As our offseason coverage kicks into high gear, we’re going to review each significant player on the Nationals roster. We continue today with Mark Reynolds, who joined the club in May out of necessity and wound up contributing the rest of the season.
PLAYER REVIEW: MARK REYNOLDS
Age on opening day 2019: 35
How acquired: Signed as minor league free agent, April 2018
MLB service time: 11 years, 120 days
2018 salary: $1 million
Contract status: Free agent
2018 stats: 86 G, 235 PA, 206 AB, 26 R, 51 H, 8 2B, 0 3B, 13 HR, 40 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 24 BB, 64 SO, .248 AVG, .328 OBP, .476 SLG, .803 OPS, -3 DRS, 0.1 fWAR, -0.3 bWAR
Quotable: “He’s been awesome, and he gets it. Of course he wants to play a lot more. But he gets it, and every time he’s called upon he does something to help us win.” - Davey Martinez
2018 analysis: Despite a 30-homer, 97-RBI season for the Rockies in 2017, Reynolds found himself swept up in the worst free-agent market in years last winter. He went unsigned straight through spring training before finally agreeing to a minor league deal with the Nationals in April. At the time, there didn’t seem to be any significant reason for the Nats to sign the veteran other than having another warm body in Syracuse in case of emergency. And then came the emergency.
When Ryan Zimmerman landed on the disabled list with an oblique strain in May, Reynolds got the call after only 10 games at Triple-A. And wouldn’t you know he made an immediate impact? In his debut for the Nationals, Reynolds went 3-for-4 with two homers, including the go-ahead blast that sent his new team to a four-game sweep over the Diamondbacks. He then proceeded to go on an absolute tear, hitting .432 with six homers and a 1.421 OPS in his first 12 games.
One of the most self-deprecating players in baseball, Reynolds joked from the outset that history suggested he would go into a major slump after that crazy-hot start. And sure enough, that’s what happened. Reynolds went 3-for-46 over the next month, and though he had mini-bursts here and there, he never came close to again producing like he did during that torrid first two weeks.
Zimmerman’s return from the DL in July relegated Reynolds to mostly pinch-hitting duties. But when Matt Adams was traded to the Cardinals in August, Reynolds found himself getting more starts as the backup first baseman to Zimmerman (his old college teammate at Virginia).
2019 outlook: If Reynolds was unable to secure a major league contract last winter on the heels of a 30-homer season, what are his odds this winter on the heels of a far less-productive season? Not that the veteran doesn’t still provide something to big league clubs. He’s just going to have a hard time convincing teams to commit to him before they’ve explored other, more notable options.
From the Nationals’ perspective, there doesn’t appear to be a place for Reynolds in 2019. They will again be looking for a backup first baseman, but they’ll almost certainly want that backup to be left-handed to serve as a more appropriate complement to Zimmerman. And they’ll want that backup to be capable of playing every day over long stretches if Zimmerman lands on the DL.
Reynolds proved to be a more significant contributor to the 2018 Nationals than anyone would have expected at the time. But there doesn’t appear to be much reason to think he’ll be a contributor to them again in 2019.