The Marlins have checked in with the representatives for a free agent reliever Alex Reyes, report Craig Mish and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The former All-Star closer is coming off a season lost to shoulder surgery.
Reyes has had an unfortunate number of injuries over the course of his career. One of the sport’s top pitching prospects during his days in the Cardinals system, he debuted in the big leagues with 46 innings of 1.57 ERA ball in 2016. That’d be almost the entirety of his major league work for a while, though, as he underwent Tommy John surgery the ensuing offseason. That cost him all of the 2017 campaign. Rehab from the TJ procedure and a subsequent lat strain limited him to just one MLB appearance in 2018, and he pitched only four times at the highest level in ’19 while struggling in the minors in his attempt to return to form.
St. Louis shuttled him on and off the active roster throughout the abbreviated 2020 season, but he finally carved out a full year in 2021. Working exclusively in relief, the righty tossed 72 1/3 innings with a 3.24 ERA. He carried a 1.52 mark while holding opponents to a .154/.307/.210 line in the first half to secure the aforementioned trip to the Midsummer Classic. The stretch run was a disaster, though, as he was tagged for a 5.52 ERA across 31 frames. Reyes’ strikeout and walk numbers were roughly the same in both halves, but he became increasingly homer-prone towards the year’s end. That carried over into the playoffs, where Reyes surrendered a walk-off homer to Chris Taylor in the final National League Wild Card game.
While it wasn’t clear at the time, that looks as if it’ll be Reyes’ final pitch in a Cardinals uniform. St. Louis flirted with the idea of moving him to the rotation last offseason, but those plans were scuttled when he felt renewed soreness in his shoulder. He underwent surgery in May and St. Louis non-tendered him at the end of the season rather than pay an arbitration salary projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz at $2.85MM.
That’s at least partially motivated by the fact that Reyes isn’t expected to be ready for Opening Day, as Jackson and Mish point out. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote last month the 28-year-old was targeting a return to game action by May, suggesting he’s still a few weeks behind the typical pitcher’s schedule as he builds back arm strength.
Despite the delayed timetable, it’s understandable other teams would consider rolling the dice on his upside. The Blue Jays and Dodgers have also been linked to Reyes at points this offseason. Reyes struck out 30% of opponents while averaging around 97 MPH on his fastball in 2021, and hitters came up empty more than half the time they offered at his mid-80s slider. A sky-high 16.4% walk rate was cause for some trepidation even before his latest lost season, but there’s no doubt a fully healthy Reyes boasts an electric arsenal. He also saved 29 games in 2021, suggesting he’s capable of taking on a ninth-inning role if entrusted with that responsibility.
Miami had a slightly below-average bullpen in 2022, finishing 22nd in ERA (4.15) and 13th in strikeout percentage (24%). Anthony Basstheir top reliever, was dealt to the Blue Jays midseason, while they flipped Jeff Brigham to the Mets at year’s end. Steven Okert, Richard Bleier and Tanner Scott are on hand as left-handed options, but the depth from the right side is lacking behind Dylan Floro. Adding a power righty arm makes some sense, and new manager Skip Schumaker has some familiarity with Reyes after spending this past season as the Cards bench coach.