The status of Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds is one of the top storylines of the offseason’s second half. Trade rumors surrounding the former All-Star are nothing new and they returned last month once Reynolds asked the club to deal him.
That trade request came after talks about a long-term extension between his camp and the Pirates fizzled out. The precise numbers under discussion at the time aren’t clear, although Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported the club put forth an offer that would’ve topped the franchise-record $70MM guarantee that Ke’Bryan Hayes had secured last spring. Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette shed further light on the talks as part of a reader mailbag this week, reporting that Pittsburgh’s offer was roughly $50MM shy of what Reynolds and his representatives at CAA had sought.
That’d set a floor of approximately $120MM for Reynolds’ asking price, although it’s possible his camp was aiming higher than that. It’s not known how far above $70MM the Bucs offered. Mackey writes that Pittsburgh’s proposal involved fewer seasons than the eight years Hayes received, although Reynolds would obviously have pulled in more on an annual basis. That’s unsurprising considering Reynolds now has two more years of major league service than Hayes had at the time of his deal.
Reynolds, who turns 28 later this month, has between three and four years of big league service. He’s under contract for $6.75MM next season in what would’ve been his second year of arbitration. In the absence of a long-term deal, he’ll go through the arbitration process twice more before hitting free agency over the 2025-26 offseason.
Six players in that service bucket have signed extensions topping $70MM, with Sean Murphy joining that club last week. Just two players in the 3-4 year service class have reached $120MM, with Freddie Freeman holding the record on his $135MM deal with the Braves from the 2013-14 offseason. Freeman was nearly four years younger at the time of his deal than Reynolds is now and coming off a .319/.396/.501 showing in 2013 that rivals Reynolds’ career-best season from 2021.
Given the age discrepancy, one could certainly argue Freeman was a better long-term bet than Reynolds would be, although it’d also wouldn’t be surprising if the latter’s camp wanted to approach or beat that precedent. After all, the Freeman extension is now nearly nine years old. Matt Olson landed an eight-year, $168MM extension with the Braves going into his age-28 season last year. Olson was a year closer to free agency and coming off a .271/.371/.540 showing that topped Reynolds’ .262/.345/.461 mark from 2022. Reynolds seems unlikely to reach the heights Olson secured for those reasons, but that more recent deal leads credence to the idea the Pittsburgh outfielder had a case to easily beat nine figures.
That seems mostly theoretical so long as Reynolds remains a Pirate. There’s no indication the sides plan to reengage on a potential long-term deal after talks collapsed. However, it’s at least possible another club swings a trade for the center fielder and subsequently looks to reopen extension discussions.
Pittsburgh has maintained they don’t plan to move off a very lofty asking price in trade talks, Reynolds’ request notwithstanding. The Vanderbilt product has no recourse to force a trade. Jon Morosi of MLB.com suggested late last month Pittsburgh was targeting a high-end pitching prospect at the center of potential trade packages. It’s hard to imagine they’d rigidly require a deal being built around a young arm, although that at least serves as the latest reaffirmation GM Ben Cherington and his front office continue to aim high.
Nevertheless, Mackey suggests there’s a good chance the Bucs pull the trigger on a Reynolds trade at some point in 2023. Pittsburgh is still amidst a rebuild, and Reynolds is their most appealing trade candidate. They’re not under much financial pressure to make a move, although there’s certainly a case for the club to seriously entertain offers both this offseason and at next summer’s deadline — particularly now that hopes of an extension seem to have evaporated. Assuming he has another productive season, Reynolds would still have ample trade value by next offseason, although it’s unlikely Pittsburgh will find much stronger interest than there’ll be over the coming months considering his window of club control will only shrink.
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