It is unclear what role he may fill, but Reynaldo López is excited to begin the Braves chapter of his career.
The Atlanta Braves added another right-handed power arm to their mix Monday with the addition of Reynaldo López on a three-year, $26 million deal. The deal is backloaded and also includes an $8 million option for a fourth season that also has a $4 million buyout.
Lopez appeared in 68 games out of the bullpen in 2023 for the White Sox, Angels and Guardians and posted a 3.27 ERA and a 3.91 FIP to go along with a 29.9% strikeout rate. Despite his recent success as a reliever, Lopez came to the majors as a starter and has 97 starts in his career. The Braves are reportedly planning to stretch Lopez out during the spring and give him the chance to start. That wasn’t something that he said was a priority for him when he hit the open market this offseason.
“I was open to both options. If somebody was looking for a starter or reliever, both options were open,” Lopez said Monday.
No matter what role he fills, the Braves are getting a power arm that has seen a noticeable uptick in velocity in recent seasons. Lopez’s four-seamer averaged 94.3 mph during eight starts during the shortened 2020 pandemic season. The velocity has gone up from there over the next three seasons and topped out at 98.4 mph in 2023. When asked about his uptick in velocity, Lopez said that there has been a variety of factors.
“Things definitely have changed,” Lopez said when asked about the differences in his game now than when he came up in 2016. “There’s been different keys, different factors that have come into it. Maturity of just being an older player, four years coming down the road set things up differently for me. Definitely looking forward to this and I think just everything coming together at the right time.”
As a reliever, Lopez primarily paired his fastball with a slider. He threw his changeup just 5.4% of the time and it has been on the decline since 2021 when he shifted primarily to the bullpen. The pitch has still been effective with hitters producing a .126 xwOBA against it last season.
Lopez said that he was excited to come to Atlanta and jumped at the chance to sign with the Braves. After bouncing around with three teams last year, he now has security with three years of guaranteed money.
“This past season, I faced them, and they just looked like they knew that they wanted to win at all times,” Lopez said of facing the Braves. “Now to be on this side and be part of that, I’m looking forward to it. The vibe around the whole organization is positive, and it’s great to be part of that and can’t wait to get out there.”
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Title: Reynaldo López eager to get started with Braves
Author: Kris Willis