Ryan Sullivan: Is Mark Reynolds part of a shift in baseball thinking?

The Nationals have dealt with an incredible amount of injuries so far in 2018. Certainly, every team suffers with injuries and complaining will not help players heal faster, but as someone recently joked on Twitter, the Nationals could have a .500 club with their roster presently on the disabled list. It is a testament to the performance of the team's reserves that Washington's record currently stands at 26-22 and only three games back of first place in the National League East.

Fortunately for the Nationals, general manager Mike Rizzo and the front office prioritized bolstering the team's depth this winter with several low-key signings. Think about where the team would be without the contributions of Matt Adams, Howie Kendrick and recently, Mark Reynolds. Reynolds has been a tremendous addition to the lineup in Ryan Zimmerman's absence, hitting four home runs in his first eight games.

Last season, Reynolds batted .267/.352/.487 with 30 home runs and 97 RBIs for the Rockies in 148 games. No doubt his offensive performance was aided by playing at Coors Field, but Reynolds does one thing really well - namely hit home runs, as evidenced by his career total of 285. Sure, home runs are increasing rapidly league-wide like WWE stock, but somehow Reynolds was largely ignored this winter.

The fact that Reynolds was still available weeks into the season points towards two things. First, we underwent a strange offseason in Major League Baseball and, depending on your viewpoint, either saw some collusion occur within free agency or a league-wide reset of how teams value players. This is a discussion far above my paygrade.

The second is how the increased usage of relief pitchers has forced the need for more pitchers in the bullpen. Many teams are carrying eight or even nine relievers on their active roster, at the expense of extra hitters on the bench like Reynolds. Middle relievers like Tommy Hunter and Juan Nicasio received impressive multi-year contracts last winter, while productive hitters like Reynolds, Adam Lind and Jayson Werth found themselves seeking minor league offers after opening day.

Major league front offices are filled with smart people and expanded bullpens do make sense, as relief pitchers traditionally post better numbers than starting pitchers. Allowing a manager the option to lift a starting pitcher early for a fresh arm or using a left-handed relief ace to neutralize a difficult left-handed hitter is smart strategy. In order to have a pitcher for these situations, the direct result is teams have prioritized defensive versatility over offensive prowess for the limited bench spots available on the roster.

I am not prepared to say this roster paradigm occurring throughout baseball is a mistake. However, when productive hitters like Reynolds cannot find roles, it feels like teams are rapidly approaching the point of diminishing returns using these expanded bullpens. Perhaps organizations like the Nationals that prioritize acquiring these capable hitters at discounted salaries could be at the forefront of a new version of "Moneyball." Could Reynolds be the next Scott Hatteburg?

Ryan Sullivan blogs about the Nationals at The Nats GM and runs The Nats GM Show podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @NatsGMdotcom. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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