Alejo Lopez will be remaining with the Cincinnati Reds. The utility player cleared waivers after he was designated for assignment last week to make room on the 40-man roster for Will Benson. Since this was his first time being placed on waivers he did not have the option of becoming a free agent if the team opted to outright him to the minors if he cleared. Cincinnati did indeed outright him to the minor leagues and then extended him an invitation to big league spring training.
On a team that isn’t going to have a very deep bench due to the carrying of three catchers and the current era of 8-man bullpens, a player who can play all over the place has some additional value. That’s one thing that Alejo Lopez can do. Despite playing in just 73 games in his career he’s played second base, third base, left field, center field (granted it was just for one out and shouldn’t be expected to play here), right field, and he’s even thrown 2.2 innings on the mound. Of course with the new rule this season that non-pitchers can only itch in extra-innings or in huge blowouts (if your run is up by 10 in the 9th, or trailing by 8 at any point in the game).
Another thing that works in the favor of Lopez is that he’s a switch hitter. While the designated hitter being in the National League did eliminate a ton of pinch hitting opportunities (there were 4432 pinch hitting chances in 2021 and just 1644 in 2022), having the option to have one player improve a match up against a specific reliever is still going to be beneficial if available to a team’s manager.
Those two things do work in favor of Lopez, but what doesn’t is that he’s now lost his 40-man roster spot and for him to make the team the Reds would have to decide that he’s a better option in six weeks than someone they didn’t think that about last week….. but maybe not, as the team should have at least two 40-man spots open up with Tejay Antone and Vladimir Gutierrez likely heading to the 60-day injured list once that designation opens up when spring training ends.
What Lopez will need to show in the spring is that he’s carrying a hot bat. While he’s made tons of contact in his big league career, and hit for a solid average (.262), he hasn’t done much else. His on-base percentage in his big league career is just .307 and his slugging percentage is just .331. He’ll have to hit better than that out in Arizona if he’s going to get back onto the big league roster.