PITTSBURGH -- Shortly after announcing Bryan Reynolds' eight-year, $106.75 million extension, Pirates general manager Ben Cherington recalled a conversation he had with a former GM who “did the job I’m in now for a lot longer and was way more accomplished than I am.” Cherington remembered asking the unspecified executive, “What's the secret?”
“He said, ‘You just have to find players you trust,’” Cherington said.
Trust. That’s what the Pirates’ deal with Reynolds, the most lavish deal in franchise history, represents. The Bucs trust Reynolds, and he trusts them.
“At a basic level, we trust Bryan because of what he’s already done,” Cherington said. “We trust him because of the way he plays. We trust him because of the choices he makes on and off the field. We trust him because we know how hard he’s working to continue to get better all the time. We trust his focus. We trust his toughness. Not only does that show up on the field, but that showed up through this process. Bryan himself demonstrated focus and toughness through this process. For all those reasons, we trust Bryan.”
Reynolds added, “I’ve been saying it since spring -- the talent we've got, the young talent that’s still coming and just talking about the culture that we’ve been building. All those things combined and that combined too with the city, the fans, everything. It's just something that, since I’ve gotten here, it’s what I’ve wanted to be a part of for a long time.”
As evidenced by the last couple months, there was never any guarantee that Reynolds would be part of this team for a long time.
The saga featured a plethora of episodes, from Reynolds’ trade request to the deal that fizzled out because of a late request for an opt-out. Cherington admitted that he had his own moments of uncertainty. Reynolds shared that he tried to focus his attention entirely on the field, but admitted that the business aspect weighed on him.
Even amidst the various ebbs and flows, Reynolds continued returning to the bargaining table. Cherington commented that if there was frustration on Reynolds' part, it was a result of his desire to stay in Pittsburgh. To manager Derek Shelton, Reynolds is, in a complimentary way, stubborn, and that stubbornness was on display as he and all parties involved tried to get a deal done.
“Bryan is the reason that we all kept coming back to the table to try to figure out a way to get this done,” Cherington said. “Bryan is the reason we were all so motivated to figure this out. Bryan, thank you for your trust in the Pirates. We're going to work our tails off to build the team we both envision.”
"Ben has said it; when you’re making an investment in something, you make an investment in trust," Shelton said. "I think you saw the trust that everybody feels in Bryan Reynolds with the amount of people that were in this room."
Reynolds, acquired from the Giants via trade in 2018, shared that he didn't envision himself being the guy who would receive the largest contract in franchise history, but as an All-Star with a career .844 OPS across more than 500 games, Reynolds is well-deserving of nine figures. The Pirates trust that Reynolds will continue doing the things that made him one of baseball’s better outfielders. In return, Reynolds trusts that the Bucs will continue working to field their next playoff contender. Cherington and company have certainly done their part to bring winning baseball back to Pittsburgh.
Last April, Pittsburgh signed Ke'Bryan Hayes to an eight-year, $70 million deal, the largest deal in franchise history at the time. With Hayes and Reynolds signed, Mitch Keller, Oneil Cruz and Roansy Contreras stand as the next in line to secure their long-term futures in Pittsburgh. In the coming months, more extensions might be in store.
“Well, we’re not done. To a great degree, we’re just getting started,” Pirates owner Bob Nutting said. “We’ve played a handful of games. We’ve played very well. It’s a long season. We have a lot of season in front of us. So, to a great degree, we’re just getting started. I think today, we should focus on what we did today, which is a huge step for the franchise with Bryan. I’m confident we’ll have future steps as we go forward.”
Added Nutting, “We’re going to build a winner in Pittsburgh. This is a step along the path. There is nothing more important to me personally and to my family than we follow through and get this job done of building a winning team here in Pittsburgh.”
For his part, Nutting played his own role in helping this deal come to fruition. Reynolds shared that he and Nutting had several personal conversations that were “really important to the whole situation.”
“The main thing is that we both had the same ultimate desire, and I think once we realized that, we realized that this was something that needed to get done,” Reynolds said.
The specifics of who the Pirates do and don’t sign will be determined. Those are conversations that will be had in the coming months, years. The roster will transform over time. But if the Bucs and Reynolds make their way to the playoffs in the near future, the mutual trust that both parties exhibited to get this deal done will be a reason why.