Brewers eye Reynolds to shore up first base
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Seeking another alternative to fill their void at first base, the Milwaukee Brewers were closing in on a deal Thursday night with free agent Mark Reynolds.
The veteran first baseman/third baseman will get a minor-league deal for now but was given strong indication that he should make the club in spring training. The Brewers have been looking for help at first base since free agent Corey Hart left to sign with Seattle in early December.
Reynolds, 30, who came to the majors as a third baseman with Arizona in 2007 but began seeing time in recent seasons at first base, batted .220 with 21 home runs and 67 runs batted in over 135 games with Cleveland and the New York Yankees last year. He was released by the Indians in mid-August and signed with the Yankees.
Reynolds provides a right-handed option and possible platoon partner for left-handed-hitting Juan Francisco at first base. And, much like Francisco, Reynolds is an all-or-nothing player who has great power but also accumulates huge strikeout totals.
Reynolds set the major-league record with 223 strikeouts with Arizona in 2009 and has struck out more than 200 times on two other occasions. In 3,418 at-bats in the majors, he has struck out 1,276 times while hitting 202 home runs. In that ’09 season with the Diamondbacks, Reynolds established career highs with 44 homers and 102 RBI.
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, who was working out the final details with agent Jeff Borris of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, has said there were no perfect answers on a slim first-base market this winter. With his strikeout issues and defensive challenges, Reynolds is evidence of that, but the pending minor-league deal is a low-risk maneuver by the Brewers and avoids filling a 40-man roster spot.
Reynolds also would provide insurance at third base for Aramis Ramirez, who was limited to 92 games in 2013 by an ailing knee.
The Brewers were making progress in contract negotiations with their two arbitration-eligible players, right-hander Marco Estrada and Francisco.
“The goal is to reach a deal with both players before noon Friday,” said Teddy Werner, the Brewers’ vice president of business development.
Noon is when all arbitration-eligible players still unsigned are required to exchange salary figures with their clubs.
“If you can’t get something done after several days and weeks of negotiations, we’ve taken the position that it’s the end of conversation,” said Werner. “Our position becomes stronger then because otherwise it’s absolutely a guessing game.”
Estrada, 30, is in his second year of arbitration eligibility. He made $1.955 million last year, when he went 7-4 with a 3.87 earned run average in 21 starts, missing two months with hamstring and back injuries. Estrada is expected to receive a raise to more than $3 million in the arbitration process.
Francisco is eligible for arbitration for the first time as a “Super 2” player, meaning he ranks among the top 22 percent of players with between two and three years of service time.
Acquired from Atlanta last June, Francisco, 26, had a $496,250 salary in 2013 and could come close to tripling that figure in his first year of eligibility. He batted .227 last season with 18 home runs and 48 RBI, including a .221 mark with 13 homers and 32 RBI in 89 games with the Brewers. He struck out 138 times in 348 at-bats.
New Toyota partnership
The Brewers announced a multiyear partnership renewal with Toyota that will change the Toyota Territory section on the concourse in right-center from a private group area to a destination open to all fans.
The section will be converted from the previous 24-person private group space to an area capable of entertaining more than 100 fans. Seating and high-top tables will be available for all 81 home games on first-come, first-served basis for 75 people, with a raised area of new Toyota Territory that can hold 30 additional people.