CLEVELAND — You thought all the Guardian roster confusion was over? Not so fast.
The Guardians made a surprising announcement on Saturday afternoon, when they revealed they had designated outfielder/designated hitter Franmil Reyes for assignment.
“Just to think we fancy seeing our youngsters play, and maybe that gives someone the opportunity to claim it,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “If they do, good for him. If they don’t, most likely, [we will] keep it… doesn’t change much if no one claims it.
Let’s try to break down this decision as best we can to explain why it happened.
Reyes has been on a wild fall since opening day. He entered the year with many projecting a breakout season. On April 7, Reyes opened the year in the Cleveland cleanup zone with nothing but high hopes ahead of him. Since then, he has struggled to put together more than a few games to look like the powerful puncher the club once knew.
Reyes hit .213 with a mere .604 OPS in 70 games for the Guardians this season. He threw just nine home runs with 104 strikeouts in 263 at-bats (a brutal 37.1 percent strikeout percentage). There were comments throughout the year that he needed to be in better shape, but that didn’t see much improvement.
So when he arrived in early August and things weren’t going in the right direction, even after the team tried to get him back on track after he was on the injured list, he’s become difficult for the club to keep Reyes in the roster, leading to his demotion to Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday.
“He wasn’t getting to the fastball, and it looked like the break ball was hanging, he was hitting it maybe for a single, and there was the occasional home run,” Francona said. “But just wasn’t getting the pitches he was used to.”
All of which explains his demotion to Triple-A. The decision to nominate him for an assignment is a bit more confusing to comprehend.
Cleveland attempted to move Reyes before Tuesday’s trade deadline, but failed to do so. Maybe that means interest in him is low across the league, and the Guardians think he could clear the waivers and end up in their system without taking a 40-man spot while he works through. his struggles. But even that is not cut and dry.
Reyes is still eligible for arbitration. This year, he signed a one-year, $4.55 million contract. That might go down a bit, but anything he does in officiating will be high relative to his level of production in 2022. Had he stayed on Cleveland’s 40-man roster, there’s a good chance he’ll was not tendered. at the end of the season to avoid spending that amount of money on him. But if he clears the waivers and returns to the Guardians system altogether, he would become a Minor League free agent for 23 since he is no longer protected on the 40-man roster.
OK, we’ll take a second to soak this all up and get a simpler answer as to why this move makes sense.
An easy way to see that is if he also frees up space on Columbus’ roster, which could pave the way for Guardians No. 2 prospect George Valera to move to Triple-A from Double-A.
There are a lot of assumptions when it comes to Reyes’ future. It’s unclear if he’ll be claimed by another team that is expected to navigate the financial confusion Cleveland is trying to avoid with its upcoming arbitration process. Maybe another club is willing to take that risk.
It’s easy to focus on the negatives now that this decision has been made. But there is still a track record for Reyes that works in his favor. He’s still on the heels of a 30-home run season with a career-high .846 OPS. He hit 37 longballs in 2019. There are things to like about his tool set. It is now only a question of determining where he can try to right the ship for the future.
“He gave us everything he had,” Guardians assistant batting coach Victor Rodriguez said. “He wanted to do it, but he couldn’t do it. We saw signs at times that he was coming out. … He’s young. I think his best years are yet to come. I hope he will have the chance somewhere and that he can continue.