Unsurprising, the Twins announced that Dennys Reyes has opted to become a free agent after he declined to accept arbitration from the team. The 31 year old Reyes will now test a very unstable market. Early rumors indicate that Reyes is in talks with the Cincinnati Reds seeking a three-year, $12 million dollar deal.
When Terry Ryan signed Dennys Reyes to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, he did so along side other left-handed compatriots Darrell May and Gabe White. The intention was to replace the recently traded J.C. Romero with an equally effective but inexpensive arm for the 2006 season. Of the three Reyes had the longest major league track record, coming up as a starter with the Dodgers in 1997.
This method of acquiring several players and having them compete for a position that is historically overpaid is nothing new. Perhaps the best analytical team when it comes to roster building was the 2003 Red Sox. In 2002 the Red Sox had the tough decision whether or not to resign first base incumbent 30 year old Brian Daubach. Daubach had just hit .266/.348/.464 with 20 home runs and had a $2.325 million dollar contract that had just expired. Instead of sinking the $3-million plus to retain Daubach, the front office had a better idea. The Sox signed David Ortiz and Kevin Millar for a nominal fee and shipped a minor league pitcher to the Phillies for Jeremy Giambi. This process gained the Red Sox Ortiz who helped power the team into a perennial contender in a brilliant maneuver.
So on a smaller scale, the Twins decided to do the same thing with the predicament in the bullpen in 2006. With the often hot-headed J.C. Romero headed to California in a trade for minor league infielder Alexi Casilla, the Twins were without any viable left-handed options. The team tapped Reyes, May and White and brought them to Ft Myers for a tryout. Of the three, only Reyes remained with the organization and accepted his placement at Rochester to open the 2006 season.
"This guy's got great stuff," Commented pitching coach Rick Anderson during that spring. "It's just a matter of commanding it. We've always thought he's nasty. I watch him in the pen, and I say, 'Wow!' At 28, a lot of guys hit their prime."
Injuries provided Reyes with a roster spot at the end of April. Used in less than an inning an appearance, Reyes thrived against same-sided opponents, limiting them to a .148 batting average in 96 match-ups. Reyes would finish the season 5-0 with a 0.89 ERA and a 49/15 K/BB ratio in his 50.2 innings pitched. His contributions helped stabilize the bullpen in the playoff-bound team. During the season, General Manager Terry Ryan rewarded Reyes with a two-year, $2 million dollar contract good through 2008.
The first year of the new contract was disappointing. Right-handed batters crushed him in 52 plate appearances (.364 average) and Reyes was sidelined for a substantial portion of the year with injuries. In May Reyes would complain of shoulder pain that would require an MRI. "I've been pitching a long time (15 years professionally), and I've had a lot of different pain before," said Reyes. "But this feels different. This feels really deep. I am really concerned, because I haven't had this kind of feeling before." In 29.1 innings, Reyes went 2-1 with a 3.99 ERA and a pedestrian 21/21 K/BB.
In his walk year of his contract, the 31 year old Reyes threw 46.3 innings and posted a 2.33 ERA with a 39/15 K/BB ratio. This combined with his 2007 performance earned Reyes a Type B free agent rating from Elias, ensuring the Twins that they would get a compensatory draft pick if Reyes is signed by another team. In three seasons, the Twins paid Reyes $2.55 million dollars. In return Reyes tossed 126.3 innings, possessed a 109/51 K/BB ratio and a 2.14 ERA while providing 10 win shares above bench in that duration PLUS a draft pick to supplement the farm system in the 2009 draft.