The Chicago Cubs have a lot of decisions to make regarding their big league roster this offseason. Thanks to some serious crunch with the 40-man roster, there’s no avoiding letting go of some interesting pieces this time around. One of the most debatable cases of them all, however, is that of designated hitter Franmil Reyes.
Reyes was acquired by the Cubs off waivers from the Guardians in early August amidst a major down season for the slugger. He managed only a .213/.254/.350 slash line, resulting in a 69 wRC+ that falls well below his 110 career mark. Upon arriving on the North Side, things seemed to turn a corner early on, but he slowed down considerably, only managing to get up to a 93 wRC+, still below the league average. He didn’t do much to inspire confidence, but there are reasons the team would want him around for another year.
What makes him a unique case compared to Rafael Ortega, for example, is the mix of controllability and potential. Reyes still has two years of control left and, so far, 2022 is the only truly down year of his career. Between the Padres and the Guardians over the past two years, he’d established himself as a legitimate power threat, clubbing 30+ homers in 2019 and 2021 and topping out a 126 wRC+ in 2021. Despite the high strikeout rate, he was one of the better DHs in the American League.
The potential is certainly there, but even if you’re willing to overlook this season as an outlier, there are other caveats to having Reyes on the Cubs. Most notably, he’s going to be totally limited to DH. David Ross has shown a willingness to go without a true DH, flexing other players into the role as needed to keep certain bats in the lineup while still giving them a rest. Even with Willson Contreras, one of the guys most employed this way, likely to leave, there’s no reason Ross wouldn’t want to continue this.
Cubs would be best served moving on from Franmil Reyes
To that end, I don’t think I’d personally tender Reyes a contract. Reyes is estimated at six million in arbitration for 2023 and while that’s not terrible, it is a bit much to swallow considering his only value comes from a bat with serious red flags this year. His already bad strikeout rate rose to 33.2 percent, but what really hurt was his struggle to hit anything other than a fastball. The .312 and .332 xwOBA he posted against breaking and offspeed pitches last year soured to .221 and .167, respectively.
That said, I could see why the Cubs would keep him in the fold, as well. If he can bounce back to those pre-2022 levels, he’d absolutely be worth the $6 million and cheaper than your typical offseason signing. Those troubles might be fixable too. Timing seems to be an issue with Reyes as he’s barreled the ball less while getting on top of or underneath the ball more. Even so, his ability to hit the ball extremely hard hasn’t faded. You could absolutely talk yourself into keeping him around for another year to tinker with.
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I like Reyes a lot personally. The energy he brought into the clubhouse was infectious, his singing was both fantastic and terrible, and, when he’s on, there are few players in the game with the power he possesses. However, he doesn’t really fit with the flexibility the Cubs seem to love and at his suspected arbitration price, it’d be tough to swallow if 2022 trends continue.