Originally written on B-More Birds Nest  |  Last updated 10/23/14
Yesterday, the Orioles made one contract move, as they exercised their $1 million option for right handed reliever Luis Ayala. Ayala – his inherited runner track record aside – was damn impressive out of the bullpen, pitching to a 2.64 ERA in 66 appearances. However, it was the option that the club declined that has Birdland all atwitter today. In a move that was widely expected, the club opted not to pick up the $11 million option on first baseman Mark Reynolds. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the 29-year old wont be back in 2013. In fact, Mark would prefer to stay. “I love playing in Baltimore. I have a lot of friends on the team. I love playing for Buck and I love being in the city. Hopefully, I’m in a win-win situation here so that if they do want me back, hopefully we can work something out and I’ll be back playing for Buck and the O’s.” The team can either take Reynolds to arbitration, or non-tender him and attempt to sign him as a free agent to a new contract. However, as Eduardo Encina points out, that may be risky if they really do want to keep him. Reynolds said Wednesday he’d have to test the waters if he was non-tendered, and even though I believe Reynolds is true in saying he likes playing in Baltimore, allowing him to become a free agent is a risk. The first baseman free-agent crop isn’t great. Carlos Lee is 36. Carlos Pena is 34. Both are coming off horrid seasons. James Loney’s stock has fallen dramatically. Adam LaRoche, coming off a Gold Glove season in which he hit a career-high 33 homers, will be the cream of the first-base crop if he doesn’t re-sign with the Nationals. Nick Swisher can play first, but he figures to get a multiyear deal and he might not be a fit for the Orioles’ clubhouse. So Reynolds might be one of the best available first basemen in the free-agent market, especially now that he’s established himself defensively at the position. While there aren’t too many teams looking for first basemen, the Orioles might be forced to offer a multi-year deal to retain Reynolds if they allow him to go on the market. Personally, I’d like to see the team bring Reynolds back. While some fans (and I count myself in this group sometimes in the heat of the moment during games) pull their hair out over his strikeouts, the fact remains that even this season – a down year for him power-wise – he still led the team in walks and had the second highest OBP of any regular (.335 to Nick Markakis’s .363). For a team that struggles mightily to get on base – the Birds were 11th in the AL in OBP – and whose GM is an OBP guy, jettisoning one of the few guys on your squad who knows how to take a walk probably isn’t the best way to improve. And if Mark is serious about wanting to say in Baltimore, I think we have to assume that he’s finally let go of his whole “I still want to play third base” thing, right? With Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy (sporting his first Gold Glove), the team is set on the left side of the infield. And as well as Reynolds played at first this season, one has to think that he’ll only get better. So, Mark Reynolds – come on back at say, $7-9 million per year for 3 seasons? I’ll take it. Plus, how can you not love this guy? (0:34)
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