ST. LOUIS -- The lack of power, specifically home runs, plagued the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals squad. GM John Mozeliak is hoping to remedy that problem with not only Jason Heyward, but also the newly aquired big bat, Mark Reynolds.
The Redbirds had the worst homer total in the NL at 105, and finished second to last in the MLB beating only the Kansas City Royals.
"When you see such a power outage, anyone that can show you they can get the ball over the fence has some value," Mozeliak said, "Look at the bats off the bench that we've been rolling out the last few years and [Reynolds is] certainly a different face and approach."
Last year's bench names included Peter Bourjos, Oscar Taveras, Daniel Descalso, Mark Ellis and, in limited time, Randal Grichuk. That platoon of players accounted for 12 home runs. None of those options gave manager Mike Matheny the ability to frighten another team's manager, let alone an opposing bullpen.
The 31-year-old Reynolds, on the other hand, blasted 22 balls out of the park last season in 130 games for division rival Milwaukee. In seven of his eight MLB seasons, he's cranked out at least 20 home runs. Yet, his role on this team will look drastically different to which he is accustomed. If Matt Adams stays healthy and drives the ball out of the park, Reynolds will be limited to a supporting role.
"I don't know what the year will look like," Mozeliak continued, "Every year something happens that maybe you didn't expect. He's looking at the ability to fit into so many different roles that Mike can get him some at-bats."
Reynolds has averaged playing in 156 games a season and before signing with the Cards, the right-handed slugger said he was well aware of what his role might look like and welcomed the opportunity. He had other offers besides the Cardinals, some clubs had even offered him a minor league deal, but Reynolds said coming to St. Louis was a no-brainer.
"In my career I'm at the point where I want to be on a contender," Reynolds said, "I had other opportunities at places where I could have played a little more, but on paper it didn't look too good for the postseason. It's my first year accepting this kind of role so I'm going to have to find my routines. I'm at the point where I want to win. October baseball is awesome and I want to get back there."
In potentially limited plate appearances, Reynolds will need to cut down on his strike-out rate. The MLB average in strike-out percentage, according to Baseball Reference, is just under 19 percent. Reynolds fanned nearly 29 percent of the time last season.He lead the NL in strikeouts from 2008 through 2010, although his strike-out percentage has steadily dropped with each season. However his 2014 totals in home runs, walks and extra base hits each exceed the MLB average.
"I used to [worry about my contact rate]," Reynolds added, "Getting older now, not too many guys have had strings of seven seasons with 20 home runs, so I'm doing something right. I would like to not strike out so much. I feel like I compromise some stuff if I do that. If there's two outs and nobody on base and I have two strikes on me, I'm not going to try to choke up and hit a ground ball. I'm trying to drive one to the gap, get in scoring position or hit a home run and I don't want to compromise that for weak outs."
Being a known commodity, it's likely Matheny will turn to Reynolds as the first guy off the bench unless his play forces Matheny's hand.
"I'm definitely not here to ride the pine all year," Reynolds said, "I want to play as much as possible. I want to try to make it tough on Mike to keep me on the bench. I want his decision tough. I'm by no means accepting a bench role, but at the same time if that's what happens I'm fine with it."