When the Indians gave Mark Reynolds a six million dollar contract this offseason, they were expecting the 29 year old to play similarly to his previous seasons in Baltimore and Arizona. Taking into account a slight decrease into production due to age (Reynolds hit his peak at 25, a much younger age than most people), they could have expected him to hit between 20 and 30 home runs while hitting about .220/.320/.420. Home runs are expensive stats (like wins and saves) and that amount of money for that amount of production is below market value.
Reynolds hit eight of those prospective 25 home runs in April and batted .301/.358/.651, a pace that pretty much everyone on the planet (including the Indians staff) agreed he could not maintain. In May, he had a month that he could maintain with just five home runs and a line of .218/.310/.386, but here we need to stop. The player the Indians though would bat .220 was still batting over .260 and had already hit thirteen of an expected 25 home runs. While it is possible, it is very rare for a player to completely jump over his career averages. Assuming no great Reynolds renaissance, he was set to hit 12 home runs and bat around .200 the rest of the season, just to make up for his early season power fest.
Reynolds did just that, batting under .200 with just two home runs over the next two months. He was removed as starter and shortly after released. While he may have had one more hot streak in his bat (with another ten home runs or so), the Indians all of a sudden didn't think it worth the risk. At this point, there seem to be no suitors to pay for the two million left on Reynolds contract. The Indians have to have expected this and must agree that he isn't worth it, or they would have kept him themselves. His 15 home runs and 48 RBI were enough to make his contract worthwhile, but it isn't worth keeping him around while he finishes bottoming out the rest of his expectations.
The only thing that makes this move odd, is that Jason Giambi (who has been statistically worse than Reynolds in every facet and can't play either defensive position Reynolds can) remains on the team. This is supposedly because the Indians value his "clubhouse presence," but if that were the case and he is really the "great guy" they say he is, he would retire from playing and serve the team in a different role as special assistant to the hitting coach or something similar.
Finally, both of these options (Giambi's retirement and Reynolds' release) have to beg the question, why weren't they done sooner. If the paltry offense expected from Reynolds during the last two months wasn't enough to keep him around, why didn't they release him when his batter average dipped below .200. There is almost no chance that he would have continued to struggle at this rate for the last two months (as little of a chance as there was of him hitting 40 home runs this year), so it would seem that they sold too late, taking all the bad and giving up just as things were going to get good again. If the Indians had given up on Reynolds a month ago they would have had options, whether it be in bringing up a AAA player (Chun Chen or Jeremy Hermida seem the only options) or trying to make a trade to lose Reynolds and gain another player of his caliber (maybe Adam Dunn). Now, Reynolds is likely to clear waivers, but be grabbed by another team at league minimum when he refuses a demotion to the minor leagues. The whole situation was played rather poorly and, while it is not too costly for the Indians, it could have been handled in a much superior way.