2022 Cleveland Guardians trade target: OF Bryan Reynolds

Cleveland Indians, Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh Pirates

Bryan Reynolds #10 of the Pittsburgh Pirates (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Guardians will be looking to improve their roster through a trade once the lockout ends, and Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds is a perfect target.

Someday – uh, hopefully soon – the Major League Baseball lockout will end and the sport will get back to business. As the Cleveland Guardians look to move closer to snagging a new minority owner that should help boost payroll in the long term, the team will also be looking to improve the roster through a trade or two.

One such trade that we just can’t stop thinking about over in these parts involves Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds. The 26-year-old is rapidly developing into one of the best young players in the game – you just wouldn’t know it with him playing for one of baseball’s most hapless franchises.

But he’d be a perfect fit in Cleveland, and here’s why.

2022 Cleveland Guardians Trade Target: OF Bryan Reynolds

You’d be forgiven for not knowing much about Reynolds to this point. He’s toiling away on one of the worst teams in baseball, with no real signs of that changing anytime soon.

Regardless of the team around him, Reynolds is putting up some fantastic numbers. In 2021, he hit .302/.390/.522 with 24 home runs, 35 doubles, eight triples (which led all of baseball), 90 RBIs and a 142 wRC+ in 559 at-bats. After a rough go of it in the shortened 2020 season in which he hit just .189, last season was a welcomed return to the kinds of numbers he showcased in his rookie season in 2019, when he hit .314 and had a 130 wRC+ in 491 at-bats.

Defensively, Reynolds put up nine Outs Above Average (OAA) last season, good enough for tenth among major-league outfielders. He’s an elite center fielder, but can play any position in the outfield. Imagining both him and Myles Straw together out there should be enough to get any Guardians fan salivating, but that’s not all. If Bradley Zimmer manages to stick with the team, he produced eight OAA himself last season. That would mean, in this scenario of acquiring Reynolds and rolling with an outfield of him, Straw and Zimmer, the Guardians would suddenly have three of baseball’s top twelve outfielders when it comes to OAA.

That’s the good stuff right there.

But aside from the stellar statistics, Reynolds is an extremely compelling trade possibility for the time the Guardians would be able to control him. He’s arbitration-eligible but won’t become a free agent until 2026, when he’ll be 31 years old and likely commanding a much larger contract than Cleveland will be willing or able to pay if history is any indicator.

But four seasons of Reynolds far outweighs almost any conceivable risk – and that includes trading major-league pitching or especially a top prospect.

That being said, right off the bat (pun always intended), a realistic potential deal could include names like Zach Plesac or James Karinchak. The emergence of Cal Quantrill and Triston McKenzie in the second half of last year, along with the absurd amount of pitching talent in the minor-league pipeline, gives the Guardians some flexibility to consider trading a rotation or key bullpen piece in the interest of finally shoring up the outfield for years to come.

There are, of course, plenty of prospects worth considering in a trade as well. As many people have been writing about for months now, the Guardians have a glut of middle infield prospects knocking on the door of the majors at the same time. Some, like Andrés Giménez, Owen Miller and Ernie Clement, have had cups of coffee in Cleveland, while others – Gabriel Arias, Tyler Freeman, Richie Palacios, Brayan Rocchio, etc. – are getting closer to breaking in. Aside from maybe Freeman, one has to imagine any of those named above would be in play for someone of Reynolds’ caliber.

Clearly, acquiring Reynolds is going to come at a high price. There are plenty of teams eyeing Reynolds, but the Guardians are in the unique position of having plenty of minor-league talent, along with major-league players who could instantly address some of Pittsburgh’s most pressing needs.

If the Guardians are serious about upgrading their roster through a trade while always keeping an eye on the future, they simply couldn’t do better than Bryan Reynolds.