ATLANTA -- Reynaldo López has been an effective reliever since transitioning to a bullpen role a couple years ago. But the Braves are going to give the hard-throwing right-hander a chance to return to a starting role.
López and the Braves agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal on Monday morning. The 29-year-old will be stretched out during Spring Training so that there is an option for him to serve as either a starting pitcher or a reliever at the start of the 2024 season.
“There's a great vibe and atmosphere of wanting to win [with the Braves],” López said through a translator. “People I spoke to -- my inner circle of friends, everybody -- spoke highly of the organization. When my agent said that there was an opportunity I said, ‘Let's do it.’”
López will receive $4 million in 2024 and $11 million during both the 2025 and 2026 seasons. His $8 million club option for 2027 includes a $4 million buyout.
When López spoke to reporters, he said he didn’t enter the offseason looking for a team that would allow him to serve as a starting pitcher, a role he handled through the 2020 season. The Braves just happened to provide the opportunity.
Giving López a chance to work as a starter doesn’t influence the Braves’ pursuit of Sonny Gray or another front-end starter. It simply expands the potential versatility that could exist within Atlanta’s pitching staff.
If López doesn’t fit the rotation at the start of next season, he could begin the season as a high-leverage reliever who also has the capability of working multiple innings.
López posted a 3.27 ERA and produced a 29.9% strikeout rate while pitching for the White Sox, Angels and Guardians this past season. Opponents batted .188 with a .545 OPS against his fastball last season. The pitch’s average velocity of 98.2 mph ranked in the 96th percentile in baseball.
López was used as both a starter and reliever after he debuted for the Nationals during the latter part of the 2016 season. He was used exclusively as a starter after being traded to the White Sox during the ensuing offseason.
It looked like López might have found the right role as he posted a 3.91 ERA while making 32 starts for the White Sox in 2018. But his 4.63 FIP that year was a sign of things to come. He posted a 5.52 ERA with a 5.36 FIP while combining to make 41 starts for Chicago over the next two seasons.
López didn’t make the White Sox Opening Day roster in 2021. He came up in July and posted a 1.59 ERA during his first nine appearances, mostly as a reliever. But he produced a 4.10 ERA over the nine starts he completed that season.
This big payday the Braves provided came courtesy of López producing a 3.02 ERA over 129 appearances (131 1/3 innings) for the White Sox, Angels and Guardians the past two years.
“I'm a different person from when I started,” López said. “A lot of it has been focus, the mindset and honestly, just the player's maturity from being here for a bit now.”