Kansas City Royals Rumors

Kansas City Royals trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

AL Notes: Frieri, Hamilton, Blanton

Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey is already helping new reliever Ernesto Frieri make adjustments, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune writes. “That’s why I’m here,” says Frieri. “He knows what he’s doing. He fixed a couple of guys before, and I hope I’m not the exception. I’m pretty sure he’s going to give me the right information and I’m going to take advantage.” The Rays have helped veteran relievers like Fernando Rodney, Kyle Farnsworth and Joaquin Benoit improve their stock, and Frieri hopes to be the next in line. The 29-year-old is coming off a terrible season with the Angels and Pirates in which he posted a 7.34 ERA and struggled mechanically. His 10.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and good velocity suggest he might have more gas in his tank, however, even if his fly-ball tendencies make him homer-prone, so he could be a bounce-back candidate if he can make the right adjustments. Here’s more from the American League.

  • MLB plans to be compassionate in the case of Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton after his relapse, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi report. The league is expected to suspend Hamilton for 25 games or more, but for less than a full season, although an official decision is not close. Hamilton’s relapse violated the terms of the treatment program the league required of him when he was reinstated in 2006 following a lengthy suspension.
  • The Royals will use Joe Blanton exclusively as a reliever, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports. “The only way he is really going to help us is in the bullpen,” says Ned Yost. “We’re not going to stretch him out.” Blanton, 34, recently signed a minor-league deal with Kansas City after sitting out the 2014 season. He has spent almost his entire ten-year big-league career as a starter.

Bullpen Notes: Bailey, Coke, Blue Jays

Andrew Bailey decided to stay with the Yankees because he was treated so well last year, as Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News writes. The former closer is still working his way back from shoulder surgery in the summer of 2013. “For [the Yankees] to put the time, effort, and investment into myself, I wasn’t going to look anywhere else to go,” said Bailey, who has now tossed five bullpen sessions and hopes to be ready to compete for a job out of camp.

A few more bullpen-related items from around the league…

  • Left-hander Phil Coke is still holding out for a Major League deal in the neighborhood of Craig Breslow‘s one-year, $2MM contract with the Red Sox, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. Coke has been connected to a number of clubs, including the Rangers, Marlins, Blue Jays and Royals, over the past two weeks, but the Rangers’ interest has reportedly waned, and Miami is said to be interested only in a minor league deal. Last year, the 32-year-old posted a 3.88 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 58 innings with Detroit. ERA estimators such as FIP (3.98), xFIP (3.79) and SIERA (3.55) felt Coke was at least as good, if not better than that mark would suggest.
  • If the Blue Jays pick up another reliever, it will not be one of the names left on the open market, writes Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. “If we were to add right now, I don’t see it being in free agency,” GM Alex Anthopoulos told Davidi.

AL Central Notes: Chamberlain, Coke, Gordon

Joba Chamberlain‘s new deal with the Tigers includes a pretty hard-to-reach incentive, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter): the reliever will get an additional $100K if he wins the Cy Young award.  Chamberlain, 29, will receive a $1MM base salary plus an additional $100K for reaching 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 appearances.  The right-hander posted a 3.57 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9, and 53.2% groundball rate in 63 innings for the Tigers last year.  More from the AL Central..

  • Many expected that Phil Coke had a better chance of returning to the Tigers than Chamberlain, but that was apparently not the case, Jason Beck of MLB.com writes.  The Tigers have shown no signs of interest for Coke and although he has thrown for teams in San Diego recently, neither manager Brad Ausmus nor Tigers scouts had watched him as of a week ago.
  • Chris Iott of MLive.com looked at the multiple implications of Chamberlain signing with the Tigers.  The pact, among other things, gives the bullpen depth and also insurance for Bruce Rondon as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery.  Detroit expects Rondon to be their main seventh-inning guy, but if he’s not good to go for some reason, the Tigers could turn to the newly-acquired Chamberlain or Al Alburquerque.
  • A lot of fuss has been made over Royals outfielder Alex Gordon and his player option for 2016, but it doesn’t sound like he’s all that distracted by it.  “[I] don’t think about it,” Gordon said, according to Jeffrey Flanagan (on Twitter) “The only time I think about it is when you guys ask me.”  Last August, Gordon told reporters he intended to exercise his $13.25MM player option for the 2016 season but now he’s not so sure.


AL Central Notes: Blanton, Joba, Crain, Albers, Twins

Joe Blanton, who is in Spring Training with the Royals on a minor league deal this year, missed the game more than he thought he would upon briefly retiring in 2014, writes ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Blanton spent his year off with his wife and three children, but he tells Crasnick that he felt he owed it to himself to take one more shot at the game. “It was nice being home with my family,” Blanton explains. “But the window is small. I’ve done this my whole life. I’ve put a lot into it, so why not see what’s left? I felt like it was almost an injustice to myself to just step away like that.” Blanton recognizes that there may not be an immediate path to the Major League roster in Kansas City and is open to pitching at Triple-A. “I didn’t play in 2014, and 2013 was a terrible year,” says Blanton. “That’s two years of basically nothing — no good work or no playing at all. So I’m kind of starting back at square one, really.”

Some more news and notes from Blanton’s new division, the AL Central…

  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski says that Joba Chamberlain turned down more lucrative offers from other clubs to return to Detroit, according to MLB.com’s Jason Beck (Twitter links). Talks between the two sides picked up over the past few days and came together last night, Beck adds. “He really wanted to come back,” Dombrowski said.
  • Non-roster invitees Jesse Crain and Matt Albers could be significant boosts to the White Sox bullpen if healthy, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. Crain is already further along than he was in an injury-plagued 2014 season in which he spent the entire year on the disabled list. He tells Merkin that he’s already throwing off a mound with just one day between sessions, which is something he didn’t do at all last year. As for Albers, Merkin interestingly notes that he nearly signed with the White Sox last offseason but instead chose to sign with the Astros, where he missed nearly the entire year after tearing a muscle in his shoulder.
  • Glen Perkins called the first day of Spring Training under new Twins manager Paul Molitor the most mentally intensive first day of camp he’s ever had in his career, writes Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN. Molitor worked with pitchers and catchers to outline the ways in which the Twins need to improve on holding runners to help limit the running game, specifically focusing on tendencies throughout the staff that other teams exploited in 2014. Perkins spoke highly of Molitor’s baseball acumen and teaching ability, and Mackey writes that Molitor’s wealth of knowledge and attention to detail could boost the Twins’ on-field product if he’s able to communicate everything effectively.

Central Notes: Madson, Wood, Castillo, Cardinals

Ryan Madson, who’s in Royals camp and who faced live batters for the first time in a year and a half on Sunday, encountered plenty of obstacles as he battled back from Tommy John surgery, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes. Madson, who last pitched in the big leagues in 2011, ultimately spent the 2014 season out of baseball. But he got the urge to come back after Royals special assistant Jim Fregosi, Jr. enlisted him to help instruct a Southern California high school pitcher. Madson does not have any limitations in camp this spring, although it’s unclear whether he’ll be available to join the Royals’ bullpen once the season starts. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • Cubs pitcher Travis Wood hasn’t been given a heads-up from the team on the likelihood of a trade, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets. “If I get traded, I get traded. It’s part of the business,” Wood said.  At present, Wood figures to battle for the fifth spot in the rotation alongside Tsuyoshi Wada and Felix DoubrontJon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks, of course, make up the Cubs’ front four.
  • The Cubs trading Welington Castillo is not a foregone conclusion, as President Theo Epstein says the team is considering keeping three catchers, tweets Bruce Levine of 670theScore.com.
  • Yadier Molina has lost 15-20 pounds this offseason after injuries limited the Cardinals catcher to 110 games and forced him to miss the final three games of the NLCS, reports Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Molina has three years and an option remaining on his contract and expects to play beyond its length. “Oh, my God. I’m 32 years old. I’ll play as long as my body lets me. Who knows? Maybe I’ll catch 10 more years. You don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows.
  • In a separate article, Hummel details how Cardinals reliever Randy Choate has expressed his frustration to manager Mike Matheny about being used for complete innings (and being exposed to right-handed hitters) rather than in his specialty of lefty-on-lefty situations. Matheny says the confines of a 25-man roster prevents using a player in such a limited way. “You can’t completely cater to one guy if it’s going to beat up two other guys where they can’t do their job. How does that work?
  • Cardinals infielder Pete Kozma, who is fighting for a roster spot and is out of options, is increasing his versatility by donning the tools of ignorance with hopes of serving as the team’s emergency catcher, according to MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch.

Alex Gordon May Decline Player Option

Last August, Alex Gordon told reporters he intended to exercise his $13.25MM player option for the 2016 season. Now he may decline the option, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. When asked earlier today, Gordon said, “I don’t know the answer right now. I don’t know how this year is going to go, or how it’s going to look at the end of the year.”

Gordon is open to an extension with the Royals, although no negotiations are active. While some players set a deadline for contract talks, Gordon is willing to discuss the matter during the season. He indicated a desire to remain in Kansas City, saying “[It] almost feels like my hometown.”

The situation could become awkward for the Royals. McCullough compares Gordon to Hunter Pence who earned a five-year, $90MM contract with the Giants. The largest contract in Royals history is the $55MM paid to Gil Meche and Mike Sweeney. An extension to Gordon similar to that of Pence could affect their ability to retain Eric Hosmer or Yordano Ventura.

Club payroll is at $110MM with $66.8MM committed to 2016. Team options for Wade Davis and Alcides Escobar along with arbitration for Greg Holland, Lorenzo Cain, Danny Duffy, and Mike Moustakas could push that figure close to $100MM. One rival official suggested the club is in a catch-22. If Gordon has a strong season, he could price his way out of the market. If he struggles, then they’re stuck with the player option.

In his recent power rankings for the 2016 offseason, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked Gordon as the seventh best potential free agent. Pointing to Shin-Soo Choo, Dierkes believes Gordon is young enough to merit a nine-figure deal. He figures a $110MM guarantee might be enough to keep him in Kansas City.


Royals Sign Franklin Morales

FEB.20: Morales’ deal pays him $1.85MM with an additional $850K available via incentives, if he is on the Major League roster, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

FEB. 19: The Royals have signed left-hander Franklin Morales to a minor league contract, the team announced on its official Twitter site.  Morales is represented by the Boras Corporation.

Morales posted a 5.37 ERA, 6.3 K/9 and 1.54 K/BB rate over 142 1/3 innings with the Rockies last season.  Ostensibly the team’s emergency starter, Morales ended up making 22 starts (out of 37 overall appearances) thanks to all of the injuries in Colorado’s rotation.  This unexpected amount of action was surely a big reason for Morales’ inflated numbers, especially the additional exposure to right-handed hitters — righty bats had a .923 OPS against Morales last season, while left-handed hitters managed only a .699 OPS.

Given his large career splits (.624 OPS vs LHB, .844 OPS vs. RHB), Morales could be a valuable bullpen weapon if he’s limited to facing mostly lefty bats.  If he makes the Royals’ roster, pitching at Kauffman Stadium could also be a boon for Morales after spending his entire career at hitter-friendly Coors Field and Fenway Park.  Morales has only a 40% ground ball rate over his career and his HR/FB rate ballooned to a career-high 15.9% last season.

While the Royals’ bullpen is arguably the best in the game overall, their relief corps is short on left-handed options other than Tim Collins.  Top prospect Brandon Finnegan worked out of the bullpen during Kansas City’s playoff run last year, though the club would obviously prefer to keep him as a starter for the sake of his long-term development.  Of the other southpaw relievers in camp (including Brian Flynn and Joe Paterson), Morales has the most experience and he could even take the odd start if the Royals were in a pinch.  K.C. had also recently shown interest in veteran relievers Phil Coke and Alfredo Aceves.


Central Notes: Morales, Finnegan, Castillo, Pirates, Marshall

While it may seem curious to some that the Royals are adding relief arms such as Franklin Morales because of the perceived strength of their bullpen, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes that the bullpen isn’t as deep as the team would like. The Royals are hoping for a return to form from Luke Hochevar, but he’s less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery. Tim Collins and Louis Coleman each posted FIP marks of 4.80 or higher with poor strikeout-to-walk ratios, and other candidates such as Rule 5 pick Jandel Gustave, journeyman Joe Paterson and reclamation projects Ryan Madson and Joe Blanton offer little certainty. While 2014 top pick and late-season bullpen weapon Brandon Finnegan is an option, the club still wants to develop him as a starter, which likely means more time in the minors.

Here’s more from baseball’s Central divisions…

  • Finnegan, for his part, tells McCullough that he would prefer to open the season with the Royals as a reliever than go back to the minor leagues as a starting pitcher (Twitter link). Of course, it’s not surprising that he’d prefer to remain with the Major League club any way that he can, however, as McCullough points out, it’s also not his decision. Certainly, Finnegan’s long-term value to the club would be increased were he able to make it as a starting pitcher, and he may not have to wait that long for a shot, as Jeremy Guthrie can become a free agent next winter.
  • While some players will admit that a trade suits them best when their path to playing time becomes obscured, Welington Castillo tells Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune that he hopes to remain with the Cubs even after their acquisitions of Miguel Montero and David Ross (Twitter link). Castillo looks to be an expensive and perhaps superfluous third catcher at this stage, and there have been some indications that the 27-year-old may find himself with a new team before Opening Day.
  • Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette argues that the Pirates should have found a way to avoid arbitration with Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Vance Worley rather than ending up in hearings that resulted in a savings of a mere $50K. While Cook is accurate that the money saved was minimal, GM Neal Huntington explained via email that the team’s goal was “to simply explain why the club’s submitted salary is a more accurate salary for the player based on other comparable past and current players than the player’s submitted salary.” I’d add that teams feel a sense of responsibility to the rest of the league to manage arbitration salaries, as the arbitration process is based largely on statistical comparables.
  • Reds lefty Sean Marshall has had a minor setback in recovery from his June shoulder surgery and isn’t throwing from the mound yet, he tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. However, Marshall is pleased with how his offseason has progressed and isn’t concerned about having to slow things down a bit. The 32-year-old has pitched just 24 1/3 innings since signing a three-year, $16.5MM extension with Cincinnati, though he was among the game’s elite left-handed relievers the three seasons prior (2010-12).

AL Central Notes: Indians, Tigers, Cabrera

For the third installment of a four-part series comparing the Indians and the division-rival Tigers, Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel spoke to both Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski and Indians GM Chris Antonetti about the way in which their payroll allows them to operate. Dombrowski discussed how the financial muscle provided to him by owner Mike Ilitch allows for an aggressive approach that he didn’t necessarily have when serving as GM of the Expos and Marlins, or even earlier in his Tigers tenure. While a larger pool of resources hasn’t changed his philosophical approach to the game, per se, it has changed his approach to accomplishing his goals.

Antonetti, meanwhile, discussed the importance of acquiring and building around players in the “sweet spot” of their careers, as the Tribe GM termed it — players who are entering, or in the midst, of their peak years (and subsequently are in the early stages of arbitration). The young nature of Cleveland’s core made the team comfortable with adding only Brandon Moss and Gavin Floyd to the roster this winter, Antonetti added. “It’s a group that played its best baseball in the second half, and so as we looked at things, we felt very good about the group of guys we headed into the offseason with,” Antonetti said.

Some more AL Central notes…

  • The Tigers announced yesterday that two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera has been cleared to begin non-impact baseball activities, which include hitting and throwing. Cabrera “will begin a running progression until full weight-bearing is achieved,” per the press release. While the Tigers neglected to give a specific timetable for his return, the release indicated that the club is “optimistic” that Cabrera will be ready come Opening Day. Cabrera underwent surgery in October to remove bone spurs from his right ankle and repair a stress fracture in his right foot.
  • A report earlier this week indicated that the Royals watched Phil Coke throw recently, and Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals have not only watched Coke, but also Alfredo Aceves throw. Kansas City is still on the hunt for relief depth, McCullough notes. While Coke makes some sense as a lefty option in the K.C. bullpen, he’s reportedly seeking a Major League contract, whereas Aceves could certainly be had on a minor league deal.
  • When the Braves and Royals engaged in Justin Upton trade talks earlier this winter, Atlanta wanted left-handed prospect Sean Manaea included in the deal, according to Peter Gammons in his most recent post at GammonsDaily.com. The 34th overall pick of the 2013 draft, Manaea was projected by many as a top 10-15 pick before questions about hip and shoulder injuries caused his stock to drop. The southpaw performed well in his first pro season, posting a 3.11 ERA, 10.8 K/9 and 2.7 K/BB rate over 121 2/3 IP in high-A ball. Gammons believes Manaea has a shot at being a late-season call-up this year, and compares him to another heralded left-handed prospect in Carlos Rodon.

Greg Holland Open To Long-Term Deal With Royals

Just over one year ago, Royals righty Greg Holland told Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that he was open to a long-term deal, and the All-Star closer hasn’t changed his tune even after getting a year closer to free agency. Holland told McCullough yesterday that he hopes the Royals’ interest in an extension is still present, because he remains amenable to working out a new deal to keep him in Kansas City beyond 2016 — his final year of team control.

However, as was the case in 2014, there was little discussion of an extension in arbitration, as the two sides focused primarily on his 2015 salary. (Holland agreed to a one-year, $8.25MM pact.) However, he acknowledged that he understood the Royals had quite a bit of work to do on the free agent market this year, especially when losing a pitcher the caliber of James Shields“And then I feel like that arbitration thing sneaks up on you, so you want to just get something done so both sides can just move on and get ready for spring training,” Holland continued.

A long-term deal for Holland figures to come with a significant price tag. Another strong season could push his arbitration salary upwards of $12MM, and as David Robertson‘s four-year, $46MM contract showed this offseason, teams are more than willing to pay top dollar for premium relievers on the open market. Holland compares favorably with Robertson, Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman as one of baseball’s very best relievers, though he has a longer track record of accumulating saves than Robertson did when entering free agency. In fact, over the past two years, Holland has been statistically superior to Kimbrel, who is believed by many to be baseball’s top closer.

Kimbrel signed a four-year, $42MM contract extension last winter with a club option that could push the deal’s value to $54MM over five years. A long-term deal for Holland may very well have to top that number, as Holland is a year closer to free agency and already earning significantly more than Kimbrel was at the time of his signing.

Needless to say, it’s uncertain whether or not the Royals can afford to spend that type of money on a reliever — particularly when they’re already spending heavily on setup man Wade Davis, who earns $7MM in 2015. Fellow setup man Kelvin Herrera will also begin to see his salary rise, though not substantially until the 2017 season, as he agreed to a two-year, $4.15MM pact this winter.

Holland’s rising price tag has led many to speculate that he could eventually be traded, particularly because Davis’ salaries for the next few seasons are controlled via club options. Kansas City can exercise an $8MM club option for the 2016 season and a $10MM option for the 2017 season. That’s significantly less money than Holland will make, barring some form of injury. Holland told McCullough that he does believe both sides want to work something out, but he acknowledged that baseball is a business, and that the Royals have a lot of money invested in the bullpen as it is. “[I]t’s a fine line to get both sides happy and to feel comfortable,” Holland said.