Yesterday, Jon Heyman reported that the Nationals were one of five teams to be interested in free agent infielder Mark Reynolds. Reynolds, who played with Ryan Zimmerman at UVA, is coming off possibly the worst year of his career. Reynolds has never been know as a contact hitter, having led the league in strikeouts since he came into the league in 2007, but what he had been known for was his power. In his 7 year career, Mark Reynolds has hit over 202 home runs, which is the ninth best in the Majors since 2007, and has a career slugging percentage of .464. If the Nationals were to sign Reynolds, he would see a reduced role, as the Nationals already have their starting first baseman in Adam LaRoche. However, Tyler Moore, who is also coming off a bad year, could be replaced by Mark Reynolds. Both players are very similar; both are right handed power hitters who are terrible in the field. I examine who would be better to back or even platoon Adam LaRoche — Mark Reynolds or Tyler Moore?
Both of these players had down years offensively. Mark Reynolds had career lows in almost every offensive category, including slugging percentage, on base percentage, walks, and extra base hits. Tyler Moore’s second year in the majors didn’t go very well for the 25 year old, as every single offensive stat (except for at bats) went down from 2012, most notably, his Slugging Percentage, which went from .513 in 2012 to .347 in 2013. It is hard to compare the two players season, as Moore was used as a bench player, while Reynolds still started in over 120 games. In terms of career production, while taking in effect that Moore has only played two seasons as a bench player, Reynolds has more upside, as he used to be a top major league hitter as recent as 2009, when he hit .260/.349/.543 with 44 home runs and finished 20th in MVP voting.
VERDICT: Mark Reynolds
It is a tough task to choose which one here, as they both are so horrendous defensively. Mark Reynolds is more flashy with the glove, making plays like this one, but he still doesn’t play very well. Both players primarily play first base but also play another position. Reynolds is actually a natural third baseman, but moved to first to accommodate his defensive abilities. Moore, on the other hand, is a natural first baseman, who was “converted” into an outfielder so that he could see more playing time in the Nationals lineup. While both players are just decent first basemen, the are horrendous at there other positions. Statistically speaking Tyler Moore’s career Rdrs/yr (which is the defensive run saved averaged into 1200 innings, or 135 games) of 5 is a whole 14 points better the Mark Reynolds career Rdrs/yr at first, giving him the slight edge.
VERDICT: Tyler Moore
Because of the fact that Tyler Moore still hasn’t reached arbitration, he will still receive a rookie salary of $493,000, making him a very inexpensive option. Mark Reynolds will most likely see at least 6 times that amount. Even though he had a down year, Reynolds will still be worth a lot of money. In order for the Nationals to sign Reynolds, they would most likely have to pay him a little bit more for a reserve role. Reynolds could always take a little less for the chance to play for a contender, but my guess would be he would get at least $4 million a year.
VERDICT: Tyler Moore
In 2011, recently signed first baseman Adam LaRoche went down with a season ending shoulder injury in June, forcing the Nationals in a little bit of a pickle. Luckily for them, they had former Mariner Michael Morse on their bench. As most of you already know, Morse went on to have a career year, hitting .303 with 31 home runs. Now, in 2014, Morse is gone and if LaRoche were to go down with an injury, Tyler Moore would currently be our only option to replace him. Moore hasn’t had more than 178 plate appearances in his major league career. If the Nationals were to add Reynolds, he would give the Nationals a more experienced bat to replace LaRoche. Now, major league teams don’t just sign players for the sole reason of having an insurance policy if one of their players get hurt. If LaRoche were to struggle like he did in 2013, and the Nationals wanted to keep Zimmerman at third, they could always platoon LaRoche with either Moore or Reynolds. Reynolds splits against lefties (.238/.359/.475) are much higher than Moore’s (.222/.276/.383). In fact, Moore has better career splits against righties than lefties. If the Nationals wanted to platoon LaRoche, Reynolds would be the better option.
VERDICT: Mark Reynolds
IS IT WORTH IT FOR THE NATIONALS TO SIGN MARK REYNOLDS?
For now, it is a no. If the Nationals were to sign Reynolds, it would leave Tyler Moore in limbo. While Moore would see more playing time in AAA then if he were in the majors, it is important for Moore to start seeing more major league playing time, as after 2014, with Adam LaRoche gone, Moore becomes the only viable first baseman on the roster. Moore, 27 in January, is getting close to the age where progression stops and regression starts. While some people are late bloomers (Michael Morse, Jayson Werth), Moore will need a lot more playing time in the pros in order to grow and develop; Reynolds would only impede that. Unless something happens in the next week where the Nationals find that the desperately need a Tyler Moore replacement, look for Reynolds to end up somewhere else.