The Colorado Rockies acquired infielder Ryan Wheeler from the Arizona Diamondbacks today for the services of left-handed relief pitcher Matt Reynolds. The move completes the team’s 40 man roster, adds depth to an already lengthy list of corner infielders, and sends away a sturdy but sometimes underwhelming left handed reliever.
One way to look at this trade is in terms of the often overused, sometimes overrated term: “upside.” The Rockies know Reynolds’s upside, or lack there of, from his time on the team for the last number of seasons. A late draft pick in 2007 (20th round), Reynolds was a pleasant surprise when he first arrived in the 2010 season, getting hitters out with great efficiency over the course of 21 appearances. While the goodwill was still prevalent, Reynolds was regarded as a versatile lefty who was not limited to left-handed hitters, but could get right-handers as well and therefore save his manager some moves. But then, over the next couple seasons he became a lefty who couldn’t get left-handed hitters but always got right-handed hitters. Then, ultimately, he became a solid but underwhelming and replaceable left-handed pitcher.
If one wanted to express skepticism about the trade, they might note that it is always difficult to justify trading a left-handed relief pitcher. They might also note that the Rockies added depth at positions where they already have a wealth of players, even if none of them are necessarily a perfect fit. At third base that would be Jordan Pacheco, Chris Nelson, and the young Nolan Arenado. At first base it is Pacheco, Tyler Colvin, and Michael Cuddyer in the mix for the position, depending on when it is vacated by the legendary Todd Helton.
Wheeler might have been unspectacular in a brief stint with the Diamondbacks this season, but he still carries a much more intriguing upside than Reynolds does. After all, Reynolds was never a world beater as a 20th round pick. Whether Wheeler works out and meets his potential or not, it is well worth the risk from the Rockies’ perspective.