Former Cleveland Guardians slugger Franmil Reyes will be continuing his career in professional baseball, just not in the United States. Reyes is about to sign with the Hokkaido Nipon-Ham Fighters of the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan, as he becomes the latest former Major League Baseball player to prolong his career in Japanese professional baseball.
MLB Insider Hector Gomez had reported on December 28 that there was some sort of a market for Reyes, which included a reunion with Cleveland. He was also rumored to be linked to the Marlins, Twins, Orioles and at least three Japanese teams. Reyes took Cleveland by storm when he was acquired as part of the major deal that sent starting pitcher Mike Clevenger to the San Diego Padres. Without a designated hitter at the time in the National League, Reyes, who also played first base and outfield, projected more as someone who could make hay in the American League.
He smashed 37 home runs between the Padres and Cleveland in 2019 and had a 30-homer season in 2021 while driving in 80. But his skills fell off a cliff in 2022, and he was designated for assignment midway through the season after slashing just .213/.254/.350. From there, he was claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs before signing a minor-league deal with the Kansas City Royals in 2023. Despite playing 19 games with the major-league club that season, he was released and signed a minor-league contract with the Washington Nationals, playing 38 games with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings before getting released.
Across 38 games between two Triple-A clubs in what now stands as his final baseball affiliated with MLB, Reyes slashed .217/.317/.392 while hitting just six home runs and five doubles. Reyes, still just 28 years old, will be splitting time with Cuban slugger Ariel Martinez, who has played professionally in Japan since 2018.