- Carlos Beltran wants to keep playing beyond this season and there’s a chance he could return to the Royals in 2017. Kansas City will have a vacancy at DH next season since Kendrys Morales is a free agent, and the Royals made a push to sign Beltran in the 2013-14 offseason before the Yankees boosted their offer to include a third guaranteed year. Beltran, who turns 39 tomorrow, is still swinging a strong bat, and it’s possible he could better preserve himself in a regular DH role — Alex Rodriguez’s presence in New York has kept Beltran mostly in right field as a Yankee.
- Aside from Ian Kennedy, the Royals also targeted free agent hurlers Zack Greinke, Wei-Yin Chen and Mike Leake as good fits for their rotation last winter. “All throw changeups, all field their positions well and, most importantly, all command their fastballs,” Rosenthal noted, and GM Dayton Moore told him that pitchers who tend to fall behind in the count didn’t mesh with the Royals’ style. K.C. ended up signing Kennedy to a five-year, $70MM contract, which was less than the five years/$80MM Leake and Chen respectively received from the Cardinals and Marlins and obviously well below Greinke’s $206.5MM megadeal with the Diamondbacks. (Leake, unlike the other three, didn’t have qualifying offer draft compensation to his services.) In the early going, Kennedy has been outstanding as a Royal, posting a 1.35 ERA over his first three starts.
Here are the latest minor transactions from around baseball:
- The Twins have called up right-hander Tyler Duffey from Triple-A and optioned infielder Jorge Polanco, the team announced. Duffey will start the Twins’ game Sunday against the Nationals in place of Ervin Santana, who has back tightness. Duffey, 25, broke into the majors last season and was excellent for the Twins, throwing 58 innings of 3.10 ERA ball with an 8.22 K/9 and 3.10 BB/9. Duffey’s standout performance has continued this year in Triple-A Rochester, where he has pitched to a 1.72 ERA and 2.98 FIP in three starts. Polanco, who’s regarded as a top-100 prospect, got the call to Minnesota last week but didn’t last long. The 22-year-old logged only eight plate appearances, giving him 28 in the big leagues since 2014.
- The Rays wasted no time sending top pitching prospect Blake Snell back to Triple-A after his stellar debut at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune tweets. With Snell returning to Durham, the Rays have selected the contract of right-hander Jhan Marinez. Snell threw five innings of one-run ball in his first major league start, holding the Yankees to two hits and a walk while striking out six. Snell got a no-decision in the Rays’ 3-2 loss. Marinez, 27, could now make his first trip to a major league mound since he picked up 2 2/3 frames for the White Sox in 2012.
- The Blue Jays have optioned southpaw Chad Girodo to Triple-A to make room for right-hander Drew Hutchison, who will start their game Sunday against the A’s, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (Twitter link). Girodo has tossed two scoreless innings for the Jays this year. Hutchison racked up 62 appearances (60 starts) and 335 innings with the Jays from 2014-15, but he struggled to prevent runs (4.97 ERA) despite a quality K/9 (8.41) and decent BB/9 (2.79).
- The Marlins have placed third baseman Martin Prado on the paternity list and selected the contract of left-hander Cody Ege, per a club announcement. Ege, 24, will make his major league debut after recording stellar numbers in 161 2/3 minor league innings. Ege owns a 2.23 minors ERA to go with an 11.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9.
- The Diamondbacks have recalled right-hander Enrique Burgos from Triple-A and optioned righty Silvino Bracho, the team announced. Burgos accrued 27 innings out of the D-backs’ bullpen last season and put up a lofty ERA (4.67) that belied an impressive strikeout rate (13.0 per nine). Bracho threw just 1 2/3 innings for Arizona prior to the demotion, surrendering five hits and three earned runs.
- The Padres have placed utilityman Alexi Amarista on the 15-day DL (retroactive to April 20) with a right hamstring strain and recalled Cesar Vargas from Double-A, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link). Amarista owns a career .229/.277/.325 batting line in 1,601 major league plate appearances, but he was off to a solid start this year (.333/.440/.333 in 26 PAs). Vargas will start the Padres’ game against the Cardinals tonight. The Mexico native could be a diamond in the rough, as Chris Mitchell of Fangraphs details.
- The Nationals signed righty Jaron Long to a minor league deal, the team announced. Jaron Long, the son of Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, spent 2013-15 working through the Yankees’ minor league system. Long, 24, has put up some solid totals in the minors (3.26 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 1.6 BB/9), but he hasn’t yet earned a call-up to the majors.
- The Tigers have claimed catcher John Hicks off waivers from the Twins, Anthony Fenecki of the Detroit Free Press was among those to report (on Twitter). Hicks owns a .279/.325/.408 line in 1,690 minor league PAs and has thrown out a whopping 48 percent of base stealers at various levels. The 26-year-old debuted in the majors last season with the Mariners, collecting only two hits and a walk in 34 trips to the plate.
- The Blue Jays announced that right-hander Arnold Leon cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A (Twitter link via Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com). Leon gave up two runs in 2 1/3 innings with the Jays before they designated him for assignment April 13. He made his major league debut last year with Oakland and posted a 4.39 ERA in 26 1/3 innings. Leon induced an average amount of ground balls (45.9 percent) and averaged 6.4 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9 during that time.
- The Royals have released minor league left-hander Brandon Zajac, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. Zajac was a 23rd-round pick of the Giants in 2013.
- The Braves have recalled lefty reliever Matt Marksberry from Double-A and optioned right-hander Casey Kelly to Triple-A, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com. The Braves needed a fresh arm in place of Kelly, who threw three innings of one-run ball for them on Friday. Marksberry, who has put up a 3.63 ERA over 203 1/3 career minor league innings, tossed 23 1/3 frames for the Braves last season. He compiled a 5.01 ERA to accompany an 8.1 K/9 and 6.2 BB/9.
- The Mets sent right-hander Rafael Montero to Triple-A to make room for the return of starter Jacob deGrom, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN. New York called up Montero on April 12 and he went on to surrender three earned runs on five hits, one walk and three strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings. DeGrom hasn’t pitched since April 8 because of right lat tightness and medical complications with his recently born son, Jaxon, who was released from the hospital Monday.
- The Red Sox recalled left-handler Roenis Elias on Friday and sent righty William Cuevas to Triple-A, per the Boston Herald. Elias, whom Boston acquired from Seattle during the offseason in the Wade Miley/Carson Smith trade, will work out of the Red Sox’s bullpen. Elias has made a pair of starts for Pawtucket this year after totaling 49 as a Mariner the previous two seasons. During that time frame, Elias combined for 277 2/3 innings of 3.99 ERA ball to go with a 7.75 K/9 and 3.47 BB/9. Cuevas, who has been in the Boston organization since 2008, made his major league debut this season to poor results before the demotion. The 25-year-old allowed five base runners (three hits and two walks) and two earned runs in 2 1/3 frames.
This post completes a series in which MLBTR reviewed the offseason moves of every team in baseball. You can find all of those posts at this link.
After coming one game away from baseball’s top prize in 2014, the Royals again reached the postseason in 2015, this time closing out the job with their first World Series title in 30 years. The celebratory parade in Kansas City was a sight to behold, but GM Dayton Moore and his staff had plenty of work to do in what was a busy offseason.
Major League Signings
- Alex Gordon, OF: Four years, $72MM plus 2019 mutual option
- Ian Kennedy, RHP: Five years, $70MM plus opt-out after 2017 season
- Joakim Soria, RHP: Three years, $25MM, plus 2019 mutual option
- Chris Young, RHP: Two years, $11.5MM, plus 2018 mutual option
- Mike Minor, LHP: Two years, $7.25MM plus 2018 mutual option
- Total spend: $185.75MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- Chien-Ming Wang, Travis Snider, Brian Duensing, Clint Barmes, Ross Ohlendorf, David Huff, Peter Moylan, Lester Oliveros
Trades and Claims
- Salvador Perez, C: Five years, $52.5MM (replaced final three years of previous extension)
- Lorenzo Cain, CF: Two years, $17.5MM
- Mike Moustakas, 3B: Two years, $14.3MM
The Royals entered the offseason with a pair of corner outfielders hitting free agency: Alex Gordon and Alex Rios. Gordon, the former No. 2 overall draft pick who has emerged as the face of this new wave of contending baseball in Kansas City, was the clear priority for Moore and the rest of the front office. With early reports that the Royals hoped to re-sign him on a three- or four-year deal, significant doubt was cast on that possibility. It seemed implausible to many, myself included, that Gordon could be had for a deal of that length. However, he was one of many outfielders that lingered on the market longer than pundits expected, and he ultimately signed for $72MM over a four-year term shortly after New Year’s Day. Retaining Gordon was a huge win for the fans, and the fact that the Royals were able to do so at a reasonably manageable price was a plus for the front office. Gordon’s contract is still a record-setter for the typically cost-conscious Royals, but the rest of their roster is affordable enough over the next couple of seasons that it shouldn’t be burdensome.
With Cueto, Young and Guthrie lining up as free agents, the Royals needed to supplement their rotation with innings. They were linked to a fair number of free-agent starters, but the primary addition to their rotation was rather stunning. Ian Kennedy always made sense as a target for the Royals — a fly-ball pitcher that would benefit from a large park and excellent defense (plus, Kansas City’s relationship with Scott Boras is strong) — but the terms of the contract were jarring. I was aggressive on Kennedy’s free agent stock this winter and always considered the narrative that he should accept San Diego’s qualifying offer to be ludicrous, but despite being more bullish on his earning power than most, I was still floored when he secured not only a five-year deal worth $70MM but also an opt-out clause.
Kennedy’s skill set is a great fit for a Royals club that can mask his greatest deficiencies via the aforementioned stadium and defensive prowess, but the contract is still teeming with downside. Kennedy is guaranteed just $27MM of that $70MM sum, meaning he’d be opting out of a three-year, $43MM contract as he heads into his age-33 season. While that’s certainly possible, Kennedy’s inconsistent track record and homer-prone nature also make it easy to envision a scenario where that sum tops what he’d earn on the open market. A spike in his homer-to-flyball ratio similar to the one he experienced in another pitcher-friendly environment in 2015 and 2013 would leave the Royals with an unsightly contract.
The Royals made a pair of smaller-scale commitments in the rotation as well. First, they paid up for right-hander Chris Young after two years of drastically outperforming his peripheral stats thanks to his propensity for weak fly-balls (and, weak contact in general). Young shouldn’t be counted on for innings, having topped 100 frames in a season just thrice since the conclusion of the 2008 season, but he’s being paid a fairly modest $11.5MM over the next two seasons and doesn’t need to do all that much to justify the investment. The Mike Minor contract is even lower risk, financially speaking, as the lefty followed former teammate Kris Medlen from Atlanta to Kansas City and signed a similar contract. Minor is recovering from shoulder surgery, but if he resembles anything close to the 2012-13 version of himself upon his return, it’ll be an easy win for the Royals.
The loss of Greg Holland to Tommy John surgery created a hole at the back of the Kansas City bullpen and turned their dominant late-inning trio into a still-formidable duo of Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera. The Royals sought to fill in the Holland-sized void by reuniting with Joakim Soria, but did so by paying top-of-the-market dollars for a 31-year-old reliever (soon to be 32) that delivered fairly pedestrian results in 2015 prior to a trade to the Pirates. While Ryan Madson’s age perhaps dissuaded the Royals from matching the Athletics’ $22MM commitment in him (understandably so), it was fairly surprising to see the Royals turn around and offer even more money to a setup man that will pitch the final season of a three-year deal at age 34.
Read more analysis after the break…
The Rockies have acquired first baseman Cody Decker from the Royals, according to announcements from both teams. Cash considerations are going back in return.
Decker, 29, has minimal major league experience but was long a solid producer in the upper minors in the Padres’ organization — where he spent his entire career before signing with the Royals as a minor league free agent. Best known for his entertaining antics — particularly those involving former teammate Jeff Francoeur — Decker is also a quality hitter. Indeed, he’s been quite consistent, posting OPS tallies ranging between .819 and .865 in every MiLB season dating back to 2010.
There’s a fair bit of swing and miss to his game, but Decker has also shown a strong walk rate and good power, with several twenty home run campaigns under his belt. The issue, of course, is that he’s limited defensively. Though Decker has filled in at times at third base and the corner outfield in recent years, he’s spent the vast majority of his time at first base.
- The Royals activated Jarrod Dyson from the DL yesterday after he missed the first several weeks of the season with a strained oblique. Manager Ned Yost says he’ll be deployed in a “loose platoon” with Paulo Orlando, Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star tweet. Of course, the left-handed-hitting speedster figures to get a solid majority of the action in that arrangement.
- Meanwhile, the Royals’ vaunted bullpen hasn’t been quite the well-oiled machine thus far in 2016 that it was in the recent past, as Dodd explores. Really, it’s mostly a matter of some early struggles from Joakim Soria, who has allowed six earned runs on ten hits and five walks over his first seven frames. Notably, he’s only managed to get hitters to chase pitches out of the zone 14.7% of the time, which is less than half his career rate. For now, at least, the club isn’t ready to move him out of the primary set-up job, though Kelvin Herrera and Luke Hochevar have both looked strong. “Our roles are set until we need to change our roles,” Yost says.
- Royals southpaw reliever Tim Collins will undergo his second Tommy John surgery since March 2015 on Friday, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com tweets. The news that Collins needed the surgery after his previous elbow graft failed was revealed last month. Collins, 26, posted a 3.54 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and 5.2 BB/9 in 211 relief innings for the Royals from 2011-14.
APRIL 9: Duensing has a May 15 opt-out date, while Barmes and Snider can each opt out June 1, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets.
APRIL 1: The Royals have announced that they’ve re-signed lefty Brian Duensing, shortstop Clint Barmes and outfielder Travis Snider to minor-league deals. (Chris Cotillo of SB Nation had previously reported that the Royals were looking to re-sign Barmes.) All three had previously been in camp with the Royals, and all three had been released. (Duensing had also opted out of his minor-league deal with them.) Both Duensing and Barmes were Article XX(B) free agents, meaning the Royals would have had to pay them a $100K retention bonus had they remained with the organization through the week.
All three will provide the Royals with minor-league depth. The 33-year-old Duensing was previously a key part of the Twins bullpen, although his strikeout rate has dropped from 8.3 K/9 to 4.4 in the past two seasons. He has a career 4.13 ERA, 5.9 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in seven seasons in Minnesota (the first few of which he spent as a starter).
Barmes batted .232/.281/.333 in 224 plate appearances in 2015 with the Padres. He has also posted gaudy defensive numbers in the past, although UZR and DRS both saw the 37-year-old’s fielding as taking steps backward in the past two seasons. He can also play second base in addition to shortstop.
Snider hit .232/.313/.350 in 265 plate appearances last year with the Orioles and Pirates. The left-handed hitter is still just 28, however, and had a strong .264/.338/.438 season with the Bucs in 2014.
The Royals expect injured right fielder Jarrod Dyson to be ready to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha by the end of their current homestand, writes MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Kansas City hosts Minnesota for three games this weekend before going on the road, so that would indicate that Dyson could begin a rehab assignment by Sunday. There’s no word yet on how lengthy his rehab assignment will need to be, but Dyson was said in early March to be on the shelf for six weeks due to an oblique injury. Accordingly, he logged just one Spring Training plate appearance, so he could require a fair amount of time to get up to speed. Dyson has taken batting practice on consecutive days without feeling pain and isn’t limited when it comes to swinging a bat or running, Flanagan adds. However, Dyson himself tells Flanagan that he’s uncertain as to the length of his rehab assignment due to the lengthy down time.
- Meanwhile, top young Royals righty Kyle Zimmer is experiencing shoulder issues this spring and will be delayed in reporting to Triple-A, as MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports. Kansas City is expressing an optimistic view of things, but will obviously exercise caution after Zimmer showed a sudden velocity dip late in camp — particularly given his preexisting medical history. Assistant GM J.J. Picollo explains: “He needs more time before he’s ready to get out. [His] shoulder has been a little erratic — some great days and some so-so days, so we slowed him up.”
- Veteran right-hander Chien-Ming Wang made the Royals’ roster, as MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan writes. Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland, who filled that same role with the Yankees a decade ago when Wang was pitching in New York, tells Flanagan that the righty looks like the pitcher he had in his rotation 10 years ago. Wang’s velocity is said to have spiked to the mid-90s this spring, and when he does toe the rubber for the Royals, it’ll be the first time he steps foot on a Major League mound since 2013. Additionally, outfielders Reymond Fuentes and Terrance Gore have made the Kansas City roster. (Neither Wang nor Gore appeared in last night’s season opener against the Mets.)