The first images and sounds of spring training started emerging for the KC Royals Wednesday, but significant news trickled out as well. The Royals signed outfielder Franmil Reyes to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training. MLB.com's Anne Rogers broke the news via Twitter.
The addition could be the Royals' most rewarding one if Reyes moves on from a disastrous 2022 season. Reyes debuted with the San Diego Padres in 2018 and eventually spent two seasons with the Cleveland Guardians. At the end of the 2021 season, he had accrued 92 home runs in 529 career games. A 29.5% strikeout rate hindered his long-term outlook, but he posted a 9% walk rate in that same span. Reyes was not a game-changing defender by any stretch, but the then-25-year-old's powerful hitting made him an intriguing player for Cleveland.
Ultimately, his strikeouts rose and his walks dropped in 2022, causing the Guardians to designate him for assignment in August. The Chicago Cubs kept Reyes in the majors, but ultimately released him after the 2022 season concluded. Reyes posted just 14 home runs and an 80 wRC+ between Cleveland and Chicago. The failures at the plate left no reason for an MLB club to invest in Reyes. He is a below-average defender in the outfield and has never posted a positive defensive season in the majors. On top of that, he is hardly a burner on the base paths. Once the offense sputtered, so did Reyes himself.
Reyes will join the Royals in Arizona when full-squad workouts start next week, according to Rogers. She also reported that "if Reyes doesn’t make the team, he can sign anywhere else." If the Royals do retain Reyes in 2023, they could keep him agiain in 2024 through arbitration. This deal sounds very mutually benefical one, where Reyes needs a chance and Kansas City needs, well, everything.
Reyes' path to Opening Day has several hurdles, but Kansas City could maximize the right-handed hitter's potential in 2023. The organization has a great recent track record of hitting reclamation projects. No better example exists than outfielder Jorge Soler, who later won a World Series ring with the Atlanta Braves.
Reyes' addition will heat up the corner outfield position battle this spring training. The Royals have Drew Waters, Edward Olivares, and MJ Melendez who will take the lion's share of corner outfield work, but a resurgent Reyes could spare fans from seeing Hunter Dozier struggling in the outfield. While other non-roster invitees will see outfield work during spring training, plenty of eyes will be on Reyes.