Kansas City Royals Rumors

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

Royals Extend Ned Yost Through 2016

The Royals have extended the contract of manager Ned Yost through 2016, the club announced on Twitter. Much embattled in some circles, Yost nevertheless saw Kansas City through to a stunning run into and through the postseason, culminating in a World Series appearance.

With the new deal, Yost has an additional year of security. That will keep him from entering the coming season as a lame duck, though of course it does not ensure that he will stay around for the long haul. In any event, Yost is interested in remaining at the helm only for two or three more years, according to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter).

Yost took over the K.C. dugout back in 2011, overseeing a pair of sub-par efforts in his first two campaigns. But things trended up in 2013, when the club won 86 games, and culminated in a breakneck second half last year that vaulted the Royals from a 48-50 record to the Wild Card.

As if the first postseason appearance since the George Brett era was not enough, Yost and his squad launched an improbable run all the way to Game 7 of the sport’s final series. He took plenty of criticism along the way — bunting and bullpen utilization chief among them — but it is hard to argue with the results that he wrung from a scrappy, youthful club.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether Yost can help to orchestrate a repeat performance. But he will have the chance to do so without worrying whether he’ll be under contract for the following season.

Pitching Notes: Shields, Cards, Ogando, Albers, Baker, Coke, Comebacks

As things stand, the Nationals have the game’s best rotation while the Royals have the top pen, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney opines (Insider links). Of course, the offseason is not yet over. Here are the latest notes on the pitching market:

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart confirmed that the team has active interest in starter James Shields, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Stewart adds that he likes the idea of  Shields serving as a mentor while fronting the team’s rotation. Fellow free agent Max Scherzer, however, is too spendy for Arizona.
  • When the Cardinals pursued lefty Jon Lester, the team indicated it was willing to spend only to the $120MM range, Olney tweets. That could give an idea of what kind of payroll space the club feels willing to occupy, says Olney. St. Louis was recently linked to a trio of top starting pitchers, each of whom would represent quite a different investment.
  • Alexi Ogando apparently produced solid results in his recent workout, with Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com tweeting that scouts were impressed. The Red Sox and Dodgers are “aggressive” on Ogando, Gammons adds. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe had tweeted that Boston was in attendance.
  • Righty Matt Albers is throwing in preparation for a showcase early next month, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). The shoulder issues that shut him down last year did not involve any structural damage, says Morosi.
  • Agent Bobby Witt says that client Scott Baker, another free agent righty, prefers to join a team that will allow him to enter camp as a starter, Morosi reports (Twitter links). Baker has five minor league offers in hand but is hoping to receive a major league contract.
  • Interest in lefty Phil Coke is “amping up,” Chris Iott of MLive.com tweets. Nevertheless, a signing does not appear to be imminent, per the report.
  • The Twins are planning to watch lefty Johan Santana throw today after already seeing him on the mound last week, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets. Santana is not the only prominent hurler eyeing a comeback, it seems. Former closer Carlos Marmol threw in the Dominican earlier this winter and is now pitching in Venezuela, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. And one-time relief ace Daniel Bard, whose career derailed with a failed conversion back to the rotation, is also seeking a return, Cafardo reports. The 29-year-old says he is finally healthy and expects to sign a deal this week.

Minor Moves: Royals, Braves, White Sox, Cubs

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league, with the most recent updates at the top.

  • The Royals have signed pitcher Roman Colon, outfielder Brandon Jacobs and third baseman Alex Liddi, and they’ve re-signed outfielder Mitch Maier, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy tweets. The 26-year-old Liddi, who appeared with the Mariners in the 2011 through 2013 seasons, is perhaps the most interesting of those, although he’s coming off a .207/.286/.355 season at Double-A and Triple-A in the Dodgers and White Sox systems.
  • The Royals also outrighted infielder Ryan Jackson to Triple-A Omaha, per the Pacific Coast League transactions page. Kansas City had previously designated Jackson for assignment to clear space for Edinson Volquez. Jackson missed most of last season (which he spent in the Padres organization) with a wrist injury. The 26-year-old has a career minor league line of .268/.338/.363.
  • The Braves have signed outfielder Joe Benson and lefty reliever Leyson Septimo, Eddy tweets. Benson, 26, hit .264/.364/.410 with Double-A Jacksonville in the Marlins system in 2014. The 29-year-old Septimo, who appeared in the big leagues with the White Sox in 2012, pitched in 2014 with Southern Maryland in the Atlantic League. There, he issued ten walks in 6 2/3 innings, continuing to have the control problems that have persisted throughout his career.
  • The White Sox have re-signed outfielder Michael Taylor and signed third baseman Andy LaRoche, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy tweets. Chicago acquired Taylor from the Athletics last June, and the 29-year-old hit well for Triple-A Charlotte down the stretch to finish the year with a .275/.371/.437 minor league line in 512 plate appearances. LaRoche, a former top prospect with the Dodgers and Pirates and the brother of current White Sock Adam LaRoche, spent most of the past two seasons with the Blue Jays’ Triple-A club in Buffalo, where he hit .248/.309/.396 in 2014. The White Sox also signed first baseman Chris Jacobs, a 26-year-old who played for Class A+ Rancho Cucamonga in the Dodgers system last year.
  • The Red Sox have signed outfielder Blake Tekotte, Eddy tweets. The 27-year-old Tekotte, who has appeared in the big leagues in past years with the Padres and White Sox, hit .249/.320/.439 in 340 Triple-A plate appearances last season in the White Sox and Diamondbacks systems.
  • The Cubs have signed righty Andres Santiago, according to Baseball America’s Minor League Free Agent Tracker (via the Tennessee Smokies’ Andrew Green on Twitter). Santiago, 25, pitched for the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate in Chattanooga last season, posting a 4.47 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 129 innings. Green points out that Santiago no-hit the Cubs’ Smokies team last season.
  • The Cubs have also added catcher Taylor Teagarden and righty Jorge De Leon, Eddy tweets. The 31-year-old Teagarden hit .303/.403/.579 in 211 plate appearances with the Mets’ hitter-friendly Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas last season. De Leon, 27, posted a 3.01 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 68 2/3 innings in the Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City bullpens in the Astros system in 2014, also making eight appearances in the big leagues.

Royals Sign Edinson Volquez

The Royals announced Tuesday that they have officially signed right-hander Edinson Volquez to a two-year contract with a mutual option for the 2017 season. The contract reportedly guarantees Volquez $20MM, including a $7.5MM salary in 2015 followed by $9.5MM in 2016 and a $3MM buyout on the $10MM mutual option.

"<strongA $20MM contract represents a win for Volquez and his representatives with the Wasserman Media Group — last week, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Volquez was seeking precisely that figure. Volquez, 31, earned a two-year deal thanks to a strong season in Pittsburgh in which he posted a 3.04 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 192 2/3 innings, to go along with a 50.4% ground ball rate. His peripherals lagged behind his ERA, with figures of 4.20 for both his xFIP and SIERA, and the Pirates were a terrific fit for a pitcher like Volquez, thanks to their shift-heavy infield defense and their good framing tandem of Russell Martin and Chris Stewart, not to mention well regarded pitching coach Ray Searage. Volquez’s control, in particular, still is a weakness, with five straight seasons with BB/9 rates exceeding 4.0 before 2014.

That doesn’t mean the Royals overpaid, however, or that Volquez can’t successfully eat innings in Kansas City. His stuff is excellent, with a mid-90s fastball that at times ranged into the high 90s last year, to go along with a curveball that he used very effectively. Also, Volquez has managed to pitch at least 170 innings in each of the last three seasons despite his control issues. Heading into the offseason, MLBTR’s Zach Links projected Volquez would get two years and $18MM, only a bit less than he actually received.

While he may not replace James Shields in terms of production, Volquez figures to slot into the space that was previously occupied by “Big Game James.” He’ll join Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy and Jeremy Guthrie in manager Ned Yost’s rotation. While Volquez will undoubtedly miss Martin’s framing and the Pirates’ infield shifts, it’s also worth noting that he’s joining one of the best defensive clubs in baseball and will again call a pitcher-friendly park home, so there’s a good chance that he can pitch well enough to live up to his guarantee.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the deal was complete (Twitter links). SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo initially tweeted that the two sides were close. Heyman tweeted the final contractual details. 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Details On Ryan Howard’s No-Trade Clause

That the Phillies are interested in dealing away first baseman Ryan Howard and some portion of his contract is well-known. Howard, of course, is in the middle of a huge extension that still includes two years and a guaranteed $60MM (including a $10MM buyout of a $23MM club option in 2017). That contract includes a “most favored nation” clause that allows Howard to match the no-trade terms in Cliff Lee‘s deal, under which the player is permitted to designate all but nine clubs for no-trade protection.

ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports the details on Howard’s current list of competitors. The nine teams to which Howard cannot prevent a trade are the Tigers, Royals, Angels, Mariners, Yankees, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, and Red Sox. Crasnick suggests that the teams listed are not particularly strong potential suitors for Howard, as most are either small-payroll clubs and/or lack a present need for a player of Howard’s ilk.

The list seems curious from a strategic perspective, in my view, since it includes only American League clubs. The prevailing sentiment around Howard seems to be that he might have some limited trade value as a designated hitter and left-handed bench bat, but it appears exceedingly unlikely that any National League team would have interest in adding him as a regular first baseman. And payroll is not likely to prevent any teams from pursuing Howard, as Philadelphia is expected to eat most or all of his remaining salary regardless of where he is dealt.

If anything, it could be that the list is simply made up of the American League teams that Howard would most like to play for. His money is earned, after all, and it is unlikely that he would be able to exert enough leverage to convince an acquiring team to provide him with some added benefit in exchange for waiving his no-trade protection. (The notion of demanding a guarantee of his option, for instance, seems far-fetched.) Rather than using the NTC as a means of opening the door to extracting concessions, then, the reported list seems to suggest that Howard is open to being dealt to a place where he is wanted and where he would like to play.

Reading the tea leaves for intent is only so possible and so useful, of course. And the bottom line remains the same: nine of the fifteen A.L. clubs can add Howard without receiving his permission.

Quick Hits: Kusnick, Guerrero, Harang, Hart, Royals

In a revealing piece, Medium.com’s Joe Lemire profiles MLB agent Josh Kusnick’s rare birth defect and the life-threatening complications he faces to this day. Kusnick — the agent for Michael Brantley, Jeremy Jeffress, Steve Clevenger and Adrian Nieto, among others — was born with a defect called bladder exstrophy, which has led to 42 surgeries in his life despite the fact that he is just 32 years of age. Though Kusnick faces constant trips to the hospital, he remains in contact with his players while there, Brantley tells Lemire, and he even once negotiated a minor league deal for client Philippe Valiquette from his hospital bed. Lemire writes that Kusnick delayed his 43rd surgery in order to attend the 2014 Winter Meetings. I had the pleasure of meeting Josh at the meetings in San Diego and, along with the rest of MLBTR, would like to wish him the best of luck in his next operation on Wednesday of this week.

Here are some more notes from around the game…

  • Though he won’t be eligible to sign until July 2, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has already drawn significant interest from the Mets, Blue Jays and Angels, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (on Twitter). His father, of course, is the same Vladimir Guerrero that won an MVP with the Angels in 2004 and made nine All-Star teams in a 16-year career that saw him bat .318/.379/.553 with 449 home runs.
  • The Braves made a similar offer to the one-year, $5MM contract that Aaron Harang signed with the Phillies early in free agency, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). However, at the time, Atlanta was told that Harang had other offers for more money and more years.
  • Former Orioles and Indians GM Hank Peters, who passed away at the age of 90 this weekend, took a big gamble on John Hart, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Peters plucked Hart — then a third base coach with managerial aspirations — off the diamond and gave him a front office gig because he felt strongly about Hart’s ability to evaluate players. Hart discusses the transition with Hoynes as well as his role in architecting the 1989 Joe Carter trade with the Padres. Hart assisted Peters in that deal prior to taking the GM reins himself and insisted that the trade couldn’t be made without acquiring both Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Baerga — two critical components to the Indians’ 1995 World Series appearance.
  • The Royals have announced the retirement of longtime assistant general manager Dean Taylor. Taylor’s front office career began with the Royals back in 1981, as he worked his way from administrative assistant to assistant director of scouting. Taylor’s other stops around the game include working as an assistant GM during the Braves’ excellent run in the 1990s as well as Brewers GM from 2000-02. Taylor returned to the Royals in 2006 and spent the final eight seasons of his career there. Josh Vernier of FOX Sports Kansas City tweets that assistant GM J.J. Picollo will assume Taylor’s duties as vice president/assistant GM, and director of player development Scott Sharp has been promoted to assistant GM as well.

Royals To Sign Ryan Madson

JAN. 5: Madson will earn $850K if he makes the big league club and has the opportunity to earn up to $150K via incentives, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

JAN. 4: The Royals and Ryan Madson have agreed to a minor league deal, a source tells Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.  The pact includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Madson, 34, hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2011 because of elbow issues.  In that season, Madson established himself as one of the game’s most promising closers, pitching to a 2.37 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 48.8% ground ball rate in 60 2/3 innings for the Phillies.  When a reported four-year, $44MM deal fell through between the two sides, he joined up with the Reds on a much smaller contract, but he never made it to the mound.

Even with his injury woes, teams were still anxious to sign Madson, a reliever boasted a half-decade of strong late inning work.  The Halos gave Madson a deal worth $3.5MM in guaranteed money prior to the 2013 season, but he was only able to make one brief Advanced-A appearance all year long.  After that, the All Bases Covered client sat out 2014.

The right-hander pitched to a 2.89 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 329 2/3 innings from 2007-2011.  In parts of nine seasons with the Phillies from 2003-11, the veteran posted a 3.59 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 47.7% ground ball rate.

James Shields Expected To Get Nine-Figure Deal

James Shields is expected to get at least five years and $100MM, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Two executives tell Rosenthal that Shields already has a $110MM offer in hand. As Rosenthal notes, however, rumors of an $110MM offer don’t mean that Shields will ultimately sign for that much or more. For example, there were rumors of a $65MM offer for Chase Headley, who ultimately settled for less from the Yankees.

It’s still not clear who will sign Shields. The Marlins and Diamondbacks feel Shields is out of their price range, Rosenthal writes, and the Giants, Padres and Red Sox don’t currently seem highly motivated, either. And the Royals, who have spent on several players already this offseason, don’t appear likely to re-sign Shields. It’s possible that one or more of those teams has more interest than it’s letting on, however. Rosenthal also suggests the Tigers, Yankees and Angels as possibilities, although Shields hasn’t been closely connected to any of those teams.

Mark Polishuk recently polled MLBTR readers about Shields’ likely destination, and the results reflect the uncertainty that seems to exist throughout the industry. Less than 20% of you feel the Giants will sign Shields, followed by the Red Sox, Yankees, and “Other,” which got over 10% of the vote, even with 13 teams in the poll.

Quick Hits: Braves, Orioles, Royals

ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick kicked off the new year by running down MLB’s 15 most interesting people for ’15.  Among names like incoming commissioner Rob Manfred and Cubs skipper Joe Maddon, Padres GM A.J. Preller is highlighted as one of baseball’s names to watch.  The GM has overhauled the entire team, prompting new acquisition Matt Kemp to term him a front office “rock star,” a designation that is hard to argue with.  Here’s more from around baseball…

  • Yesterday, Mark Bowman of MLB.com raised the possibility that the Braves could pull Luis Avalan out of trade discussions after moving fellow southpaw Chasen Shreve.  However, he also notes that James Russell could take over as the top lefty out of Atlanta’s ‘pen if he can show that his struggles against left-handed batters are a thing of the past.   Avalan is under control through 2018, making him appealing to other clubs but also an asset that Atlanta might like to keep.
  • With eleven pending free agents, the Orioles will be facing some major questions soon, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com writes.  The O’s have five position players, four relievers, and two starting pitchers that can hit the open market after the 2015 season.  Some are calling for them to start making moves now as a preemptive strike, but that would likely hamstring them for 2015.  The O’s could instead wait and see how the first half of the season goes, then start making trades at the deadline if they’re not looking the part of the contender.  Alternatively, Baltimore could let those players go and spend the money elsewhere.  Those eleven players will earn $56.6MM in 2014, meaning that they could do a lot with that money in the offseason.
  • The Royals love their hard throwers at the back end of their bullpen and they acquired another one in right-hander Jandel Gustave.  Alan Eskew of Baseball America looks at what Kansas City can expect out of the 22-year-old.  The Red Sox selected Gustave sixth overall in the Rule 5 Draft from the Astros, then sent him to KC for cash.

Royals Designate Ryan Jackson For Assignment

The Royals designated infielder Ryan Jackson for assignment earlier this week, the team announced.  The transaction frees up a 40-man roster spot for Edinson Volquez, whose two-year, $20MM contract with Kansas City became official on Monday.

It’s been a busy offseason for Jackson, who has gone from the Padres to the Dodgers to the Royals in less than two months.  He also changed addresses multiple teams last winter, when the Astros selected him off waivers from the Cardinals in November 2013 and then traded him to San Diego a month later.  Jackson, 26, made 25 plate appearances for St. Louis in 2012-13 and he has a .268/.338/.363 career slash line over 2459 minor league PA.

Jackson is one of three players currently in “DFA Limbo” according to the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker, joining Keyvius Sampson (Padres) and Erisbel Arruebarrena (Dodgers).