What a difference a few weeks can make. All offseason, All-Star outfielder Bryan Reynolds made it known that he wanted a trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates. And you couldn’t really blame him, with the team mired in last-place with no real end in sight — and seemingly no real desire to pump money in a payroll that ranked among the lowest in baseball.
Flash forward to the end of April, though — with the red-hot Buccos sitting atop the NL Central at 16-7 in large part thanks to Reynolds’ five homers, three steals and .872 OPS — and all of a sudden Pittsburgh doesn’t seem like such a bad place to be anymore. Reynolds and the team are reportedly in agreement on an eight-year, $106 million contract extension that not only buys out the outfielder’s arbitration years but will (hopefully) keep him in Pittsburgh until 2030 or so.
BREAKING: Outfielder Bryan Reynolds and the Pittsburgh Pirates are in agreement on an eight-year, $106.75 million contract extension with a team option for 2031, according to sources familiar with the deal. It includes a form of no-trade protection.— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) April 25, 2023
The deal represents a record amount of money for the Pirates, blowing Ke’Bryan Hayes’ eight-year, $70 million extension from Opening Day last year out of the water. Perhaps most crucially for Pittsburgh, the deal includes a modified no-trade clause that should finally put to rest several months’ worth of drama.
Reynolds and the Pirates first engaged in contract talks last December, with the outfielder looking to avoid arbitration after posting a 128 OPS+ and making an All-Star team over his first four seasons in the Majors. But he and the team were so far apart — as much as $50 million, according to some sources — that Reynolds demanded a trade. Not even a personal sit-down with Pirates owner Bob Nutting in Spring Training could bridge the divide.
But what seemed like another lost season amid an endless Pittsburgh rebuild has started to resemble something else: a contender. With Reynolds leading the way with his usual steady production, Andrew McCutchen back swatting dingers like it’s 2013 and hot starts from unknowns and castoffs like outfielders Jack Suwinski and Connor Joe and starters Johan Oviedo, Mitch Keller and Vince Velasquez, the Pirates enter this week’s series against the Los Angeles Dodgers riding a seven-game winning streak. The vibes right now are immaculate:
Win the game, celebrate with Pirates Pikachu pic.twitter.com/EV8PH9V4pD— RobBiertempfel (@RobBiertempfel) April 21, 2023
Can this team compete over a full season? It’s unlikely, of course, given the track records at play here. But still, the fact that the Pirates have shown a pulse — and boasts one of the sport’s top farm systems, with instant-impact talent like Termarr Johnson and Endy Rodriguez waiting in the wings — was enough to convince Reynolds that Pittsburgh was the place he wanted to be for possibly the rest of the 28-year-old’s career.
There’s no way to make amends for nearly a decade of the mismanagement and microscopic payrolls that have characterized Nutting’s ownership of the team, but showing a willingness to pony up for homegrown star is certainly a good start to getting fans back to PNC Park.