Orioles continue to show heavy interest in Mark Reynolds

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Desperate to add a power bat to their light-hitting lineups, the Orioles, Padres and Blue Jays have expressed interest this offseason in trading for Diamondbacks slugger Mark Reynolds.

Reynolds tallied 32 home runs in 2010 and a career-high 44 in 2009, but he’s the only player in major league history to amass 200 strikeouts in a season and he’s done that now for three straight years.  According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, that’s not deterring the Orioles, who are now heavily intrigued at the possibility of landing the third baseman while the Jays and Pads have backed off.

Reynolds has poor range at third base and is owed around $23.5 million through the 2013 season.  His strikeout rates won’t get any better with a move to the American League East and the O’s will almost certainly have to fork over a respectable prospect to acquire him.

Yes, it’s possible that the 27-year-old might improve his plate discipline and flourish in the cozy confines of Camden Yards, but Baltimore should know better than to make a desperation trade.  If the Orioles are going to catch up to the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays — heck, even the Blue Jays — they must do it through the draft and through the cultivation of what looks to be a healthy farm system.  Allowing Arizona to pluck a name or two from that system would seem to be a step in the wrong direction.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.