Franmil Reyes’ stature made him easy to spot among his new Chicago Cubs teammates on a cool and blustery night at Wrigley Field.
Reyes, who is 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, stepped up to the plate for his first batting practice after the Cubs claimed him from the Cleveland Guardians. Known for his prodigious power, Reyes made it look easy Tuesday when he put on a show during BP.
The 27-year-old Reyes fits what the Cubs need, a still young and proven power hitter, and they have the next two months to see if he can get back on track. If the Cubs like what they see, they can keep Reyes until he hits free agency after the 2024 season.
There is familiarity with Reyes within the organization. General manager Carter Hawkins was in the Cleveland organization when the Guardians traded Reyes as part of a three-team deal in July 2019.
And bench coach Andy Green and assistant hitting coach Johnny Washington worked with Reyes on the San Diego Padres organization, with whom the Dominican Republic native signed in 2011 as an amateur free agent. Green managed Reyes in San Diego in his first two seasons in the major leagues (2018-19), while Washington worked with Reyes during the Dominican Winter League before the 2016 season.
Reyes credited Washington with helping him hit the ball more in the air and make the most of his power potential. When Reyes is locked up offensively, Washington sees him driving the ball all over the field and looking for balls he can hurt. Washington noted that those indicators were already appearing during Reyes’ BP on Tuesday.
“He’s done a great job up to this point to have the career that he’s had,” Washington said. “And I hope that all of us as a staff can have an influential career upgrade for him and help prolong his career in the major leagues. … Obviously his job is to drive the ball and generate runs and we’ll see what kind of plan we come up with to help him move forward.”
Reyes is expected to be in the lineup predominantly as a designated hitter. There he played, batting fifth, in his first game on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals. He can also play in the corners of the outfield.
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“This game is about making adjustments,” Reyes said. “Obviously, things haven’t been going well in the last two years. I always say that I would try to do my best every time. I will not resign. That’s not how I was raised. I have to keep working hard and give my best every day as I know how. I’ll be back soon.”
Since making his debut in 2018, Reyes has hit 101 home runs and 65 doubles with an OPS+ of 114 in 481 games. He has no minor league options left, so in the midst of the worst season of his career (.213/.254/.350, 72 OPS+), the Guardians designated him for assignment.
Given the Cubs’ organizational needs and available at-bats, this acquisition makes sense on many levels.
“We felt like it was a good opportunity to take a chance on him,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said Monday. “We can bring him here and get a chance to meet him and see if we can get him back on track, and we’re in control for a couple of years. We are missing the energy department right now.”
Reyes entered the season with a career ISO of .243 (isolated power) and a hard hitting percentage of 50.2%. Both marks would be the best among current Cubs hitters.
“He’s been a true heart-of-the-order hitter in Major League Baseball for a number of years,” Green said. “There’s not an endless supply of those types of hitters. So if he claims that, that’s a lot for our current lineup. I mean, that really changes some things for us.
“That’s really what it comes down to is you can’t find those guys almost anywhere. And if he goes back to being the guy he’s been for most of his career, it’s going to be a very smart move on Jed’s and Carter’s part.”