In OBJECTIVELY evaluating Reynolds to decide whether to exercise his 11M option for next year I still see him as an AVERAGE defender at 1B; however, I think he has been trending up from there over that last month or so. The fact that this comes as the games have become more important says a lot for the makeup of the man.
In fact, I would rate his CHARACTER has being his best tool; ahead of his bat and glove. His ML career has been as a 3B, and that position would give him the best value on the open market. He was aware that he was a POOR 3B and listened to whomever told him last year that he would improve his defense at 3B if he lost weight. He came to spring training this year about twenty pounds lighter. That's no small accomplishment, but he wanted to help his team and that shows his dedication to his teammates.
Even though the weight loss helped his existing skill set at 3B it didn't improve the holes in his game there enough to make him even league average there. He has always had a good first step, now it was a MUCH better first step. His extension had been average at best, now it was above average. He has always been good about grabbing the balls near his clove and that hasn't changed. I really think his problems with throwing across the diamond have been that he has too long to think about it from 3B. In watching him last year I remember how the Mark Reynolds reacting from instincts was a much more accurate thrower than the Mark Reynolds that had the time to set up and throw.
The move to 1B allowed him to capitalize on his strengths and mitigate his weaknesses. He's always had a good glove so scooping balls near him was a simple adjustment. Most of his throws now have to be by instinct because there just isn't time to methodically set up first; so what was a weakness in his game is allowed to become a strength. His much improved first step allows him to make plays on the balls hit near him. The reason I still see him as an AVERAGE defender at 1B is that when he lost the weight he didn't also focus on improving his second and third steps.
To be worth 11M TO THIS TEAM he needs to increase his range at 1B to make up for the inconsistency of his bat. If he can take thirty runs off of the board with his glove during the season it would be no different than adding those same thirty RBIs to his own production. He has clearly shown that he's a good teammate so I believe he could improve his defense at 1B if he makes it a goal this winter.
The other issue I have with Reynolds is the streaky nature of his bat. When he's hot he can carry a team as he's shown this past month; but when he's cold he's a dead spot in the lineup. ALL hitters go through slumps (except maybe Mike Trout) but the really good ones learn how to contribute even then. Reynolds tries to pull almost everything. When he's on it's a high lite reel. When he's not it's three Ks in the box score and strikeouts almost NEVER produce any benefit to the team. If he would simply start hitting the outside pitches he can't pull to the opposite field he could easily add thirty or so hits to a 600 AB season, which would probably be worth at least twenty RBIs. I believe I saw a stat that showed he had an average of well over .300 when he put the ball in play. With his strength he could just flick the bat out and push the ball over the 1B's head into RF. Once the league learned that Reynolds could hurt them like that pitchers would have to look for another way to get him out and that would almost certainly mean he would see more pitches in his "happy place".
Frankly, I think he's just more comfortable at 1B and that confidence has been reflected in his play.
If Mark Reynolds would make BOTH of those adjustments THEN he would be worth 11M or more, and I would prefer to keep THAT Mark Reynolds than look for another player to fill his position. We already know what a great teammate THIS mark Reynolds is. His willingness to make a move to help his team that might hurt his value to the rest of the league makes a strong statement about him.