On Monday the Atlanta Braves announced that they signed former White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez to a three-year deal. It is a huge opportunity for Lopez who once again has an opportunity to pitch for a contender.
Lopez’s new contract is worth $30 million and includes a club option worth $8 in 2027. According to a release from the Braves, Lopez is set to make $4 million in 2024 and $11 million in 2025 and 2026.
Lopez spent seven seasons with the White Sox, pitching in 205 games. During that time his career saw many peaks and valleys. Lopez went from having a 5.38 ERA as a starter in 2019 to throwing 100 mph as a closer in 2023.
He was initially acquired in a trade that sent Adam Eaton to the Nationals. At the time he was projected to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. In 2018 he showed flashes of being able to do just that. In 32 starts he posted a 3.91 ERA which was the best among all White Sox starting pitchers that season. However the following season he regressed and allowed 110 earned runs, the most in the MLB. He made 8 starts in 2020 and posted a 6.49 ERA which resulted in him losing his spot in the starting rotation.
The move to the bullpen turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After undergoing an eye procedure, Lopez turned into one of the most eclectic relievers in the White Sox bullpen. In 2022 he had a career-best 2.76 ERA.
Last season he posted 3.27 ERA and produced a career-best 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Lopez was traded to the Angels at the trade deadline where he only allowed four runs in 13 games and struck out 19 of the 60 batters he faced. He was then claimed on waivers by the Cleveland Guardians and only allowed five hits and no runs in 11 innings of work.
The 29-year-old is finally coming into his own and showing everyone why he was once considered a top pitching prospect. Last season his fastball velocity and strikeout rate placed him in the MLB’s top 90th percentile.
However, the Braves may have larger plans for Lopez than just a late-inning reliever. Multiple reports have indicated that the Braves could allow Lopez to join the rotation. The Braves were 11th in the MLB in quality starts last season and are looking to add some depth to the rotation.
Ken Rosenthal reported that Lopez will prepare as a starter this offseason and that the Braves will stretch him out in spring training before determining his official role. Rosenthal added that Lopez averaged 32 starts and 186 innings with the White Sox in 2018 and 2019 and his versatility is what appealed to Atlanta.
If the Braves do not sign Lucas Giolito, it will mark the first time in Lopez’s MLB career that he has not been in the same organization as the tall right-hander to start a season.