As Pirates slugger Bryan Reynolds waited on deck Tuesday night, Red Sox fans let him have it in a way that conveyed their respect for the destroyer of Fenway Park.
"There was some guy yelling at me about how I need to relax and they were going to get me this time," Reynold said with a small smile. "It was fun."
They did not get him. They did not come close. Two games into a series that concludes Wednesday afternoon, Reynolds found himself 6 for 9 with three homers and four RBIs. It's enough to make a Red Sox fan dream about the switch hitter patrolling a corner outfield spot in Fenway every night.
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He could eventually become available. Reynolds requested a trade during the offseason, reportedly frustrated by a lowball extension offer. The All-Star has since said he'd like to reach an extension to remain in Pittsburgh, but it's unclear that will happen as long as the Pirates field one of baseball's lowest payrolls, as well as one of its worst owners in Bob Nutting.
Enter the Red Sox? There was once a time when any star player facing an uncertain future would field questions about coming to Boston. We peppered David Price in 2015, for instance, before Dave Dombrowski made him the richest pitcher ever that winter. Two years later, Price proved instrumental in the 2018 championship run.
Times have changed. Since Chaim Bloom arrived with a mandate to rebuild the farm system, the Red Sox haven't seriously engaged with a single superstar talent from outside the organization, choosing instead to build around the margins on short-term deals.
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Whether that pays off in the long term remains to be seen, but one casualty is that when a player like Reynolds comes through town, it's unclear if the Red Sox would even vigorously pursue him.
Still, it's worth asking Reynolds what he thinks of Boston, and without addressing his interest in playing for the Red Sox, he spoke in general about the city.
"Right now, I'm just staying where my feet are," he said. "But just strictly talking about the city, I came up here and went to a wedding in Concord this offseason and that was beautiful. It was when the leaves were turning. The city is nice. It's a big city that kind of seems like a smaller city at the same time, so it seems like a good spot."
He has also gotten an up-close-and-personal look at the fans, who have been alternately in awe of him and annoyed with him for pummeling their team.
"It gets loud," he said. "The fans are engaged. Whenever momentum starts to shift their way, it gets really loud, and it wasn't even fully packed. I can only imagine what it's like in a playoff atmosphere. Everybody kind of feeds off it. The more engagement from the fans, the players get more locked in, the more primed they get."
Reynolds might be the best player casual fans haven't heard of, thanks to five seasons in the obscurity of Pittsburgh. The Pirates are coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons and have yet to win 70 games since he arrived in 2019.
Because he has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining, he can't become a free agent until 2026. If the Pirates want to play hardball, he could be stuck in black and gold for the foreseeable future. He reportedly sought an eight-year, $ 134 million extension this winter, which feels like a bargain for a 28-year-old who currently leads the NL in homers (four) and total bases (22).
He's encouraged by some of the young talent that has arrived under former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. With massive shortstop O'Neil Cruz, recently extended third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes, young right-hander Roansy Contreras, and All-Star closer David Bednar, the Pirates have some hope for the first time in Reynolds's career.
"I know that Pittsburgh has been (successful) in the past, and it's been tough the last few years," he said. "I mean no blame there. Just looking around, we've got good talent, we've had a good start to the year. We've won some close games we might've lost in the past. Hopefully we can keep building on that and get Pittsburgh back to what it was."
And if not, allow Red Sox fans to dream. Whether it's hecklers giving him good-natured grief on deck or 30,000 rising to exhort the home team, Reynolds has been impressed by the Boston baseball experience.
"I don't want to talk in the what-ifs," he said. "I want to stay where I am now, but that's everybody's goal, to play in front of that atmosphere that we were just talking about."