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Taking a Swing at a Mark Reynolds Trade

Mark Reynolds’ skill set is one of the most combustible in the majors and this season he busted more than he boomed. That Kevin Towers is supposedly looking to shear some strikeouts from his new roster means Reynolds is almost certainly on the market. Those familiar with Towers’ dealings, like Padres fan Marc Normandin, suggested as much moments after Towers took over. If such presage comes to fruition, then we should witness one of the most interesting trades in recent memory.

The 26-year-old third baseman is due $5 million next season and is under team control through the 2013 season at a cost of roughly $23.5 million. Towers’ trade partner may only be concerned with the next season or two if acquiring Reynolds to push his team over the top, but assume that Reynolds’ performance over the duration of the deal is under the microscope. What are we to make of his prospects?

Reynolds fans a lot. In 2007, he broke onto the scene striking out 35.2% of the time. That number has increased in each subsequent season (now up to 41.9%) and even those who refuse to trust trends over weighted averages have to admit the roof on Reynolds’ strikeouts sits uncomfortably high, even in an era where high-power, strikeout-heavy hitters are romanticized more than ever before.

Finding a comparable is difficult. Dave Kingman struck out a lot, but as much as Reynolds has over such an established length of time. Adam Dunn strikes out a lot and yet his career average (32%) would represent a career-low for Reynolds. Rob Deer might be the truest comparison and his career took the form of a downward spiral after turning 27.

How do other teams evaluate Reynolds? Do any teams view Reynolds as Dunn with fewer walkways and more holes in the wall? Does any team hold a belief that their hitting coaches and instructors could work tirelessly with him and curb his hackitude? Do they view him as a two-win player with four-win potential, or as something more with league-average downside?

There is a lot of risk involved in each aspect of a Reynolds’ deal. The acquiring team risks Reynolds flaming out while on their payroll. Without knowing the suitors or the asking price, the opportunity cost does not lend itself easily to speculation.

The aforementioned Normandin – who knows Towers’ tendencies about as well as anyone in the analytical community – suggests that Towers would probably take a stack of arms the other organization considers disposable. Think the Jake Peavy deal, which lifted a burdensome contract from San Diego’s books while allotting four usable arms into the system.

Towers runs the risk of angering the portion of his new fan base with their minds on home runs and runs batted in, while also placating those with phobia of strikeouts. To complicate manners, Towers has no obvious heirs in his cabinet and a parched free agent class presents few temptations. There’s a chance the D-Backs could run with filler at third base next year which means they would probably want at least one player near the majors in order to avoid a total public relations meltdown if/when the new third baseman failed to lace up Reynolds’ offensive boots.

Occasionally a trade becomes a microcosm for the player involved. This is one of those cases, as a Reynolds’ deal stands a good chance of becoming a homer or a strikeout.