The Pittsburgh Pirates have dealt with so many injuries to their outfielders this season that they have been forced to play a game of musical chairs, starting nine players.
When Corey Dickerson returns from a 60-day stint on the injured list, however, the Pirates will have a crowded outfield. It’s unlikely they will carry five outfielders for the remainder of the season.
Regardless of what moves are made, there should be a seat reserved for Bryan Reynolds.
When the Pirates lost a pair of Gold Glove winners in left fielder Corey Dickerson and center fielder Starling Marte to injuries, they were prompted to promote a minor leaguer best known for being a return piece in the Andrew McCutchen trade and one who had played only 13 games at the Triple-A level.
And the returns have been impressive.
Reynolds immediately proved that he can hit major league pitching, tying Gregory Polanco’s club record with hits in 11 consecutive games to start his career.
Not only does Reynolds lead all rookies with a .346 batting average and .404 on-base percentage, but those numbers also are the best on the Pirates, and his .549 slugging percentage and .953 OPS rank only behind Josh Bell.
The switch-hitting Reynolds is riding a 14-game hitting streak entering Friday’s game at Milwaukee.
Reynolds hasn’t hit as well in eight games in the No. 2 spot in the batting order (.286/.342/.371) as he did in 16 games at No. 5 (.328/.379/.492), despite batting in front of a hot-hitting Marte. And if there’s a real knock on Reynolds, it’s his play in the field.
But defense can be improved. Dickerson is proof. Hitting is the toughest thing to do in baseball, and Reynolds is a natural with a smooth swing and calm approach.
The Pirates should resist the urge to send Reynolds to Indianapolis. Triple-A pitching wasn’t much of a challenge for Reynolds before his call-up as he was slashing .367/.446/.735 with five homers and 11 RBIs with the Indians.
Where the Pirates need help is on their pitching staff. They could deal from a position of strength and trade a veteran outfielder to a team in need, like the Philadelphia Phillies.
A better alternative would be to shop Dickerson, given that he’s making $8.5 million and will be a free agent next year.
Trading Marte is another option, in the final guaranteed year of his contract, with the Pirates holding club options at $11.5 million in 2020 and $12.5 million in 2021, but he’s their only center fielder. Melky Cabrera is on a one-year deal but has provided veteran leadership for the Latin players in a young clubhouse.
Regardless of what happens, Reynolds has shown that his bat belongs in the majors.
The Pirates should save him a seat, even if it’s on the bench.