There are certainly more realistic trade targets out there for the Cleveland Indians, but Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds might just be the perfect one.
So what would it take to acquire him?
Reynolds, 26, is a true budding superstar for the Pirates, but, unfortunately for Pittsburgh fans, his prime years will most likely be wasted on a team with no chance of contending - unless he’s traded. It’s a tough position for Pittsburgh to be in, but this is the reality the team finds itself in, so it might as well entertain offers.
Because of Reynolds’ contract situation – he is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility in 2022 – and stellar offensive numbers, the Pirates should be able to command a relatively hefty return. Reynolds is currently hitting .302/.389/.518 with 17 home runs and 54 RBIs and a 145 wRC+ in his third season, with experience at every position in the outfield.
Essentially, he’s the exact player the Cleveland Indians have been trying to insert into the lineup for years.
In terms of what to offer Pittsburgh, let’s start with Gabriel Arias, the 21-year-old infielder at AAA Columbus. Arias was the one of the key components in the Mike Clevinger trade with the San Diego Padres, and he’s currently hitting .258/.341/.410 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs in 217 at-bats with the Clippers. Given his age and high ceiling (a shortstop with power is always enticing), Arias would be a perfect fit for Pittsburgh.
It’s understandable to scoff at trading Arias, who has rocketed through the Minors and is currently on the cusp of the big leagues at just twenty-one years of age. But the Indians have a plethora of middle infielders in the farm system and they just simply aren’t going to be able to keep them all. Arias might be the best of the bunch, but in this scenario, it’s hard to see a deal for Reynolds working without him included.
The Pirates are also desperate for pitching, and there are a lot of arms in the Indians’ farm system. Though if Cleveland is parting with Arias in this scenario, a deal for Reynolds wouldn’t likely include any of the system’s top arms – guys like Daniel Espino, Ethan Hankins, Tanner Burns, etc. Because of Cleveland’s ongoing ability to develop elite pitching, it’s highly unlikely it would part with any top pitching prospects no matter what.
But in order to land Bryan Reynolds, the Indians would have to part with somebody high on the prospect charts. And, again, for the amount of control they’d have on Reynolds – he isn’t a free agent until 2026 – the team could stomach parting with a highly touted player like Arias.
If Cleveland was utterly opposed to trading a prospect like Arias, a more realistic option might be to unload talent from the lower levels of the farm system. Because Pittsburgh is hurting for talent all over the field, the Pirates might be enticed simply by volume. Four or five prospects – probably at A-ball and below – could do the trick.
One name that really stands out there? Jhonkensy Noel, a 20-year-old power-hitting first baseman (and possibly third baseman), who is currently tearing it up with the Low-A Lynchburg Hillcats, picking up right where he left off after suffering a sprained ankle in June. In 80 at-bats with the Hillcats, Noel is hitting .375/.400/.750 with eight home runs, six doubles and 27 RBI. Like many other players with raw power like this, the right-handed Noel will have to cut down on his strikeouts and develop more plate discipline, but the potential is certainly there.
If the Indians are looking to move players who are further away from making an impact in Cleveland, Noel could be an enticing trade chip.
That being said, the Pirates still sit in the enviable position of not having to do anything with Reynolds. It’s more likely they will have to be utterly blown away to make a deal, whereas a player like Adam Frazier might be a far more realistic target.
The Indians have been building up one of the better farm systems in baseball over the past few years. In order to start contending sooner rather than later, they might have to dip into that well. As of now, there are few players out there that make more sense to do so than Bryan Reynolds.
Bio: Steve DiMatteo has covered baseball for the Associated Press, MLB.com, and a variety of other publications, and currently hosts the California Penal League Podcast, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts.