Alex Reyes was once one of the brightest prospects in minor leagues closing the 2016 season ranked as the 13th highest prospect on MLBPipeline.com. When the former international signee got the call to the bigs he dominated in his rookie season throwing 46 innings, striking 52 batters out, walking 23 and giving up only 1 home run to the tune of a 1.57 ERA. As recently as 2021 the New Jersey born pitcher was dominating with a 3.24 ERA, 29 saves and 95 strikeouts. So, with such a dominant debut in addition to his strong 2021 campaign, why did the Cardinals non tender for their former top prospect a week ago?
The injury bug has plagued Reyes throughout his career. Ever since his debut in 2016 the former flamethrower was placed on the injured list on five separate occasions. Reyes missed all of 2017 due to a partial tear in his UCL which required Tommy John surgery. In 2018 when he was activated by the Cardinals, nearly a year and a half since his last appearance for the team, he was placed on the injured list again a day later, this time with a lat strain which caused him to miss the remainder of the season. Injuries lead to him pitching only 178 ⅔ professional innings from the start of the 2016 season to the end of 2019 with only 53 of those coming for the Cardinals. 2020 was not much better for him as after pitching 19 ⅔ innings for St. Louis he was placed on the I.L. with a right shoulder injury forcing him to miss the remainder of the season. Then in 2022, a year removed from his long-awaited breakout season, Reyes missed the entire year due to a shoulder injury which later required surgery.
As a result of his laundry list of injuries the Cardinals decided it was necessary to cut ties with the former All-Star pitcher. In addition to his injury history the Cardinals wanted to clear up a space on the 40-man roster to protect a rule 5 draft eligible player as well as not paying him his projected arbitration number which was around $3 million.
There was also no certainty that Reyes was ever going to return to his 2021 form. A pitcher having multiple season ending injuries resulting in surgery of times results in decreased velocity, worse control and overall diminished stuff. Now is there an inherited risk that the Cardinals are assuming by releasing a closer who was an All Star less than 2 years ago? Of course, there is. Although, in the same respect Reyes is a pitcher who had been in the organization since 2013, debuted in 2016 but only threw 145 innings at the Major League level. At a certain point the organization was simply going to lose patience with the situation and cut ties which they did.
Personally, it is a move I struggle to completely agree with. Arms are at a premium and it is not like Reyes was going to receive a large salary. Teams can never have enough relievers, especially ones with a pedigree of Reyes’ so to let him go over a few million and a 40-man roster spot is a bit too much of a risk for my liking.