Chicago Cubs claim Guardians DH Franmil Reyes off waivers

·3 min read
Cleveland Guardians' Franmil Reyes, right, scores a run on a two-RBI single by Nolan Jones in the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Monday, July 11, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
Cleveland Guardians' Franmil Reyes, right, scores a run on a two-RBI single by Nolan Jones in the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Monday, July 11, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

In a matter of months, Franmil Reyes descended from a key piece to the Guardians' long-term plans to someone who didn't have a place in that future. On Monday, that transformation was completed.

Reyes has been claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs, ending his time with the Guardians organization. He was optioned to Triple-A Columbus last week and then designated for assignment on Saturday.

A year ago, Reyes was slugging 30 home runs in only 115 games and on his way to establishing himself as one of the best power hitters in the American League. He was still only 26 years old and was, without question, a crucial part to the middle of the Guardians lineup, both in 2022 and beyond. Jose Ramirez is a superstar-level talent but needed production around him. A lot of that was to fall on Reyes' capable shoulders. If healthy, a 30-homer season seemed like a certainty. A 40-homer season was a realistic goal. Fifty wasn't out of the question. The scoreboard that sits atop the left field bleachers at Progressive Field remained a target of his.

Reyes' 2022 season wasn't just one that never got off the ground, it never really even left the hangar.

He had a few 3-or-4 games stretches where it seemed like he was maybe finding his swing again, but it was gone in a flash each time. Last season he hit .254 with an .846 OPS, including 30 home runs and 85 RBIs. This year, he dropped to a .213 average and a .603 OPS with nine home runs and 28 RBIs in 70 games. His wRC+ dropped from 125 in 2021 to 69 this year. That means in less than one full year, he went from being 25 percent above league average as a hitter to 31 percent below league average.

And with the Guardians valuing every spot on their 40-man roster as a wave of younger players reach major league readiness, any confidence that Reyes could quickly regain his swing didn't outweigh the chance to create a path for opportunities elsewhere.

“Just think we feel like we want to see our young guys play, and this gives the opportunity maybe for someone to claim him,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said Saturday. “If they do, good for him. If they don’t, most likely, [we will] keep him ... doesn’t really change a lot if nobody claims him.”

Though, it was more than just his swing that became an issue. Reyes' chase percentage (meaning how often he swings a pitches outside the zone) rose from 25.8 percent last year to 29.4 percent in 2022. And to make matters worse, his chase contact percentage dropped from 49.3 percent to 35.7 percent. All of that means Reyes was chasing pitches more often and missing a much higher percentage of those pitches when he did.

He also wasn't punishing breaking balls like he had in the past. A year ago, Reyes posted a .521 slugging percentage on breaking balls. That dropped to just .242 this season.

Combine it all, and Reyes wasn't the same hitter.

“He wasn’t getting to the fastball, and it seemed like the hanging breaking ball, he was kind of hitting it maybe for a single, and there was an occasional home run,” Francona said. “But just wasn’t getting the pitches he used to.”

The Guardians are often a patient organization, particularly with younger players. But in Reyes' case, and partially due to 40-man roster construction needs, he quickly fell out of their long-term plans.

Reyes avoided arbitration this season by signing a one-year, $4.55 million deal with the Guardians. He's now under club control with the Cubs for the next two seasons after 2022.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis1@gannett.com. Read more about the Guardians at www.beaconjournal.com/sports/cleveland-guardians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Guardians DH Franmil Reyes claimed off waivers by Chicago Cubs