CLEVELAND -- The Indians' need for right-handed power in their lineup has become glaringly obvious over the past few seasons. If only for one year, Cleveland believes it has found a solution.
On Sunday evening, the Indians agreed to a one-year contract with corner infielder Mark Reynolds, sources told MLB.com. Reynolds will presumably take over as the Tribe's first baseman and will earn a base salary of $6 million, with another $1.5 million available in incentives. Pending the completion of a physical, an official announcement will likely come within the next few days.
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti could not be reached for comment.
This seemingly takes the Tribe out of the running for free-agent infielder Kevin Youkilis, who has a one-year contract worth $12 million on the table from the Yankees to handle third base. It is believed that Cleveland offered Youkilis a two-year deal worth a reported $18 million to play first base, but the Reynolds signing potentially renders that proposal moot.
As things stand, the Indians plan on handing the keys to third base over to youngster Lonnie Chisenhall, leaving first base as the only infield spot in need of a starter. Cleveland does have a vacancy at designated hitter, so it is possible the club could try to sell Reynolds and Youkilis on a rotation at first and DH. At-bats would also be available at third base on days Chisenhall did not play.
The 29-year-old Reynolds -- non-tendered by the Orioles last month -- made $7.5 million with Baltimore last season. Amid a thin free-agent class of first basemen, Reynolds, who would have made around $9 million in arbitration, was willing to return to the O's, but not at a significantly reduced salary.
The Orioles never offered Reynolds any type of deal, and several teams expressed interest in Reynolds at last week's Winter Meetings. One of them was Cleveland, which has its Spring Training facility in Arizona, allowing Reynolds to live at home during big league camp.
Reynolds opened the 2012 season at third base, but he committed six errors in 40 chances and was moved across the diamond to first, where he worked himself into an above-average first baseman. Reynolds frequently took some good-natured ribbing for his tendency to leave his feet, but he became adept at picking balls in the dirt and making excellent scoops, resulting in a .995 fielding percentage in 108 games at the position.
Offensively, Reynolds recovered from a poor first half to post a .221 batting average with a .335 on-base percentage and a .429 slugging percentage, collecting 23 homers and 69 RBIs in 135 games.
Sixteen of his homers came in the final two months of the season after he got past the most prolonged slump of his career. Through Reynolds' first 85 games, he hit .211 with eight homers and 33 RBIs and struck out 104 times. He did draw walks throughout the season, leading the team in free passes for a second straight year, with 73, and he helped the Orioles reach their first postseason in 15 years by hitting 15 homers and posting a .517 slugging percentage in his final 50 games.
A well-liked player in the clubhouse, Reynolds played through numerous injuries during the season. He was hit by a pitch six times during the regular season and twice in six postseason games. Health was a question to everyone but Reynolds, who deflected any notion that he might need to miss time.
The Orioles acquired him from the D-backs on Dec. 6, 2010, in exchange for right-handers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio.
Arguably the best season of Reynolds' six years in the big leagues came in 2009, when he hit .260 with 44 home runs and 102 RBIs for Arizona. The right-handed hitter also set a single-season Major League record with 223 strikeout that year. Reynolds is the only player in big league history to turn in at least two seasons with 200 or more strikeouts, and he has done so three times in his career.
Reynolds makes up for the high volume of strikeouts with solid power, having launched an average of 30 home runs per year in his career. In two years with Baltimore, he averaged 30 home runs, 78 RBIs and 145 games per season. Even in a down year, Reynolds' 23 long balls a year ago would have led the Indians, whose team leader had just 18 (Carlos Santana).