On the last day of the MLB Winter Meetings in San Diego, the St. Louis Cardinals filled what most would call a need by agreeing to a one-year deal with right-handed power hitter Mark Reynolds. According to the Post Dispatch's Derrick Goold, the contract consists of a perfectly reasonable $2 million base salary with incentives based on playing time. Well, if all goes as planned in 2015 (i.e. continued good health for Matt Adams), Reynolds will have two complementary roles: 1) a power bat off the bench as a pinch-hitter and 2) a modified platoon partner at first when tough lefties are on the mound. I bring special attention to the word "modified" in role number two for Reynolds because I still believe Adams needs a considerable amount of at bats against lefties, especially those who do not necessarily have deadly splits.
In Ben's post on Reynolds yesterday, he mentioned the most obvious flaw associated with Reynolds' hitting—"his penchant for swinging and missing." I don't need to regurgitate those numbers, just know that they are not pretty. Unfortunately, at this stage in his career, it is very unlikely that this aspect of his game improves all that much. However, given the two roles he should have with the 2015 Cardinals, that's fine. Desirable? Not really. But, manageable and acceptable? Absolutely. Let's take a look at some of the value Reynolds can potentially provide in 2015:
Career ISO graphs
Overall (RHPs and LHPs)
Overall, Reynolds has seven zones with ISOs above .250. Not to be overlooked, he also has three zones in which his ISO is over .200 but less than .250. He swings and misses a ton, but when he makes contact, especially on pitches in the strike zone and on the inner half, the ball goes a long way.
Versus LHPs only
As you can see, against lefties, Reynolds has six zones over .250 and four at or above .200 but less than .250. Overall, his punch against lefties doesn't appear as good as one would think, but he still has power nonetheless. Plus, when looking at the on-base percentage component, his career BB% is considerably higher versus lefties than righties (14.9% versus 10.3%), and his K% is lower, especially of late (28.4% versus 33.2%).
If you feel career numbers aren't accurate because of the possibility that his skill set is on a rapid decline, then feel free to check out his overall ISO graphs from the following time frames as well: 2011 to 2014, 2012 to 2014, and 2013 to 2014. All of the graphs are pretty clear, though, I promise. On pitches in the strike zone, especially down the middle and on the inner half, Reynolds powers his way to a ton of extra-base hit success. (For those unfamiliar with ISO, anything above .200 is considered "great" and anything above .250 is considered "excellent.")
League average pinch hitter in 2014
Cardinals pinch hitters
versus Reynolds in 2014:
Since 2011, the Cardinals have mustered only 9 regular season pinch-hit home runs (three by Adams, two by Jon Jay, and one by Lance Berkman, Allen Craig, Randal Grichuk, and Kolten Wong) in 1,025 plate appearances (895 at bats). That is one home run every 99 pinch-hit at bats. Now, I realize the following comparison is not entirely fair given that it's comparing an everyday player to a collection of pinch-hitters, but for Jon "Singles" Jay's career, he's hitting one home run every 77 at bats (28 HRs in 2,146 ABs). Hence, it is safe to say the bench has been essentially powerless since 2011 (.092 ISO, 25.6 K%). For what it's worth, in 38 career PH ABs, Reynolds has three home runs—clearly an extremely small sample but very much in line with his modus operandi, especially at this phase of his career.
While I would have liked to have seen 27-year-old Xavier Scruggs get his shot, this deal makes a lot of sense for the Cardinals. Could Scruggs have provided exactly what Reynolds will provide? Yes, he could have. Yet, this is all based off potential and the projection of his power bat from the minor leagues. Reynolds has been hitting home runs at the big league level for eight years now. In fact, he has averaged one home run every 20 at bats over the course of his career. Scruggs, too, has averaged one home run every 20 at bats, but the big difference is that his have all occurred in the minor leagues thus far. There is no guarantee that this over-the-fence power will translate to the next level.
At a $2 million base, the mere threat of a home run (or a strike out, of course) should provide immediate excitement for late-inning pinch-hitting opportunities. The ability to tie a one-run game with no runners on base is something the Cardinals have sorely missed in recent years. Reynolds should be able to provide this type of power, and if not, let him go. It's that easy.