Cardinals non-tender former closer Reyes

Outfielder DeLuzio also not offered a contract for 2023

November 19th, 2022

After his massive potential as a frontline starter and even as a lights-out closer was derailed due to arm injuries over the past seven seasons, Alex Reyes’ tumultuous run with the Cardinals ended on Friday.

The Cardinals announced that they would not offer Reyes a contract for the 2023 season, and the ‘21 All-Star closer became a free agent. The franchise that signed him in 2012 as an international free agent and invested time, patience and millions of dollars into him did not want to risk him being available again in ‘23. Reyes, 28, missed all of last season following surgery to repair his frayed right labrum, and president John Mozeliak recently said he doesn’t expect that the hard-throwing right-hander will be ready to pitch by the start of the new season.

The Cardinals also announced their decision to non-tender center fielder Ben DeLuzio, bringing their 40-man roster to 37. MLB teams had until 7 p.m. CT on Friday to announce whether or not they would offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players for the upcoming season. St. Louis reached an agreement on a two-year deal with reliever Giovanny Gallegos in September, and it signed fellow right-hander Chris Stratton to a one-year contract on Thursday.

Reliever Génesis Cabrera, infielder Tommy Edman, starting pitcher Jack Flaherty, closer Ryan Helsley, reliever Jordan Hicks, pitcher Dakota Hudson, catcher Andrew Knizner, starting left-hander Jordan Montgomery and outfielder Tyler O’Neill are eligible for various rounds of arbitration. Those nine players are expected to earn approximately $30.9 million combined next season, according to Cot's Baseball Contract's estimates.

Teams and player representatives can start sharing salary figures on Jan. 13. Arbitration hearings, if necessary, will follow soon after.

Reyes, who was projected to get a raise from $2.8 million to $2.9 million in 2023 despite not pitching this past season, will now head into free agency. There is no firm timetable on when he might be ready to pitch next season, Mozeliak said.

“Clearly, it’s been frustrating for him with so many injuries,” Mozeliak said recently. “He’s rehabbing, but he’s got to get past rehab, and we have to understand what his production might or might not look like next year. I don’t think that’s been answered yet.”

Reyes, a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder with an upper 90s fastball and a wipeout curveball, was an All-Star in 2021, when he pitched in 69 games. He went 10-8 with a 3.24 ERA with 29 saves and three holds before injuring his right shoulder and losing his closer job to Gallegos.

Reyes surrendered a walk-off home run to the Dodgers' Chris Taylor in the 2021 National League Wild Card Game at Dodger Stadium, then showed up to Spring Training in March with more pain in his shoulder. When painkilling injections didn’t work, Reyes underwent another surgery.

A heavily decorated pitcher in the Minor Leagues, Reyes made his much-anticipated debut with the Cardinals on Aug. 9, 2016, and he didn’t give up a run over his first five relief appearances. In five starts that season, Reyes struck out 29 hitters and his future looked brighter than ever.

However, shoulder and elbow injuries hit repeatedly over the next few seasons. He didn’t pitch at all in 2017 and he made just five appearances across ‘18 and ’19. He reemerged in ‘20 as a middle reliever before taking over the closer’s job. In parts of five MLB seasons with the Cardinals, Reyes was 16-11 with a 2.86 ERA and 31 saves in 36 opportunities. Over 145 innings pitched, he had 177 strikeouts compared to 97 walks.

DeLuzio made his MLB debut last September and impressed the Cardinals enough with his speed and defense as a center fielder to earn a spot on the postseason roster.

The Cardinals also signed five Minor League free agents on Friday, including the franchise’s second-round Draft pick in 2013, Oscar Mercado. They also signed infielder Taylor Motter, shortstop Juniel Querecuto, left-handed pitcher Kenny Hernandez and right-handed pitcher Logan Sawyer.

Mercado, who turns 28 next month, has played 278 MLB games since his debut with Cleveland in 2019. He hit .235 with 26 home runs, 95 RBIs and 27 stolen bases over four MLB seasons.