Buster Olney is reporting, and Steve Gilbert has now confirmed, that the first big move of the winter meetings has gone down, and it's the one which we have all been expecting. Pending physicals, Mark Reynolds has been traded to the Baltimore Orioles for relievers Kam Mickolio and David Hernandez. [Update: we're also sending a player to be named later to Baltimore]
More details and analysis after the jump.
Hernandez had a 4.31 ERA for the Orioles last season, but was a good deal better as a reliever, posting a 3.16 ERA in 33 appearances out of the bullpen. Mickolio has spent 25 innings in the majors since 2008, with a 4.32 ERA. Both are hard throwers, and look set to be part of the 2011 Diamondbacks bullpen, though neither would appear to fill the closer role.
Both the relievers received in return seem to be hard-throwing right-handers. Fangraphs lists Hernandez's average fastball at 93.6 mph last season, and that included the majority of his innings appearing as a starter; Mickolio's career average (small sample size warning) was 94.5 mph. Jack Magruder says, "Mickolio hits 95 mph consistently," and describes him as "a 'young' 26 since he began playing baseball in 2001." [If you're wondering why that would be the case, it seems there is no high-school baseball in Montana. Mickolio started off playing for a local American Legion team]
It doesn't seem either man will become the Diamondbacks' closer, at least, not immediately. Mickolio in particular seems to have potential, having struck out 251 in 228.1 minor-league innings, and more than a batter per, during his time in the majors. He had impressive numbers in the Arizona Fall League last month, where he fanned 18 in only a dozen frames, allowing one earned run in that time. That represents a recovery after a poor Triple-A season (6.37 ERA in 30 games), though he may have overmatched AFL hitters, who are mostly from lower levels. He's a big kid - 6'9" and 255 lbs. - so we know one person in the Diamondbacks booth will be pleased with the move. :-)
Hernandez was largely discussed previously, but I'm wondering if there's a possibility we may look to try and convert him back to a starter? Obviously, his value would be a great deal higher in that role, though his performances in the rotation would seem to make that more a challenge than anything. However, the move does seem to strengthen the view that the Diamondbacks are looking to contend in 2012 and beyond, with next season seen as a year when the team will be assembling the pieces rather than seriously attempt to compete, no matter what Kevin Towers may publicly claim.
My instinct is that the move will be a negative one in terms of surplus value for 2011, in the sense that Hernandez + Mickolio will produce less WAR than Reynolds next season. But we have them under control for a lot longer, and they will cost us a great deal less than Mark. Taking a longer-term view of the trade, I can see how it makes sense, though as ever with such things, we won't know for some time how it works out. Opinion is certainly widely-divided among visitors to the 'Pit: at the time of writing, all five option in the poll have solid support, between 15-24%, with "Meh." the currently favored option.
The move will save Arizona more than four million dollars, as Reynolds was set to earn $5 million in 2011 (and $7.5 million in 2012), so one imagines the savings will go towards a closer and/or third baseman, where we don't seem to have an immediate replacement. Steve Gilbert says, "Look for them to make a big push to sign Melvin Mora, maybe swing a deal for Kevin Kouzmanoff and they also will use veteran Geoff Blum over there as well." Nick Piecoro reports we have been in touch with Mora, who had a line of .285/.358/.421 in 2010 with the Rockies. Mora will be 39 by Opening Day next year.
Reynolds has taken the news phlegmatically, as you'd expect, saying, "They didn't give up on me. They wanted to go in a different direction. It's a new challenge." That's certainly the case. Towers said he would address the Diamondbacks strikeout issue, and removing the main "culprit" will certainly have done that: Reynolds is the only man to have over 200 strikeouts in a season, and had done so the last three seasons in Arizona. I will be sorry to see him go: he hit some of the most majestic homers I've ever seen, worked hard on (and improved) his defense, and earned massive kudos for speaking out in the clubhouse a couple of years back.
But no team - especially one that lost almost a hundred games last season - can ever improve by standing still, and I understand the need for change, painful though it sometimes is.