Dodgers To Sign Alex Reyes

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The Dodgers have an agreement in place with right-hander Alex Reyes, pending a physical, according to Juan Toribio of The deal will pay Reyes $1.1MM in 2023, and comes with a $3MM club option for 2024. The deal comes with a number of incentives which take the value up to $10MM. Craig Mish of the Miami Herald reports Reyes can add an additional $2MM in incentives in 2023, and a further $8MM in incentives in 2024.

Reyes, 28, has had an injury-plagued career but has tremendous upside and was an All Star in 2021 with the Cardinals. He is still recovering from shoulder surgery which will likely keep him out for part of the upcoming season, but as Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic notes, he is on track to pitch in the big leagues before the All Star break.

Originally signed by the Cardinals back in 2012, Reyes was one of the best prospects in the sport coming up through the minor leagues, regularly featuring towards the top of various top-100 prospect lists. He debuted in 2016, flashing signs of his immense promise in a 46 inning stint for the Cards that year, working to a 1.57 ERA. That tantalizing sample of work came with a 27.5% strikeout rate and 12.2% walk rate, but would be the bulk of Reyes’ work for the next few years.

He’d undergo Tommy John surgery that off-season, missing the entire 2017 campaign. His recovery from elbow surgery and a lat strain would restrict him to just one start in 2018, while he struggled to regain form in the minors in 2019 and was restricted to just three innings of work that year.

St Louis shuttled him off and on the active roster through the abbreviated 2020 season, but there were signs that Reyes – now a full-time – reliever was regaining his stuff. That year, he worked to a 3.20 ERA over 19 1/3 innings, with a well above-average 31.4% strikeout rate. He looked to be well and truly back to his best to begin 2021, working to an elite 1.52 ERA over the first half as the Cardinals’ closer, earning a trip to the All Star game as a result. The second half was another story though, as Reyes was tagged for a 5.52 ERA. All told, he wound up with a 3.24 ERA over 72 1/3 innings.

Reyes wouldn’t pitch again for the Cardinals, as he underwent shoulder surgery that ended his 2022 season before it began, and the Cardinals subsequently non-tendered him at the end of the year. There’s not been any recent updates on Reyes’ recovery, although Derrick Goold of the St Louis Post-Dispatch wrote in November that he was targeting a return in May this year.

Reyes was always one of the more intriguing names on the free agent market this winter, given the combination of his lengthy injury history and tantalizing upside. A $1.1MM deal does appear to represent a solid bet on that upside for the Dodgers, and while those incentives could raise the value of the contract, the club option for 2024 could turn out to be a bargain if Reyes can rediscover the form that took him to the Midsummer Classic in 2021.

The Dodgers have a track record of getting the best out of their pitchers, and they’ll certainly be hoping they can do the same with Reyes.  It’ll be interesting to see what his stuff looks like coming back from shoulder surgery, but he flashed a 97mph fastball and an 87mph slider back in 2021 which helped him post strikeout rates north of 30%.

As far as payroll goes, this is a modest addition but ticks the Dodgers number for 2023 up to around $227MM according to RosterResource. That’ll be a ~$244MM figure for luxury tax, which lands them roughly in the middle of the first and second tiers of luxury tax. There had been some speculation that the Dodgers might look to dip under the first luxury tax threshold to reset their penalties this year, but they’ll now need to shed around $11MM of luxury tax payroll to do that.

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