September 22, 2014

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Chris Assenheimer: No need to rush into long-term deal with Mark Reynolds

With Mark Reynolds under a one-year contract and launching home runs on a regular basis in his debut season with the Indians, there has, not surprisingly, been talk of signing the slugger to a long-term deal.

Whoaaa, horsey!!!

That’s not how the Dolans do business. It took them years to spend substantial money in the offseason. They certainly aren’t going to — excuse the pun — Dol-e out a bunch of guaranteed cash to someone for multiple years just for looking like he’s going to be an elite run producer for seasons to come.

Have you ever heard of Travis Hafner?

The Dolans got burned big time when they signed off on a lucrative contract extension for Hafner, who resembled the second coming of Albert Belle, but wound up injury plagued and unproductive for the majority of the multiyear deal.

Sure, the Dolans shelled out some money to sign Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, two proven veteran commodities, but I’m thinking ownership is probably a little gun shy where Reynolds is concerned.

And in this instance, I’m actually on board with the frugal gourmets, who have cooked up two playoff appearances over a 13-year regime — one of them coming when they actually had a competitive payroll during their second season in charge.

One month of hot hitting does not a long-term contract make, especially not where Reynolds, a notoriously streaky hitter, is concerned.

Yes, he’s leading the American League with 12 home runs and ranks in the top three with 37 RBIs, but we’re talking about a lifetime .235 hitter who has led the league in strikeouts four times during a six-year career. He’s on an extended hot streak now — batting .268 — but Reynolds has already shown he is prone to a slump, entering Saturday with just six hits in his last 37 at-bats (.162).

He has proven he will hit you 30-plus homers, accomplishing as much three times already. But Reynolds is also the same guy coming off a season in which he only hit 23 and batted .221.

Nothing against Reynolds, who is a genuinely good guy and has certainly earned his $6 million salary so far, but I just don’t see the urgency to lock him up long term.
Teams rarely — especially the Indians — negotiate long-term contracts during the season, and Reynolds is already with his third club in his seventh season. The first two obviously didn’t see a long-term fit.

Let’s at least wait until the All-Star break before clamoring to get Reynolds more cash. If he’s still tearing it up and open to negotiations, go for it. But right now is not the time.

The argument for trying to sign Reynolds long term is that if, in fact, he does wind up having a monster season, he will undoubtedly price himself out for the Indians on the free-agent market next offseason.

I guess that’s a risk I’m willing to take. Besides, if he is an integral piece to a successful puzzle for Cleveland this year, the Dolans just might surprise fans and step up again in the offseason.

That’s not a likely scenario, but to lock up a player based on what he’s done over the first 40 games of the season is never the right route.

Revisit the subject in July and see where Reynolds stands.

FAN FRENZY

Props to Indians fans for finally showing up to the park Friday night.

Granted, much of the boost in attendance had to do with a Dollar Dog promotion and postgame fireworks display, but for at least one night Progressive Field resembled the days of, well, Jacobs Field.

It was a loud crowd which filled the stadium almost to the rafters, and it celebrated a walk-off win.

Of course, the following day, without cheap wieners and free pyrotechnics, the Indians, who rank last in the majors in attendance, drew just over 17,000.

The Indians are in first place through one quarter of the season. If this is truly a Tribe Town, we’ll see evidence of it the rest of the season.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.