The Guardians activated outfielder Oscar Gonzalez from the 10-day injured list, as Gonzalez returns to action after missing just over a month with an intercostal strain. To create roster space, Cleveland made the notable move of optioning the struggling Franmil Reyes to Triple-A Columbus.
Reyes also spent time on the IL this season, missing about four weeks due to right hamstring tightness. Sandwiched around that IL stint was 280 plate appearances of subpar batting, as Reyes has hit only .213/.254/.350 with nine home runs. Reyes is mostly a DH, but between his shaky glovework in his games in the outfield and with his performance at the plate, he has been a sub-replacement player, with -0.9 fWAR.
It isn’t at all what was expected after Reyes’ first four seasons of solid production, including a 37-homer season in 2019 and 30 more dingers last year. The Guardians were certainly thinking they had one of the sport’s burgeoning young sluggers in their lineup, yet Reyes’ numbers have entirely fallen off.
He is still making lots of hard contact, but while there has always been a lot of swing-and-miss in Reyes’ game, his 37.1% strikeout rate is the worst of his career and among the worst in baseball. Reyes’ walk rate has also plummeted to the 10th percentile of all hitters, after sitting above the league average in both 2020 and 2021. In yet another dropoff, Reyes has struggled to hit sliders and four-seamers after crushing both pitches last year.
The Guards can only hope that some time in the minors can get Reyes on track, as the 2021 version of the 27-year-old would be a huge boost to the lineup. Reyes is also entering his second year of arbitration eligibility, and while he’ll still get some level of a raise (but not a huge one given his lower numbers), it would seem unlikely at this point that the Guardians would consider a non-tender. If Cleveland has doubts about Reyes over the long term, however, the Guards could consider dangling him in trade talks, especially with the team facing something of a 40-man roster crunch over the winter.
With Reyes struggling, Gonzalez is one of the players who has picked up some of the offensive slack. Gonzalez was something of an off-the-radar prospect during his early years in Cleveland’s farm system, but he posted big numbers at Double-A and Triple-A after returning from the canceled 2020 minor league. That performance led to Gonzalez’s first big league promotion this year, and he kept it rolling with a .285/.315/.431 over his first 130 PA in the majors.