The Cardinals announced they’re not tendering a contract to right-hander Alex Reyes or outfielder Ben DeLuzio. Both players head to free agency. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had predicted a $2.85MM arbitration salary for Reyes, while DeLuzio is not eligible for arbitration.
Reyes was once touted as one of the best prospects in all of baseball, regularly featuring on various publication’s top-100 lists, including a fourth-place ranking on Baseball America’s pre-2017 list of the best prospects in baseball. The foundation of that was some elite stuff, headlined by a triple-digit fastball and a lethal curveball.
After blowing away minor league batters, he made his big league debut in 2016 and didn’t disappoint. The then-21-year-old tossed 46 innings of 1.57 ERA ball, giving up just one home run and striking out batters 27.5% of the time. He looked every bit a major league pitcher, and looked certain to be a atop Cardinal rotations for many years to come.
Tommy John surgery prior would wipe out his 2017 campaign, but he looked like he was back to his best on minor league rehab stints in 2018, striking out 44 batters across 23 innings and four starts. Yet disaster would strike after Reyes was activated, as he went down just four innings into his first start back, and eventually undergoing season-ending surgery on a torn tendon in his lat.
He’d return in 2019, but walked six batters in three innings and was immediately optioned to the minor leagues. That began yet another injury-plagued year and Reyes would only add 37 1/3 innings of 6.03 ERA ball in the minors, as he again spent most of the season on the injured list.
The Cardinals brought him back in 2020, but now opted to utilize him out of the bullpen. While the walks were still a concern (16.3%), Reyes posted the best season since his 2016 effort, tossing 19 2/3 innings of 3.20 ERA ball, striking out batters 31.2% of the time. He followed that up with a lights out start to the 2021 campaign, pitching to a 1.52 ERA as St Louis’ closer and earning a trip to the All Star game. The second half was a different story though, and Reyes was dropped from the closer role and wound up with a dismal 5.52 second half ERA.
Injury problems returned again in 2022, and Reyes underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in May wiping out his season and leading the Cardinals to move on from him today. As it went, that rookie season accounted for 1.3 of his career 1.7 fWAR, an unfortunate return for a player who was once seen as a foundation piece in St Louis.
With that being said, his raw stuff still appears to be there, and despite all the injury problems his velocity has remained steadily in the upper-90s. Depending on his health, Reyes could make a very attractive reclamation project for any number of teams. He’s only 28, and teams would certainly love the opportunity to take a chance on an arm like his.
DeLuzio is the other Cardinal to be non-tendered. The center fielder appeared in 22 games in 2022, mostly as a defensive replacement as he made just 25 plate appearances, batting .150/.292/.200. Though many of the players being non-tendered today are arbitration-eligible, it’s not uncommon to see non-arbitration players informed they won’t receive a contract, as the Cardinals have done here to free up a 40-man spot.