Late Monday, after several weeks of relative inactivity, the Washington Nationals acquired Matt Reynolds from division foe the New York Mets for cash considerations. The Mets designated him for assignment last week in order to create a roster spot for free agent signee Todd Frazier. Reynolds immediately finds himself on Washington’s 40-man roster, occupying the recently vacated spot by Raudy Read, who will serve an 80-game suspension for performance enhancing drug use.
The 27-year-old Reynolds was the Mets’ 2012 2nd round pick from the University of Arkansas who has split the past two seasons between AAA and the majors. The right-handed hitting and throwing Reynolds is a career .279/.346/.396 hitter over 508 minor league games, with 26 home runs and 58 stolen bases. In the majors he has struggled, hitting .228/.300/.351 over only 202 at-bats, along with an alarming 54.6% ground ball rate and a paltry 28.5% fly ball ratio. He works the count, will take a walk and scouts believe there is some thump in his bat, but the predominance of ground balls limits his offensive potential.
Defensively Reynolds is extremely versatile, as he has played each defensive position besides catcher in the past two seasons. He has decent speed and athleticism, along with a solid throwing arm and plenty of #Want, allowing him to outplay his physical tools. He is a below-average defender at the up-the-middle positions (shortstop, second base and center field) and passable at the corner infield and outfield positions. In this era of 12 and 13 man pitching staffs, Reynolds’ defensive flexibility make him a quality 25th man on a National League team.
Obviously it is difficult to quibble with any acquisition that costs only cash considerations, but I do find the trade slightly intriguing – Washington’s offense seems relatively spoken for and the presence of similarly versatile Wilmer Difo, Howie Kendrick and Adrian Sanchez already on the 40-man roster make Reynolds feel somewhat redundant. Reynolds has a minor league option remaining, so the organization is likely targeting him for Triple-A and to act as insurance for the major league roster. In addition, do not be surprised if Washington tries to sneak Reynolds through waivers prior to Opening Day to clear a roster spot while keeping him in the organization.
Overall there is a bit of potential upside with Matt Reynolds if he can learn to consistently lift the ball. Perhaps a change of scenery and a fresh opportunity with a new team, the first of his career, will allow him to blossom offensively. I do not expect this to happen, but understand Washington’s front office gambling that the Mets’ underestimated Reynolds’ long-term potential. Considering the minimal cost, I like this wager for the Nationals.
NatsGM Grade -> B