When Yankee fans found out about Alex Rodriguez‘ hip surgery last December, Mark Reynolds was one of the more popular options available at third base. Though his defense at the hot corner hasn’t been rated too kindly by any measurement, Reynolds has a history of destroying the ball in Yankee Stadium. Over his career, Reynolds has carried a .232/.326/.561 slash in the Bronx, as well as a .917 OPS while playing the Yankees. Management ultimately decided to go with Kevin Youkilis in December, but through 7 months of countless corner infielders for the Yankees, Mark Reynolds has found his way on to the team.
With Alex Rodriguez due for a suspension in 2014, and little to no chance that Youkilis will reprise his role as the team’s starting third baseman, Reynolds is one of the few quality bats available. Next year’s crop of third basemen include Reynolds, as well as Yuniesky Betancourt, Eric Chavez, Jerry Hairston Jr., Brandon Inge, Placido Polanco, Juan Uribe, Kevin Youkilis, and Michael Young. This is an incredible unappealing crop of free agents, a list filled with aging and injured mediocre players. Uribe and Chavez are the only two to have above average seasons at the plate, but the 35 year old Chavez has already seen two DL stints and Yankee fans are very familiar with his injury woes. Meanwhile, Uribe is a complete wild card, a player who is capable of hitting 20-25 home runs, as well as his 2 home run performance in 2012.
Ultimately, Mark Reynolds might strike out too much and he might be a below average fielder, but he’s at least consistent. For a Yankee team riddled with injuries in 2013, it’s unlikely that a roster full of injury-prone and aging players could take a gamble on more inconsistent lottery tickets. With Reynolds, a team knows what they’re getting. The corner infielder has been on the disabled list once in his career, an oblique strain in 2012. Even at the plate, he’s annually put up performances around his 108 wRC+. Starting in 2007, his wRC+ has been 109, 97, 127, 96, 117, 108, and now 94 in 2013.
Now with the Yankees, the third baseman is not just another healthy body on the field, but he’s showing versatility. When the Yankees needed a second baseman on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, Reynolds stepped up and played there for the first time since his rookie season. Reynolds was primarily a short stop in the minor leagues, and he’s told Joe Girardi that he has enough experience to play the middle infield, the corner infield, and the corner outfield spots. Though I wouldn’t want to count on Reynolds to replace Robinson Cano in 2014, this type of versatility and ability to stay on the field is important for a team that will be full of 30 and 40 year olds.
And with just a handful of plate appearances, Reynolds has been no slouch at the plate. Granted, it’s been just 37 plate appearances thus far, but he’s already hit 2 home runs, walked 3 times, and doubled. Even his 384 plate appearances with the Indians that led to his release were far from bad. His unimpressive .680 OPS in Cleveland looks terrible, but with ballpark factors taken into account, the 92 wRC+ would have been a major upgrade for a Yankee team that’s averaged a 61 wRC+ at third baseman in 2013.
As we enter the last month of the season, it’s hard to tell what this team can do competitively. They would have to go through an incredible hot streak to make the playoffs. Regardless, there will be a number of interesting players to watch in September, players that will affect the 2014 season. Knowing what the free agent market looks like for third baseman, this could be Reynolds’ tryout for next year.