2:20pm: The Cubs have announced the claim.
2:10pm: The Cubs are “adding” slugger Franmil Reyes, according to Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic. Reyes had been designated for assignment by the Guardians on Saturday. Since the trade deadline has passed, the Cubs have presumably claimed Reyes off waivers. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Reyes has indeed been claimed off waivers. The Cubs had a couple of vacancies on their 40-man roster, meaning a corresponding move won’t be required in that regard.
Reyes, 27, has an impressive track record as a power hitter, though he’s enduring an unfortunate swoon here in 2022. He debuted with the Padres in 2018 and then went to Cleveland in a three-team trade in 2019 that involved six other players. From his debut through the end of the 2021 campaign, he hit 92 home runs and walked in 9% of his plate appearances. His 29.5% strikeout rate was definitely on the high side, but he still managed to hit .260/.325/.503, production that was 19% above league average by measure of wRC+.
This season has been a complete nightmare by comparison, however. Reyes has struck out in 37.1% of his plate appearances, walked in only 5% of them and hit just nine homers. His overall batting line for the campaign sits at a paltry .213/.254/.350, wRC+ of 69. Cleveland has been using him as a designated hitter, ultimately deciding it could no longer withstand that meager output from a lineup spot that’s supposed to deliver more potency. He was optioned to the minors last week and designated for assignment a few days after that.
For a rebuilding Cubs team, it’s a logical move to take a chance on Reyes and hope that he bounces back to his previous form. He’s making $4.55MM this year, leaving around $1.5MM left to be paid out over the remainder of the campaign. He can be retained for two more seasons via arbitration and likely won’t require a huge raise due to his poor showing this year. The Cubs don’t have a dedicated designated hitter, with impending free agent Willson Contreras getting most of the time there. If Reyes successfully bounces back in any way, he could take over DH duties. He is capable of playing corner outfield, though has only trotted onto the grass for 26 total games in the past three years.
There are reasons to be optimistic Reyes could turn things around. Despite the strikeout woes and general struggles this year, he’s still in the 92nd percentile among MLB hitters when it comes to barrel percentage, 93rd in average exit velocity, 88th in hard hit percentage and 86th in max exit velocity. If he can cut down on the strikeouts even a little bit, he’s still crushing the ball with enough power that he could be a useful pickup, either sticking with the Cubs or being traded in the future.