Alternatives to Beltre: Mark Reynolds, Alex Gordon

July 10, 2010 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada - 10 July 2010: Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre.

Reports are spreading that the Oakland Athletics have already offered free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre a five-year deal worth upwards of $64M and that his agent, Scott Boras, is using Torii Hunter’s five-year, $90M deal as a comparable for what Beltre should expect.

Yikes.

It has already been reported that the Red Sox would cap their offer to Beltre to four-years and $52M.

Say goodbye to your 2010 all-star third baseman.

This is something Fire Brand expected to happen from the get-go this offseason. Beltre had such a great year and is so far and away the best available third baseman this winter that he is going to get a mega contract, one likely beyond anything the Sox were willing to offer. At this point, Sox fans should be thinking about other alternatives.

Should the Sox move Kevin Youkilis back to third base, there would still some interesting first base options out there. Paul Konerko, Carlos Pena, Adam LaRoche, Lance Berkman and Derrek Lee are all available and some (Berkman, Lee) may come on the cheap. However, there are no guarantees when it comes to signing these free agents. Konerko has been linked to Arizona, Baltimore and his former club, the White Sox. The Nationals are said to have serious interest in Carlos Pena, who combines power and plus defense. Quite frankly the other names on the list are a bit less appealing. If all else fails, the Sox may have to turn to the trade market to fill their needs. There are a couple of interesting buy-low opportunities out there that the Red Sox could look into.

New Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers is looking to eliminate some of the strikeout-prone bats from the 2010 team. He already declined the option on first baseman Adam LaRoche (30.7 percent strikeout rate), is fielding offers for 23-year-old Justin Upton (also 30.7 percent strikeout rate) and is said to be looking to move 32 home run bat Mark Reynolds, who struck out in a whopping 42.3 percent of his plate appearances. While Reynolds doesn’t exactly fit the Red Sox mold in terms of defense and plate discipline, he does do one thing extremely well and that is hit the long ball.

Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds breaks up a no-hit bid against Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez with a three-run home run during the sixth inning at Coors Field in Denver on July 5. 2009. (UPI Photo/Gary C. Caskey) Photo via Newscom

Reynolds only hit .198/.320/.433 in 2010, but he did draw a walk in almost 14 percent of his plate appearances and posted a .234 ISO, which ranked him in between Alex Rodriguez and Adrian Beltre. The thought here is two pronged. First, there is a chance that Reynolds takes a better approach in 2011 given his lack of success in 2010. Second, no matter what, Reynolds is going to hit a lot of home runs, especially in Fenway. If the Sox have runners on base in front of him, he could add to a bunch of big innings.

There are negative risks involved, of course. Reynolds strikeout rate has worsened for four straight seasons. If that continues — it’s hard to fathom him actually getting any worse — he could end more rallies than he contributes to. The fact that the Green Monster would be looming over his front shoulder could also make him a bit too pull happy – - though that may actually be a good thing if he can pepper the wall or go over the wall with some frequency. Also, as has been well documented, Reynolds is not much of a defensive player at all. If the Sox were to add him via trade, he’d likely be shifted to first base with Youkilis at third.

The contractual obligation the Sox would acquire is actually not too bad. Reynolds is owed only $5M in 2011 and $7.5M in 2012 with an $11M club option in 2013 that comes with a $0.5M buyout. As it so happens, the Sox will more than likely have a spot opening up at designated hitter in 2012, where it seems Reynolds is destined to end up sooner or later in his career. In essence, they’d only be dealing with his defensive problems for one season. If things did’t work out in 2011, the Sox could probably eat most of his 2012 salary in a trade.

Reynolds does have a limited no-trade clause in his contract of which the details are unknown.

Then there is a former top prospect that has fallen on hard times…

The Royals are apparently fielding offers for left fielder Alex Gordon. The second overall pick in the 2007 amateur draft, Gordon has failed to live up to expectations in Kansas City while spending much of each season bouncing between Triple-A and the bigs. However, some of Gordon’s rate stats have been trending up over the last few years and the 26-year-old still has some upside in his game.

April 25, 2010: Third basemen Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals on deck during a game against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.

Gordon has always done a good job of drawing walks. His career minor league walk rate is 14.6 percent and he has drawn walks in 10 percent of his major league plate appearances. If he can raise his AVG, we could be looking at an OBP around .350 per season. The AVG, however, has been a problem. Gordon has not fared well against left handed pitching in the big leagues — he has a .214 in 420 at-bats. That split stat did improve slightly from 2008 to 2009 before the Royals had him spend most of 2009 and 2010 at Triple-A. In the last two years, Gordon only has 109 at-bats against left-handed pitching at the big league level.

There may not be a lot of room for Gordon to improve on his strikeout rate, but he did show a better contact rate and chase rate in 2010. In 1442 career major league at-bats, Gordon has a 20 percent line drive rate. Those three factors shed an optimistic light on Gordon  improving in the AVG department.

Between Triple-A and the majors last season, Gordon hit 22 home runs and he has the skills to be a 20-home run threat at the big league level. At this point, he needs the every-day opportunity and probably a change of scenery.

While Gordon was transitioned to left field with the Royals, he could still conceivably play third base again and he has experience at first base as well. That would give the Sox options. They could try Gordon at third and move him to first if his instincts have been lost at the hot corner. They could also have him as a backup plan should injuries strike the current outfield.

Contractually, Gordon made $1.15M last season and only has about 2.2 years of major league service time. He’s cheap and under team control.

The third base market is thin and Adrian Beltre is going to take advantage of that. He may have already priced himself out of the Red Sox range, but if he doesn’t return to Boston, all is not lost. Mark Reynolds and Alex Gordon represent some creative alternatives that won’t cost the Red Sox a lot of money and years of commitment like the upper level free agent market would. As a matter of fact, it may be more beneficial to go the trade route as the free agent market has already shown itself to be inflated for the first time in a few years (see: Buck, John and Benoit, Joaquin).

Are Reynolds and Gordon plan A type of options? Not at all. But things don’t always go according to plan. At least each player has significant upside as am alternative option and should come fairly cheap.

Categories: Adrian Beltre Alex Gordon Boston Red Sox Mark Reynolds

Charlie first started writing about baseball back in 2008 when he opened Fantasy Baseball 365. Since graduating college with a degree in English, he has spent time coaching baseball as well as working in several minor league front offices. He also writes for The Outside Corner and contributes to Project Prospect and ESPN's Sweet Spot. Writer from August 3, 2010 - May 6, 2012

18 Responses to “Alternatives to Beltre: Mark Reynolds, Alex Gordon” Subscribe

  1. Chugg November 18, 2010 at 6:24 AM #

    Maybe there's more to Reynolds than I know, but I just don't get it. He hit .198 last year and strikes out a ton and some think he'd be a decent replacement for Beltre? Lowrie is a lot better than that.

    • Darryl Johnston November 18, 2010 at 7:44 AM #

      Yeah he K's like nobody's business! Great run creator though and can seriously mash but I'd take Lowrie in a heartbeat over him.

      • Dale Sams November 18, 2010 at 9:06 AM #

        Thank you Darryl, I was just going to post that people keep forgetting Lowrie. I'm willing to chance that the Lowrie we saw last year is the real McCoy.

        • Charlie Saponara November 18, 2010 at 9:43 AM #

          I see Lowrie at SS. The Sox have put Scutaro on the block and apparently he is already drawing interest. Lowrie's bat would play much better up the middle.

    • Charlie Saponara November 18, 2010 at 9:48 AM #

      "Maybe there’s more to Reynolds than I know, but I just don’t get it. He hit .198 last year and strikes out a ton and some think he’d be a decent replacement for Beltre?"

      Pretty sure I explained this in the article.

      How quickly people forget that Reynolds hit .260/.349/.543 with 44 HR the year before last. Just as we couldn't take what he did in 2009 as being etched in stone for the future, we can't look at his 2010 numbers and think he'll do exactly that in 2011 and beyond.

      • Charlie Saponara November 18, 2010 at 2:35 PM #

        Also, how quickly we forget that Adrian Beltre from 2007 to 2009 averaged a .269 AVG and .317 OBP. In 2010, His .331 BABIP was his highest since, you guessed it, 2004, the last time he was in a contract year. Beltre’s best two season came in his two contract years. To assume that he is going to put up his 2010 numbers again is being a bit short sighted.

        • went9 November 18, 2010 at 12:04 PM #

          Wasn't '09 also a contract year for Beltre?

          • Charlie Saponara November 18, 2010 at 1:18 PM #

            Injured for most of the year (shoulder), but yes.

  2. Darryl Johnston November 18, 2010 at 8:08 AM #

    I like Reynolds as he’s another power/patience profile. He suffered on his hit-rate last year, but that K rate was just dangerously bad. Once his HR/f% came back to Earth, you knew he was in jeopardy with the ~60% CT.I wouldn’t mind seeing him in Boston though if the K-rate could at least hover at 35% or better.

  3. ecp November 18, 2010 at 9:45 AM #

    You really don't want Alex Gordon to play third base. Go check the defensive metrics. Career UZR -4.3. Career +/- is -10. Revised Zone .689 (that's bad). He'll hurt you out there. The Royals moved him for good reason.

    Surprisingly, however, he's been pretty good in left field and has a real strong arm.

    • Charlie Saponara November 18, 2010 at 8:03 PM #

      Some weird sample sizes on the defensive metrics due to shuttle between AAA and MLB. Though I’d tend to agree. Youk’s flexibility is the key there.

  4. Bob November 18, 2010 at 3:19 PM #

    I wouldn’t pay Beltre $64 over 5, I’d definitely much rather take Reynolds at a cheaper price and use the money saved to re-sign Victor. Better yet, Reynolds can probably be had for relatively cheap given his down year he would hit a ton of bombs at Fenway although he is a defensive downgrade. K rate is worrying, but he walks a lot and the power is hard to ignore, not a bad replacement at all, definitely wouldn’t expect him to hit .198 again.

    • Charlie Saponara November 18, 2010 at 5:53 PM #

      “I wouldn’t pay Beltre $64 over 5, I’d definitely much rather take Reynolds at a cheaper price and use the money saved to re-sign Victor.”

      Agree.

  5. Gerry November 19, 2010 at 12:25 PM #

    Good research on interesting options, either of whom could work out at Fenway. My money is still on Lowrie for 3b, Cam in LF with Kalish/Reddick by mid-season and maybe even Linares whose story is as compelling as Nava’s and whose bat could quickly put him at the head of the line; and Anderson at 1b. Each one comes with 20HR potential and above average defense. Even so Gordon would still be appealing if he has any AAA time remaining to help him get consistent in the Sox system.

  6. chris November 19, 2010 at 7:00 PM #

    I love our prospects as much as anyone, but the 2011 Sox are in serious trouble if they are running out a starting lineup with Lars, Reddick, Linares, and Lowrie at corner positions.

    • Gerry November 20, 2010 at 2:34 AM #

      Agree. I don’t see the Sox starting Kallish, Reddick, Linares, Nava or Lars, Navarro, Iglesias or even Doubront come April, but I am happy they will be available later in the year if needed, and would be happier if Gordon joined them in this capacity while he puts it back together.

      I am excited about a surgically repaired, healthy Cam in LF for 2011. He may not hit his 2xMVP form again, but in Fenway’s LF he could add a 4th GG, and be an offensive force with 20+HR, 35 doubles/triples, while striking out less than Rogers or Gordon.

      At 3b, I am pulling for Jed Lowrie. You’ve seen him play, so you know his glove, arm, range & instincts at 3b are strong. You’ve seen his amazing bat in 2007, early ’08 before his wrist broke and late ’10 after recovering from wrist surgery and what used to be called the “kissing disease”. You also know he played hurt for most of 2008 and his brief 2009 from ONE (just ONE) injury that should have been surgically repaired in 2008. You know that despite the high ankle sprain he had in MiLB he missed so little time that he was a team leader in G & PA that season. So he’s a tough one. You also saw his power increase as he matured, not just his 2010 HR’s, but his increase in doubles and his effectiveness with RISP. You also know that Bill James projects the offensive #’s of Lowrie & Beltre to be virtually the same in 2011. IMO, Youk is one of the best 1b in baseball and should stay there. What an assett. If you agree, I wonder why you would think the Sox are in trouble if Jed Lowrie is at 3b instead of Reynolds or Gordon?

      • chris November 20, 2010 at 4:12 PM #

        Agree 100% on Jed and Youk at the corners. And I will bleed from the eyeballs if I see Reynolds or Gordon in a Sox jersey next season.

        Regarding Bill James’ projections of Beltre relative to Lowrie… In light of the ongoing Beltre negotiations, aren’t these projections somewhat suspect given James is on the Sox payroll? I hope he is right, but it warrants mentioning.

  7. jvwalt November 21, 2010 at 1:44 AM #

    Youk is one of the best 1B in the game, but he’d be much more of an asset at 3B. Assuming, of course, that he can field the position. Haven’t seen stats, but he came up as a third baseman and he’s not that old.

    Move Youk to 3B, he’s one of the best in the business. Maybe even the best, with A-Rod showing signs of age. Youk’s better than Longoria, I would argue.

    But the big reason to move Youk is that it’s a hell of a lot easier to find a first baseman than a third baseman. There are a lot of good, solid first basemen out there — any one of whom would be better than Reynolds or Gordon or Pedro Feliz or whoever else you could name. Lance Berkman, anyone?