The Pittsburgh Pirates and Bryan Reynolds appear stuck at the 2-yard line in contract extension talks. So, what is the hold up?
I'm sure by now the words Bryan Reynolds and contract talks are getting old for most Pittsburgh Pirates fans. I cannot fathom that there is anyone that doesn't want to see Reynolds stay in a Bucco jersey for the next several years.
So, what is the hold up? Why can't something that both sides want to get done be finalized? MLB.com reported on Opening Day that both sides have agreed on money and years. It would be an eight-year deal worth $106 million, both Pirate records.
As seemingly simple as the process should be now that money and years have been agreed upon, you would think Reynolds could just sign on the bottom line and get this done. However, Reynolds wants an opt out clause following the 2026 season. Why should that be a problem?
Let's look at it from both sides. Obviously, from the Pirates' point of view, if you're going to commit to locking up the man that is currently your best player to a record contract, you would want him to stay for at least that many years, as Reynolds is definitely a player to build a young corps around.
On the other hand, why would Reynolds want an opt out clause to activate so soon after activation? I think the most glaring reason is pretty simple: recent history. The villain in the Pirate story since he took over as their primary owner in 2007 has been Bob Nutting. If fans call him cheap, it's probably one of the nicest things we've said about him.
To ensure your fan base likes and trusts you and your motives, then you probably don't want to do things like trading popular players (Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, for example), taking the inexpensive route, if I am being polite, in signing free agents, and not supplementing a contender with talent (2015 ring a bell?) are not ways to get this done.
Reynolds agent knows Nutting's history, and Reynolds probably knows it, too.
The prime years of Reynolds' career are coming up and he seems happy here. However, Reynolds is a competitor and wants to play for a contender, which the Pirates, with their youthful corps of talent, seem to be on the upswing. Most contenders in the middle of a pennant race need supplements. Also, a financial investment needs to be made with the young talent in the Pirate system.
If the Pirates are in contention in the next three or four years and Nutting pulls another disappearing act in the middle of a pennant race as he did in 2015 and if he lets young talent leave through free agency because a financial commitment was not made, then Reynolds would want an opportunity to jump to a contender.
Despite the money, who would be happy on a sinking ship of a franchise after another contending opportunity was blown because of a lack of front office commitment? Thus, it makes sense that Reynolds and his agents would want that included in the extension.
Perhaps, both sides can meet in the middle and say Reynolds would get an opt-out after four years instead of two. However, if they can't reach a compromise, what's the solution? Even though it's easy to say from a fan's perspective, the solution would be to give Reynolds what he wants and let him opt out after 2026.
The reason why Nutting should do this would be because it would be the largest show of faith he has given his team and his fan base since he arrived here 16 years ago. This would give Nutting one final opportunity to prove that he isn't blowing smoke when he says he wants a winner in Pittsburgh.
If he granted Reynolds his wish and gave him the contract with an opt out following the 2026 season, that would give Nutting until 2026 to make or agree to enough moves like impactful trades and other contract extensions to prove that he is truly serious about building a contender. Then, if he does fail in delivering on that promise, he can allow Reynolds to find a winner of a franchise to conclude his career.
The Pirates and ownership badly need a good PR move. Getting this contract done is a great way to start. Esepcially since it's a move that would also imrpove the team on the field for many years to come.