The Padres Could Make a Threatening Divisional Push by Acquiring Bryan Reynolds

A full offseason after they were one of the most aggressive teams in MLB, the San Diego Padres have conspicuously inactive in the trade market and free agency. Is president of baseball operations A.J. Preller intent on landing a big fish?

San Diego doesn’t have tons of financial flexibility as a club with an estimated competitive balance tax (CBT) payroll close to the $230 million threshold. Rumors indicate that the Friars continue to shop veterans Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers. Still, those whispers have existed for months on end, with little concrete evidence to suggest either guy’s departure is imminent.

Alas, Preller could once again rely on the young talent in San Diego’s pipeline to acquire a top bat. But it’ll take a pretty enormous haul to get Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds.

The Padres reportedly have interest in acquiring MLB All-Star and top trade target Bryan Reynolds

Any team trying to nab a quality player from the Pirates will have to pay a premium. The Padres are reportedly willing to explore the costs.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Padres have “engaged in trade talks” for All-Star outfielder Bryan Reynolds, adding that young arms Chris Paddack and left-hander Ryan Weathers are among the names included in the discussions.

It will take more than just Paddack and Weathers.

Set to make about $4.5 million in arbitration, Reynolds has three more seasons of club control before becoming a free agent in 2026. That makes him all the more valuable, considering he’s coming off a career season.

After hitting .314 and finishing fourth in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2019, Reynolds batted just .189 in 2020. But he rebounded last summer, slashing .302/.390/.522 with 24 homers and a league-high eight triples. The switch-hitter finished 11th in NL MVP voting and 11th in FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (fWAR).

The Padres will have to dig into their farm for a player like Reynolds. They’re unlikely to trade top prospect CJ Abrams or left-hander MacKenzie Gore, but the Pirates might demand one of outfielder Robert Hassell III or catcher Luis Campusano to part with their All-Star.

San Deigo’s farm has thinned out in recent seasons with the acquisitions of Mike Clevinger, Yu Darvish, and Joe Musgrove. That said, maybe Preller feels comfortable trading the last bit of prospect depth for a controllable asset who can help the Friars win now and in the future.

Reynolds would give San Diego much-needed production and positional versatility

The Padres got minimal production from their outfield group last season. San Diego’s outfielders ranked 25th in fWAR and 20th in the weighted runs created (wRC+) metric.

Reynolds would instantly galvanize the roster as a guy who can play any of the three outfield spots and has strong platoon splits from both sides of the plate. He posted 142 wRC+ last season and had an OPS of .900 or better against both right- and left-handed pitching.

Additionally, Reynolds improves team defense. According to Baseball Savant, he ranked in the 96th percentile in outs above average (OAA). That’s extremely important, because Jurickson Profar rated as one of the worst outfielders in baseball by OAA in 2021, as did Tommy Pham.

An outfield consisting of Grisham — a Gold Glover in 2020 — and Reynolds would cover tons of ground and help San Diego immensely in terms of run prevention. That makes a dominant rotation (when healthy) look all the better.

The Padres are incentivized to chase a controllable asset like Reynolds as they try to keep pace with a Los Angeles Dodgers team that continues to reload. But why would the Pirates trade Reynolds now?

Foolish for the Pirates to make a blockbuster trade right now

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds collects the ball during an MLB game against the San Diego Padres in April 2021
Bryan Reynolds #10 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action against the San Diego Padres on April 12, 2021 | Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pirates are nowhere close to contending. Still, it makes little sense for the Bucs to trade Reynolds now, much as the Padres might try to persuade them.

For starters, Pittsburgh needs a guy it can hold up as the franchise player. Given the Bucs have young talents like Ke’Bryan Hayes and Oneil Cruz ready to make an impact in 2022 and top prospect Nick Gonzales not too far behind, keeping Reynolds would make for a show of good faith and a sign that the franchise wants to take tangible steps toward contending.

Also: What’s the rush?

Reynolds only just turned 27. He’s under club control for three more seasons after 2022. The Pirates can always trade him further down the line. Even if Pittsburgh’s competitive timeline remains stagnant, it’s possible that Reynolds’ value only goes up if he gets off to another impressive start this season.

San Diego would assuredly become a much batter ballclub with Reynolds in the lineup. He would make the Friars better in every facet of the game.

However, unless the Padres offer the house, the Pirates should refrain from making a trade.

Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.

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