Cardinals right-hander Alex Reyes is staring down yet another injury-related setback, as he’s scheduled for surgery on his shoulder late this month, tweets Katie Woo of The Athletic. MLB.com’s John Denton first reported that Reyes would require surgery to repair his right shoulder (Twitter link).
Reyes met with renowned surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Monday, and he confirmed a team recommendation that surgery will be required. The exact nature of the procedure has not yet been announced by the Cardinals. Woo adds that while the surgery is likely to end his season, there’s at least a small chance Reyes will be able to return late in the year.
It’ll be the third major surgery for Reyes in the past five years. The righty underwent Tommy John surgery back in Spring Training of 2019 and has since gone under the knife to repair a torn tendon in his latissimus dorsi muscle. Reyes also missed time with shoulder trouble back in 2020, though he didn’t require surgery at the time.
The expected shoulder procedure, then, is just the latest in a long line of physical ailments that have combined to derail what looked to be one of the sport’s most promising young talents. Reyes, for years, was heralded as a potential ace, frequenting top prospect rankings throughout his minor league tenure. Heading into the 2017 season, Baseball Prospectus ranked him as the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball, while Baseball America ranked him fourth and MLB.com ranked him sixth.
At that time, Reyes had barely retained his rookie and prospect status after an electrifying MLB debut in 2016, when he pitched 46 innings of 1.57 ERA ball. However, Reyes had Tommy John surgery before he had the chance to follow up on that debut. That surgery, paired with the previously mentioned lat and shoulder troubles, combined to limit Reyes to just 87 total innings from 2017-20 (big leagues and minors combined). He pitched a career-high 72 1/3 innings for the Cardinals in 2021, all coming as a reliever, leading the team with 29 saves. Reyes punched out more than 30% of his opponents but also issued walks at an untenable 16.4% clip.
The hope heading into the 2022 season was that Reyes, like Jordan Hicks, could potentially be stretched out to either again work as a starter or to provide a multi-inning option in high-leverage spots. This latest bout of shoulder trouble, however, nixed that possibility before it ever even truly began. Now, Reyes’ very future in the organization could be in question.
At 27 years of age (28 in August), Reyes has just 145 Major League innings under his belt. Despite that paltry total, he’ll reach five years of Major League service this season, due largely to the significant amount of time he’s spent on the Major League injured list. He’ll likely add another full season of IL time to that ledger. The Cards will be able to retain him via arbitration this winter, and given that he’s unlikely to pitch at all, he’d likely be in line for a repeat of this year’s $2.9MM salary. It’s a modest sum, but the Cards will still need to determine whether they’ll make that commitment to a player who has averaged 29 innings per year over his first five MLB campaigns.