. That number of strikeouts has only been eclipsed five times in baseball history and Reynolds is responsible for three of them.

This high number of strikeouts makes it impossible for Reynolds to hit for a high batting average. Reynolds is a career .235 hitter, which is not a number associated with a difference-maker on offense. Despite his power, Reynolds can never carry an offense.

What Reynolds can do is help an offense, though. He pairs that power with a pretty high walk rate (11.9 BB%), which keeps his on-base percentage at a serviceable level. Taken as a whole, Reynolds’ .235/.332/.475 line is above-average and will really help.

Reynolds is an absolute butcher at third base, but he has been signed to play first base. If Francona is smart, he will burn Reynolds’ third baseman’s glove in front of him on the first day of Spring Training, just to reinforce the fact that he is never allowed to play there again. With Lonnie Chisenhall lined up to start everyday at third base, Reynolds should be safely kept away from that position.

The early reviews of Reynolds’ defense at first base are strong, so it seems like he will not cause his team to hemorrhage runs like he did at third base. Average defense with his power this move will give Cleveland its best first baseman since Jim Thome. Between Kotchman, Ben Broussard, Ryan Garko, Matt LaPorta and the rest of the questionable first basemen Cleveland played since Thome left, Reynolds could finally bring some decent stability to the position.

Even if Reynolds turns out to be a below-average player, he is only signed to a one year deal. Despite a contract that will earn him $6 million in 2013, Reynolds is a risk worth taking. He cannot turn into an albatross with a one year deal and he is fairly cheap considering the prices this offseason.

With the Dodgers willing to spend money like there is no tomorrow, $6 million may look like a bargain by the time the offseason is over. At the very least, there is one less hole on the roster and a little extra wiggle room to patch left field and the starting rotation.

When adding to a team that only won 68 games, every little step helps. Signing Reynolds will not win a championship, but when paired together with other shrewd moves, it can make a difference.

Contact Jim Piascik at [email protected].