Braves sign RHP Reynaldo López to 3-year deal

Braves sign RHP Reynaldo López to 3-year deal

ATLANTA — Reynaldo Lopez has been an effective reliever since moving to the bullpen role two years ago. But the Braves will give the hard-throwing slugger a chance to return to his starting role.

Lopez and the Braves agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal on Monday morning. The 29-year-old will be extended during spring training so that there is an option for him to serve as either a starter or an assistant at the start of the 2024 season.

“There is a great atmosphere and an atmosphere of wanting to win (with the Braves),” Lopez said through a translator. “The people I spoke to – my inner circle of friends, everyone – spoke highly of the organization. When my agent said there was an opportunity I said: ‘Let’s do it.’”

Lopez will make $4 million in 2024 and $11 million during the 2025 and 2026 seasons. His $8 million club option for 2027 includes a $4 million buyout.

When Lopez spoke to reporters, he said he did not enter the offseason looking for a team that would allow him to serve as a starter, a role he served during the 2020 season. The Braves happened to provide the opportunity.

Giving Lopez a chance to serve as a starter does not impact the Braves’ pursuit of Sonny Gray or any other front-end player. It simply expands the potential diversity that can be found within Atlanta’s staff.

If Lopez doesn’t fit into the rotation at the start of next season, he could start the season as a high-leverage player who also has the ability to operate in multiple roles.

López posted a 3.27 ERA and produced a 29.9% strikeout rate while pitching for the White Sox, Angels and Guardians last season. Opponents hit .188 with a .545 OPS against his fastball last season. His average pitch velocity of 98.2 mph ranks in the 96th percentile in baseball.

Lopez was used as a starter and reliever after making his debut with the National Team 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.

Lopez seemed to have found the right role as he posted a 3.91 ERA while making 32 appearances 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.

Lopez did not make the White Sox Opening Day roster in 2021. He appeared in July and posted a 1.59 ERA over his first nine starts, mostly as a reliever. But he produced a 4.10 ERA over the nine starts he completed that season.

This big payday for the Braves came thanks to López producing a 3.02 ERA over 129 appearances (131 1/3 innings) for the White Sox, Angels and Guardians over the past two years.

“I’m a different person than I was when I started,” Lopez said. “A lot of it was focus, mentality and, frankly, just the maturity of the player after being here for a while.”

(tags for translation) MLB

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