Latest information on Pirates, Bryan Reynolds

Perhaps the biggest off-season story in Pittsburgh was the midfielder saga Bryan Reynolds. The All-Star outfielder requested a trade after extension talks between his camp and the Bucs fizzled in December. The pirates reportedly bid more than the $70 million they guaranteed Ke’Bryan Hayes but the specific numbers involved had been unclear.

The New York Post’s Jon Heyman is now reporting that Pittsburgh presented a six-year offer that would have guaranteed $76 million. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey reported last month that the sides in the negotiations were about $50 million apart, suggesting the Reynolds camp is targeting about $126 million.

Reynolds, 28, has played between three and four years in the big league. He is slated to earn $6.75 million for the upcoming season and will be eligible for arbitration two more times before qualifying for free agency after the 2025 campaign. Sean Murphy, also 28 and working in the same service bucket, signed a six-year, $73 million extension with the Braves in December. Pittsburgh’s offering was right in that range, making it an interesting point of comparison.

It’s fair to debate which of Murphy or Reynolds is the better player. The Atlanta catcher comes off a .250/.332/.426 line in a pitcher-friendly Oakland environment. That took his career line to .236/.326/.429 in 1260 plate appearances, an offense that’s 16 percentage points above the league average as measured by wRC+. Reynolds is a better hitter and owns a career line of .281/.361/.481, which is 26 points above average. Coming from a .262/.345/.461 show in 2022.

That means Murphy has the edge on the other side of the ball. He’s among the best defensive catchers in the game, with a two-way production at a position that’s among the best in the league. Reynolds also plays in the middle but was rated as a below-average midfielder last season. He can play in the middle and would probably be a plus defender in the corner outfield, but that’s less valuable than the elite defense behind the court.

Given the terms of the Murphy extension, Pittsburgh’s reported offer to Reynolds is reasonable. Still, Reynolds had an advantage over Murphy in terms of earning power during her arbitration season, with Murphy’s originally projected $3.5 million Arb salary for 2023 being more than $3 million below what Reynolds will earn. That difference — which stems from both Reynolds’ flashier offensive counting stats and qualifying for early arbitration last offseason as a Super Two player — likely would have held, or deepened, over the next two years if both players went through that process year would have gone through for year . That’s because a player’s referee salaries are generally designed to escalate compared to last year’s level.

Freddie Freeman holds the record for the largest extension among players in 3-4 years of service. The first baseman signed an eight-year, $135 million contract with the Braves nine years ago. Whether the Reynolds camp was trying to beat that figure or just get close to it isn’t clear, although the reported gap in the negotiations suggests they came much closer to that figure than the $76 million the pirates put on the laid the table. While the Reynolds camp might argue that this is an outdated precedent, Freeman presented a safer long-term bet than Reynolds. Freeman was nearly four years his junior at the time of his deal, walking away with .319/.396/.501 in 2013, rivaling Reynolds’ career-best season (.302/.390/.522) in 2021.

After Reynolds turned down the Bucs’ offer and registered his trade request, most of the public attention focused on the possibility that he could switch teams. However, Heyman writes that Pittsburgh remains interested in negotiating an extension. There’s no indication of any plans to resume talks, nor is it known if Reynolds’ camp would even be open to it at this point, but the team’s continued desire for a long-term deal supports the numerous reports of an astronomical request from other teams in trade talks.

The Rangers, Marlins, Yankees, Rockies, Braves and Red Sox have all been at least loosely linked with Reynolds this offseason. All six of those clubs still have some level of uncertainty in their outfield. Heyman writes that Miami, in particular, has been among the most aggressive contenders — continuing a longstanding interest on the part of Pisces that dates back at least to last winter.

The Marlins are planning a move Jazz Chisholm Jr. after the acquisition in the midfield Luis Arraez to man second base. That could lessen any desire to accommodate Pittsburgh’s request, although there’s still room to improve a left field mix that’s likely a combination of Jesus Sanchez, Bryan De La Cruz And JJ Bleday. However, a Reynolds trade this offseason seems a long way off without the Pirates planning to lower their demands as the start of spring training nears.

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