The Dodgers have added to their bullpen by signing former Cardinals All-Star closer Alex Reyes to a one-year, $1.1 million deal that has bonuses up to $2 million in 2023 and includes a $3 million club option for 2024 that has up to $8 million in bonuses.
Reyes is still 28, but has had a rather up-and-down career that one wouldn’t assume given his career 2.86 ERA in 145 innings. He was formerly a top prospect that came up with the Cardinals and was productive as a reliever when healthy. The problem has been staying healthy, as he’s gone through Tommy John surgery in 2018 and missed all of last year with shoulder surgery that’s expected to keep him out for months in 2023.
After an amazing start in 2016 during his debut (1.57 ERA/2.67 FIP), he then threw just seven innings over the next three years after TJS. He bounced back for a solid 19.2 innings in 2020 (3.20 ERA/3.24 FIP), and then actually made the All-Star team in 2021. The problem is that after a 1.52 ERA in the first half of the year that led to that honor, he then posted a 5.52 ERA in the second half, capped by a post-season appearance that at least Chris Taylor certainly remembers.
In his career, Reyes has had way above-average strikeout rates (28.4%) and damn near double the average walk rates (15.5%), but the appeal isn’t hard to find either, as when throwing strikes he can be borderline untouchable. At his best he’ll sit in the 96-98 mph range, going to a slider as his primary breaking ball, and still carrying a curve and change from his time as a starter.
Given that his fastball and slider both net him the most positive results, and he still throws the other two almost a quarter of the time, something to watch for other than improvements to his command would be the Dodgers either tinkering with the curve and change or eliminate their use entirely to focus on what Reyes does best. If he can get healthy and the Dodgers can make small adjustments, the upside is absolutely a back-end reliever.
The Reyes deal is yet another almost risk-free upside signing of an either injured or flawed reliever that the Dodgers tend to build quality pens out of. Him agreeing to this is a big bet on himself as well, so motivation to get back to where he once was certainly won’t be a problem, and hopefully by the second half of 2023 he’ll be showing signs of returning to past glory and it’ll set him up for an even better 2024.