The Mariners face a tough decision this offseason about what to do with Jeremy Reed. The centrepiece of the late-June 2004 trade that sent Freddy Garcia to the White Sox, Reed has been unable so far to deliver on his tremendous promise, and he finds himself entering 2007 without a role.
Reed broke his thumb in early July and never made it back. The Mariners replaced him first with an overmatched Adam Jones before Ichiro Suzuki finally backed down on his long-standing objection to playing centre by switching over. Ichiro has agreed to play there everyday in 2007, and considering Reed doesn’t have enough power to be a corner outfielder, he seems to have fallen out of the team’s plans for next season.
On the plus side, Reed is finally healthy. He recently spent a couple of weeks at the team’s Arizona complex, working out with Seattle’s Triple-A hitting coach, and Reed says his hand is strong and his swing is solid. Hand and wrist injuries (beyond the broken thumb) have dogged Reed in his two seasons in Seattle, hampering his swing and restricting his performance. But Reed now says he feels better than he has in over a year, perhaps longer. There is still time for the 2003 version of Reed who led the minors in hitting at almost .375 with an OBP of over .450 to finally emerge. It just may not be in Seattle.
The Mariners may very well use Reed, who’s still just 25, as trade bait. They have several holes to fill in their pitching rotation and considering his vast untapped potential, Reed may still be valued quite highly by some organizations.
His pedigree is unquestioned. Let’s refresh your memory on how this kid made a meteoric rise through the minors.
Razor Shines managed Reed in 2003 when he tore through the Carolina League before landing in Double-A and batting .409 in 66 games. “He was as good a hitter as I’ve ever seen,” Shines told Baseball America at the time. “Just the way he carried himself and the fact that he took the same approach every time he stepped in the box.”
He entered that season anonymously but left 2003 as one of the hottest prospects in the game.
The following year, Reed was holding his own in his first taste of Triple-A, batting .275, before getting dealt to the Mariners’ organization. In 61 games at Tacoma after the trade, Reed picked things up, batting .305 and slugging .455, earning a late-season promotion to the big club.
That 18-game trial in Seattle sure whet plenty of appetites. Most observers pegged Reed as a favourite to win the 2005 AL ROY Award after he hit almost .400 in that first taste of the Show.
But Reed managed just a .254 mark in 141 games in 2005, scoring 61 runs and driving in 45. Hardly an embarrassment, but far below expectations, especially in the base-stealing department where he managed just 12 thefts against 11 unsuccessful attempts — a far cry from the kid who swiped 45 bases in 2003.
This season was even worse. Reed looked lost, managing just a .260 OBP — unacceptable for anyone, but a huge disappointment for a player who was billed as an on-base machine and was being groomed for the two-hole spot in the lineup. Reed did show improvements in his power potential (five triples, six homers), but his batting eye — always a strength — suffered badly.
There’s no doubt the multiple hand injuries have played a factor in Reed being unable to reach his potential to date. The question becomes, who is the real Jeremy Reed? Is he closer to the guy who tore up big-league pitching at the end of 2004 or will he more resemble the player who hit under .220 this year?
If a healthy Reed can accumulate, say, 500 at-bats, there’s no doubt in mind he can put up a line of 75-80 runs, 45-50 extra-base hits, 60-70 RBI, 20 to 25 steals, .280ish BA, .350 OBP. I think he’s just tapping into his power potential and it wouldn’t shock me at all if he becomes a 20-20 man given the opportunity.
The only question that remains is where he’ll get that chance.