PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington has spent more than four years methodically overhauling the organization from the bottom up, relentlessly stockpiling prospects through three straight last-place finishes in the NL Central and promising the club would have the financial resources to invest at the major-league level when the timing was right.
Cherington backed up his promise by giving outfielder Bryan Reynolds the largest contract in club history.
Three people with knowledge of the agreement told the Associated Press that it’s an eight-year deal worth at least $106.75 million, the most lucrative in the history of a franchise that dates back to 1882. The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal was not official, pending a physical. A formal announcement is expected.
The agreement was first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
It marks a somewhat of a turnaround for the soft-spoken Reynolds, who quietly requested a trade in December. Cherington insisted the team was willing to do what it takes to keep Reynolds in the fold for the long term, and both sides made steady progress toward an agreement in recent weeks, with Reynolds talking multiple times with team owner Bob Nutting.
“Let’s ride,” Reynolds posted in typically brief fashion on Instagram shortly after he and the team agreed to terms.
The new contract includes a $2 million signing bonus, a club option for 2031 that could make the agreement worth $104.75 million over nine seasons and a limited six-team no-trade clause.
It’s the latest bit of good news for the Pirates, who are off to a 16-7 start heading into a three-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Reynolds is not expected to play in the opener, remaining out after being placed on the bereavement list.
The team signed fourth-year manager Derek Shelton to a contract extension, a vote of confidence that the franchise is committed to the vision Cherington outlined when he took over in the fall of 2019.
“The one thing that’s the most important and again, this goes back to people signing here externally and coming in, is people want to be here,” Shelton said. “They’re trusting the process that Ben’s put in place.”
Reynolds, an All-Star in 2021, stressed during spring training that negotiations with the Pirates wouldn’t be a distraction once the season began. It hasn’t: Reynolds is hitting .294 with five home runs and 18 RBIs in 22 games for the surprising NL Central leaders.
The agreement is a full-circle moment for the organization, which acquired the switch-hitting Reynolds in January 2018 as part of the trade that sent 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco.
Five years later, McCutchen is back with the Pirates and Reynolds – a career .282 hitter – is now the anchor of a lineup that’s helped Pittsburgh get off to its best start since 1992 despite losing young shortstop Oneil Cruz to a fractured left ankle earlier this month.
The Pirates have been one of the worst teams in the major leagues since 2019, with Cherington frequently flipping veteran players for prospects and investing heavily in the draft. Finding a way to retain Reynolds is the latest proof that the front office is serious about keeping a core group of players.
The club signed third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes to an eight-year, $70 million deal in April 2022 and has followed up by locking down Reynolds for the rest of the decade. The signings give the team two youngish clubhouse fixtures to lean on while waiting for a farm system considered one of the best in the majors to start bearing fruit.
“(Reynolds) always wanted to stay here, he always would say (that),” Hayes said. “I think he’s going to be even more comfortable now. He can just go out there and have fun.”
Closer David Bednar believes the deal “just speaks to the direction it’s going and the guys in the locker room who are a part of that.”
Reynolds had been scheduled to earn $6.75 million in the second season of a $13.5 million, two-year contract and would have been eligible for free agency after the 2025 season. He gets a $2 million signing bonus and salaries of $6.75 million this year, $10 million in 2024, $12 million in 2025, $14 million in 2026 and $15 million in each of the following four seasons. Pittsburgh’s 2031 option is for $20 million with a $2 million buyout. There are additional awards bonuses.