Cubs hoping Franmil Reyes can provide offensive ‘boost’ late in season
The Cubs claimed Reyes off waivers from the Guardians and optioned Frank Schwindel to Triple-A Iowa to clear space on the active roster.
Cubs bench coach Andy Green referred to the day the Padres traded outfielder Franmil Reyes to Cleveland as ‘‘one of the toughest’’ in his time managing in San Diego.
So when Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and general manager Carter Hawkins walked into the weight room Monday to tell Green they had claimed Reyes off waivers from the Guardians, Green admitted he ‘‘might’’ have fist-pumped.
‘‘I’ve loved him since the day he showed up in camp with the Padres,’’ Green said before the Cubs’ 6-5 loss Tuesday to the Nationals. ‘‘But there’s also that part of you that knows that means somebody you really like here isn’t going to be here.’’
That somebody ended up being first baseman Frank Schwindel, who was hitting .186 since returning from the 10-day injured list in mid-July. The Cubs optioned Schwindel to Triple-A Iowa on Monday to make room for Reyes on the active roster.
‘‘We all love Frank and think a lot of him and know he’s got a chance to come right back here and be a big part of it and find his rhythm and feel again that he hasn’t seemed to find this year,’’ Green said.
Expect more of that kind of push-and-pull as the Cubs use the last couple of months of the season to evaluate which players will be in their plans in 2023.
There have been other examples in just the last week. The Cubs optioned infielder David Bote to Iowa after acquiring utility player Zach McKinstry at the trade deadline, and Hoyer revealed plans Monday to part ways with veteran outfielder Jason Heyward at the end of the season, adding that he doesn’t expect him to return from the IL (inflammation in right knee) this season.
The Cubs, who are not in playoff contention, have the flexibility to see what a hitter such as Reyes can do with a change of scenery and regular playing time.
‘‘I’m looking forward to knowing a lot more about this great organization,’’ Reyes said. ‘‘I know it has a great fan base. I want to give the best to the fans, and I always will appreciate the time and support with this team.’’
Reyes has connections to the organization already. He and former Cubs reliever Pedro Strop, whom Reyes said is coming to a game this week to see him, are both from the San Cristobal province in the Dominican Republic. Reyes overlapped with teammates Anderson Espinoza and Rowan Wick in the Padres’ farm system.
Hawkins was an assistant GM for Cleveland when the team acquired Reyes from the Padres. Green managed him in San Diego — ‘‘He’s like my father, I love him,’’ Reyes said — and Reyes worked with Cubs assistant hitting coach Johnny Washington in the minors and in his first two seasons in the big leagues.
‘‘I became a home-run hitter in my career since the minors because of Johnny Washington,’’ Reyes said. ‘‘I was just a regular guy that likes to hit a lot of line drives, and he was like, ‘Well, you’re not going to get to the big leagues if you’re not going to put the ball in the air.’ ’’
Washington brushed off the compliment and gave all the credit back to Reyes.
‘‘Fran was a great personality, great clubhouse guy, brings energy every day,’’ Washington said. ‘‘Very thankful to have him on this ballclub, and hopefully he can give us a boost offensively here in the second half.’’
Reyes, 27, has had two seasons of 30 or more homers in his career (37 in 2019 and 30 last season). But when the Guardians designated him for assignment, he was hitting .213. His batting average against breaking balls is down this season (.162) compared to last (.219), and his strikeout rate had risen from 28.6% in 2020 to 37.1% entering Tuesday.
‘‘The power is real,’’ Washington said. ‘‘That’s a gift he has. And from his standpoint — our standpoint — it’s, how do we pull that out daily and become more consistent with that power?’’
Reyes went 1-for-4 with the tying single in the seventh inning of his Cubs debut.