Bryan Reynolds has asked to be traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates. So smart. A player that sharp would be a great fit on a team like the San Francisco Giants, who use brains over brawn to stay competitive. Now, would the Giants actually trade for him?
The outfielder fills a bunch of needs — offense, some defense (though mostly in the corner), and switch-hitting with minimal splits (.856 as LHB and .808 OPS as RHB) — and would be a homecoming of sorts, as the Giants drafted him in 2016. You’ll recall that they traded him for Andrew McCutchen ahead of the 2018 season in a deal that didn’t go bad at all. At the time, Grant wrote on here:
The other part of the deal is Reynolds, the 22-year-old switch-hitting outfielder who hit .312/.364/.462 for the San Jose Giants, and this one could sting. While he has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, and he doesn’t quite walk enough to make up for it, he’s a speedy switch-hitter with a lot of tools and an ability to hit for average. That’s not a small thing, and if he can stick in center field, he might give the Pirates a lot of value over the next few years.
After the disastrous 2017, the Bobby Evans Giants (RIP) were so preoccupied with whether or not they could trade for Andrew McCutchen that they didn’t stop to think if they should, not because McCutchen was a bad player, but that the work ahead of them to rebuild the franchise was well beyond their wildest imaginations.
We’re still seeing the ripple effects of that deal today. It would’ve been a lot easier if the Giants held onto Reynolds, of course, even if there’s no guarantee that he would’ve become the 6-win player he was last season. But this post is about the Giants possibly trading for him, and even if I think it’s more of a possibility than the Giants landing Aaron Judge (and — lol me — that prediction looks to be growing more remote as the Winter Meetings approach), there’s plenty of facts to conclude it’s not happening.
Unless something wild happens at the Winter Meetings.
Reynolds represents cost certainty in 2023 with two more years of arbitration after that. So, team control, plus a virtually guaranteed $20 million or less salary for a potentially perennial All-Star would appeal to two-thirds of the teams, especially those who strike out on Judge, Nimmo, Correa, etc. Would all of that potential compel teams to make offers? Absolutely, but the unusual part that could make a deal even remotely possible would have to be on the Pirates’ side of things.
In that MLB Trade Rumors link I put at the top, it mentions that the Pirates asked for Julio Rodriguez when the Mariners inquired about Reynolds at the 2021 deadline. Yikes! He finished that season with a .912 OPS and placed 11th in MVP voting, so it makes sense that the Pirates were valuing him so high. Coming off a .262/.345/.461 (.807 OPS) season might take some of the wind out of their sails, but unless the Pirates feel compelled to move him, the asking price will be high.
Which is why it’s very unlikely the Giants trade for him. Teams around the league looked at their farm system this past trade deadline and said “lol. lmao.” And even with David Villar ending the season on a strong note and Casey Schmitt emerging around the industry as another dude in their system, you’d have to think the Pirates would start with Marco Luciano and Kyle Harrison (assuming they’d be too cheap to ask for Logan Webb) in any deal for Reynolds. Reynolds isn’t Juan Soto, but an “80% version” of that deal seems plausible.
The Giants don’t really care about Reynolds’ cost certainty, but would they be better off losing two or more draft picks in 2023 signing top free agents who rejected their qualifying offers over trading their few decent prospects for three years of Bryan Reynolds, who turns 28 in January and whose performance they might already be recreating in the aggregate?
Here are four Statcast overviews. See if you can tell which one is Reynolds. Here’s a hint: two of these profiles belong to Giants who will be on the 2023 roster.
Reynolds would provide value the Giants could find on the free agent market for the cost of cash, international bonus pool money, and a draft pick or value that they already have on the roster and could reasonably expect to duplicate with the new rules and some coaching up of players who might’ve struggled last year.
At the very least, they’d need the Pirates to not ask for Harrison or Webb, because I can see a scenario where they move Luciano for Reynolds (if they were to, I don’t know, sign Carlos Correa maybe?). At the end of the day, it would actually cost the Giants less to trade cheap players for low cost players rather than commit $100+ million to a new but older player. I think the part of Moneyball that a lot of us ignored is that the market inefficiency angle is done as a cost-saving measure more than anything. Finding equivalent value for less. And the Giants are definitely in a cost-limiting, performance-maximizing situation (no matter what they say otherwise).
So while it seems as though the Giants actually would be very interested in acquiring Bryan Reynolds, it’ll all come down to the Pirates. He gets much more “expensive” for them in his next two years of arbitration. Will they overplay their hand and hold onto him until this year’s trade deadline, when there’s a risk his performance halves again (6 win player in 2021, 3 win player in 2022), or wait until next year when he’s that much closer to 30?
I think this is the best offseason to trade for him. The peak of his potential to the Giants. At the end of October, Grant predicted the Giants would trade for him, arguing (subscription required):
From the Giants’ perspective, this is a way to get younger and more athletic. His defensive metrics aren’t great in center, but he’d almost certainly make a fine, Mike Yastrzemski-like corner outfielder if needed. And the Pirates probably aren’t in position to extract prospects like Marco Luciano or Kyle Harrison, which would suit the Giants just fine.
Reynolds asking for a trade would seem to suggest the Pirates have a limited bargaining position, but for now, they’re not signaling that.
Here is a statement on the trade request per a Pirates spokesperson: pic.twitter.com/UeZTtyU6D6— Justice delos Santos (@justdelossantos) December 3, 2022
While it is disappointing, this will have zero impact on our decision-making this off-season or in the future. Our goal is to improve the Pirates for 2023 and beyond. With three years until he hits free agency, Bryan remains a key member of our team. We look forward to him having a great season for the Pirates
I don’t think they needed to have the “With three years until he hits free agency” part in there, unless they are trying to signal that their bargaining position is quite strong. A lot of confidence for a team coming off a 100-loss season. Or they could simply be torturing Reynolds Mr. Burns-style:
So, it’ll take something unexpected happening for this to be a possibility, but I think the Giants are ready to jump at the chance. Here are the names for those Statcast overviews:
A. Joc Pederson
B. Brandon Nimmo
C. Bryan Reynolds
D. Mike Yastrzemski
Reynolds improves on Yaz and costs less than Nimmo. The farm system is far from vaunted and if it has any value to the 2023 San Francisco Giants, it’s in this exact way: making it possible for them to trade for a player who helps the major league team right away.