Kansas City Royals Rumors

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

AL Cental Notes: Nolasco, Tomlin, Medlen

The opening series between the Tigers and Twins could hardly have been more lopsided, as Detroit finished off a three-game sweep with a 7-1 victory today.  The only bright spot for the Twins was that they finally scored a run, after losing the first two games by a combined 15-0 score.  Minnesota will have to turn things around to avoid getting into an early-season hole, as 23 of the Twins’ first 26 games are against division rivals.  Let’s look at some AL Central news…

  • Ricky Nolasco left the team on Thursday to return to Minneapolis and undergo an MRI on his right elbow.  Twins skipper Paul Molitor told reporters (including Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press) that Nolasco “felt a little bit of a spike” in his elbow during Wednesday’s start, though it’s too early to tell if this injury is related to the flexor strain that sent Nolasco to the DL last season.
  • In other injury news, Indians righty Josh Tomlin underwent shoulder surgery yesterday.  The procedure will sideline Tomlin for approximately 3-4 months.
  • The hiring of Terry Francona after the 2012 season has brought some much-needed stability to the Indians franchise, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes.  Not only has the Tribe improved on the field and locked up several young stars to long-term extensions, they’ve also looked to improve the fan experience (and improve attendance) at Progressive Field by upgrading the ballpark’s amenities.
  • While recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, right-hander Kris Medlen “was intent on finding a team with a strong rehab staff and the patience not to rush him,” ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes.  Medlen found a two-year deal with a mutual option from the Royals, and he’s received some advice regarding how hip weakness could be impacting his delivery.  Crasnick’s piece includes several insightful comments from Medlen and his former Braves teammate Brandon Beachy (now a Dodger and also trying to recover from his second TJ operation) about their rehab process and some of the public misconceptions about Tommy John surgery as the procedure becomes more commonplace.  For instance, Medlen and Beachy feel that 12 months is too short a realistic recovery time for Tommy John patients, and 16-20 months is a more reasonable estimate to return to full strength.

Reactions To Recent Starting Pitcher Extensions

Over the past week, we’ve seen multi-year deals signed by Yordano Ventura (five years, $23MM), Carlos Carrasco (four years, $22MM), Corey Kluber (five years, $38.5MM) and Rick Porcello (four years, $82.5MM). As usual, there’s been no shortage of reactions to these contracts, and here are a few reactions/opinions from around the baseball world to each of the deals…

  • Signing Ventura to a five-year deal was a necessary risk for the Royals, opines Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards. Ventura has long been seen as a risky commodity due to his smaller stature and a fear that he may be bullpen-bound, and he also produced results that were more good than great in 2014. However, only three Royals starters — Zack Greinke, James Shields and Ervin Santana –have matched Ventura’s modest 2.4 fWAR over the past five seasons. The Royals’ rotation is typically occupied by journeymen starters, and the upside for a mid-rotation or front-line starter at that price makes the risk worth taking, writes Edwards, even if there’s a risk he may not hold up as a starter.
  • The Carrasco and Kluber extensions appear to be the latest in a long line of contracts signed with the intent of developing a long-term core. As GM Chris Antonetti said recently on MLB Network Radio (Twitter link): “This nucleus is going to be in place for awhile. Ownership has given us incredible resources.”
  • Mutually beneficial extensions have been a key component of successful Indians’ seasons since John Hart began pioneering them in the 1990s, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Bastian spoke to other members of that growing core — Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes — each of whom has signed extensions of their own in the past year-plus. The Cleveland core expressed excitement about being able to grow and express excitement together in the coming years as they enter their primes.
  • Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel looks at the financial implications of the latest pair of Indians extensions, and he also spoke with Antonetti about the decision to offer Carrasco a long-term deal based on a relatively small sample of success. “His mix of pitches has always been a strength from the time we acquired him,” said Antonetti. “But we’ve seen the continued development and maturity and improvement in his routines, his consistency and his focus and we saw it translate to his success as a starting pitcher last year. We believe that now, not only does he have the physical attributes, but the other attributes to be a successful starter.”
  • Carrasco’s deal may appear team-friendly, but an irregular heartbeat that required offseason surgery and a newborn baby played a role in Carrasco’s decision to accept the contract, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and FOX Sports writes that Porcello’s age-23 through age-25 seasons mirror those of Justin Masterson, and Masterson experienced a breakout in his age-26 season — the same that Porcello is currently entering. While that certainly doesn’t guarantee a breakout for Porcello, Cameron notes that the Sox are betting on a breakout or step forward of sorts — one that would’ve launched Porcello’s free agent price considerably beyond the $82.5MM figure upon which he agreed. Judging contracts based on average annual value is all too common a mistake, Cameron notes, as the years accompanying that AAV are a critical factor of any deal. Boston is showing a tendency to pay a premium to keep contracts short in an effort to avoid rostering expensive non-performers down the line, with Porcello’s deal and the Hanley Ramirez contract serving as recent examples, he adds.
  • Tim Britton of the Providence Journal offers a similar take, using CC Sabathia as an example of the dangers of signing a pitcher into their 30s. As Britton notes, Sabathia would’ve been one of the best free agent signings in history had the Yankees let him walk after he exercised an opt out clause following the third season of his initial contract. However, they re-signed him through age-36, and Sabathia’s contract has become an albatross on the Yankees. While Porcello isn’t as good as prime Sabathia and likely never will be — a fact Britton acknowledges — his situation still aids the argument that it’s better to pay a premium for a pitcher in his prime than commit exorbitant amounts of money to their decline years.
  • I’ll echo my thoughts on the Porcello deal that I tweeted out and included in MLBTR’s write-up of his extension and agree with both Cameron and Britton. While Porcello is not now and may never be a front-of-the-rotation arm, the Red Sox clearly believe that he’s capable of taking a step forward from a career year in 2014, and they’re willing to pay what currently seems to be an above-market annual price in order to secure his prime. It’s commonplace for teams to sign older free agents knowing that the final year or two (and sometimes more) will likely be a sunk cost, and yet as observers we accept that as part of free agency. The Red Sox are taking an opposite approach, seemingly making a strong bet that Porcello’s best years are ahead. Paying for an expected outcome that has yet to take place is risky, to be sure, but it’s no riskier than guaranteeing a pitcher north of $20MM in his age-36 season, as we saw with James Shields, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer this winter. The notion that a player must first “prove” that he is worth upper-market dollars over a long-term implicitly requires that those upper-market dollars will be awarded after or at the tail end of his peak, thereby negating much of the logic in committing such a sizable sum. Whether or not the Porcello deal ultimately looks wise or turns into an albatross, the thinking behind the deal is sound: make projections based on scouting and analytic input, and invest. The alternative — wait and see, then pay for the downswing of a player’s career — is hardly a less risky approach.

Added To The 40-Man Roster: Sunday

The rosters for Opening Day have been officially submitted this afternoon. Several minor league signees have won jobs with their clubs and earned 40-man roster spots. Here are today’s additions:

  • The Orioles will purchase catcher Ryan Lavarnway‘s contract on Monday, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. The 25-man roster that the Orioles announced today included Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger at catcher, but not Lavarnway, who they had reassigned to the minors.
  • The Padres have announced that they’ve purchased the contract of catcher Wil Nieves. With Tim Federowicz out with a knee injury, Nieves will back up Derek Norris. As we noted when Nieves signed, his big-league salary will be $850K.
  • Ryan Madson has made the Royals‘ Opening Day roster, tweets MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Madson caps his comeback from multiple elbow injuries and his first appearance for Kansas City will be his first in the Majors since 2011.
  • The Nationals have announced on Twitter that second baseman Dan Uggla and outfielder Reed Johnson have made their Opening Day roster.
  • The Braves announced they have officially purchased the contracts of outfielders Eric Young, Jr. and Kelly Johnson, left-hander Eric Stults, and right-hander Cody Martin. The Braves cleared space on their 40-man roster by placing right-hander Arodys Vizcaino and outfielder Dian Toscano on the restricted list.
  • One name missing from the Braves‘ roster is Pedro Ciriaco, who was reported yesterday to have made the club. This is likely a procedural move, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (Twitter links), because the Braves placed Josh Outman on the 25-man roster instead of releasing him after the left-hander complained of shoulder tenderness. The move will also buy the Braves some time to look for an upgrade over Ciriaco, tweets Bowman.
  • The Phillies have announced outfielder Jeff Francoeur and infielder Andres Blanco have made the team. Francoeur is just one of four outfielders on Philadelphia’s Opening Day roster, so he could see time as Grady Sizemore‘s platoon partner in right field. The Phillies are now at their 40-man limit.
  • The Marlins have selected the contract of utility player Don Kelly, tweets MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Kelly earned his spot with solid Spring Training line of .270/.357/.324 in 42 plate appearances. Frisaro reports the 35-year-old will backup both the corner infield and outfield spots, as well as serving as the team’s emergency third catcher.

Minor Moves: Tomas, Oliver, Brignac, Zito

Here are today’s minor transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Diamondbacks have optioned Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, the team reports via Twitter. The club signed Tomas for $68.5MM over the offseason. He struggled both defensively and offensively this spring. A stint in Triple-A should give him time to adjust to the outfield and improve his plate approach.
  • Phillies Rule 5 pick Andy Oliver has elected free agency after he was outrighted, the club announced via Twitter. The hard throwing lefty has struggled with walks throughout his career. That continued this spring with 11 walks and 22 strikeouts in 12 and two-thirds innings. The club also announced on Twitter that they reassigned catcher Rene Garcia, first baseman Russ Canzler, and infielder Cord Phelps to Triple-A.
  • Marlins utility infielder Reid Brignac has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A, tweets Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. In 905 major league plate appearances, Brignac has a .222/.266/.314 line.
  • Athletics pitcher Barry Zito has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A, tweets Jane Lee of MLB.com. The former star is working his way back from a one-year hiatus. He posted a 4.79 ERA in 20 and two-thirds spring innings. The 37-year-old struck out 14 and walked five. A former ninth overall pick of the A’s, the southpaw struggled after moving across the Bay to San Francisco on a seven-year, $126MM contract. That deal concluded after the 2013 season.
  • The Red Sox have released Casey Crosby, Bryan LaHair, and Matt Hoffman per the MLB transactions page. Crosby was once a top prospect with the Tigers, but the 26-year-old lefty has yet to develop command. Lahair, 32, had a nice run with the Cubs in 2012 when he hit .259/.334/.450 with 16 home runs in 380 plate appearances. He spent the 2013 season in Japan and split 2014 between Cleveland’s Double and Triple-A clubs.
  • The Phillies have released shortstop Tyler Greene according to the MLB transactions page. Greene, an 11th round pick, was once rated among the Phillies’ best prospects. He missed the entire 2014 season and has never posted a strikeout rate below 33 percent at any level.
  • The Giants have released pitcher Edgmer Escalona per the MLB transactions page. Escalona pitched in parts of four seasons for the Rockies, accruing 100 innings. He has a career 4.50 ERA with 6.39 K/9 and 2.88 BB/9.
  • The Cubs have released lefty pitcher Francisley Bueno according to the transactions page. The 34-year-old has pitched in parts of four season for the Braves and Royals. The soft tossing lefty has a career 2.98 ERA with 4.92 K/9 and 1.79 BB/9 in 60 innings. He’s a pure platoon pitcher.
  • The Braves released former closer Matt Capps per MLB.com. The righty last appeared in the majors in 2012. He has a career 3.52 ERA with 6.53 K/9 and 1.72 BB/9. He’s thrown just 12 minor league innings over the last two seasons – both with the Indians.


Royals Extend Yordano Ventura

7:34pm: Per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (via Twitter), Ventura’s two $12MM options could reach $16MM due to escalators.

4:51pm: The Royals and right-hander Yordano Ventura have agreed to a five-year contract extension that contains club option years for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the team announced.  The deal will pay Ventura $23MM over the five guaranteed years, while each option year is worth $12MM (with a $1MM buyout) with escalators based on Cy Young Award voting finishes.  All told, Ventura stands to earn at least $47MM if his contract reaches the full seven seasons.  Ventura is represented by Relativity Baseball.

According to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star, the deal breaks down as follows: Ventura receives a $1MM signing bonus and earns $750K this season, $1MM in 2016, $3.25MM in 2017, $6.25MM in 2018 and $9.75MM in 2019.  The extension covers Ventura’s two remaining pre-arbitration seasons and his three arb years while giving the Royals control over his first two free agent seasons.  Gaining those extra years of control over a very promising 23-year-old is a nice score for the team.  Under GM Dayton Moore, the Royals have also locked up Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, Billy Butler and Joakim Soria to pre-arb extensions.MLB: World Series-San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals

Ventura is the latest notable Relativity client with between 1-2 years of service time to sign an extension, joining the likes of Julio Teheran, Andrelton Simmons, Paul Goldschmidt and Madison Bumgarner.  Among recent extensions for pitchers with comparable service times, Ventura’s deal is less expensive than the deals signed by Bumgarner ($35MM over five seasons with two club options) and Jose Quintana ($26MM/five years with two club options).  Teheran’s deal ($32.4MM) was also pricier, though the Braves righty signed for six guaranteed years and only one club option.

Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, Ventura drew a lot of attention as he moved through Kansas City’s farm system and entered the 2014 season ranked as one of the top pitching prospects in the game.  Ventura made three starts for K.C. in 2013 and then posted a 3.20 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 2.30 K/BB rate over 180 IP for the Royals last season, also notching a 3.20 ERA over 25 1/3 postseason innings.

As Passan noted in his original report, Ventura dealt with soreness in both his elbow and shoulder last season, and between his 97mph fastball and relatively slight (6’0, 180 pounds), there have long been concerns that the right-hander could eventually be a health risk.  From this perspective, it’s easy to see why Ventura would’ve opted to take a big guaranteed payday now rather than risk potential injury issues through his arbitration years.  The Royals are betting that this deal will turn into a bargain for them if Ventura stays healthy and productive, though if not, the $23MM guarantee isn’t too much of a payroll albatross even for a mid-market club.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman (all Twitter links) reported that the agreement had been finalized pending a physical, and that the deal was worth $23MM.  Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reported yesterday that the two sides were close working out an extension for five years and at least one option year.  MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan had the details of the option years and that the extension would supercede Ventura’s previous 2015 contract.

Photo courtesy of Peter Aiken/USA Today Sports Images

Royals In Advanced Extension Talks With Yordano Ventura

SATURDAY: Talks between the two sides are “at the finish line,” Passan reports (via Twitter).  Ventura will receive $22MM in guaranteed money in the deal.  One version of the contract that was discussed was a five-year deal with two club option years, which would’ve given the Royals control over another of Ventura’s free agent seasons.  MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan (Twitter links) reports that the five guaranteed years and two option years is indeed the structure of Ventura’s extension.  The contract would begin in 2015 and a source tells Flanagan that it should be completed within 48 hours.

FRIDAY: The Royals are in negotiations with young righty Yordano Ventura about a five-year extension that would include an option for a sixth season, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports. The deal currently being contemplated by the two sides would guarantee Ventura over $20MM.

A new contract along these lines would be a fascinating study in risk and reward for both the club and the Relativity Baseball client. In spite of his excellence at a young age and significant arbitration earning capacity, the 23-year-old seems to profile as something of an injury risk. In addition to drawing frequent remarks on the velocity that comes out of his small frame, Ventura had a few minor arm issues crop up last year.

Ventura will enter the 2015 season with just over one full year of big league service, meaning he projects to reach arbitration eligibility in 2017 and free agency in 2020. While he is at an early position on the service curve, Ventura has already established himself as the type of productive arm worthy of investment: last year, he tossed 183 innings of 3.20 ERA ball with 7.8 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 and a 47.6% groundball rate. ERA estimators indicate that his ERA may be somewhat lower than his real production, but they still credit him as an above-average starter in his first full season in the big leagues.

One significant question, assuming a deal along the lines of that reported does in fact get done, is when the contract kicks in. A five-year guarantee with a sixth-year option would give Kansas City control over one free agent season if it begins with the 2015 campaign.

Louis Coleman Outrighted To Triple-A

APRIL 3: Coleman has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Omaha, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). The decision leaves Flynn and Madson as the final two candidates for the Royals’ bullpen.

APRIL 2: The Royals have placed right-hander Louis Coleman on waivers, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports (Twitter link).  Since Coleman is out of options, the Royals have to expose him to the waiver wire and now risk losing him to another club before they can send him down to Triple-A.

Coleman was said to be on the bubble to make Kansas City’s Opening Day roster, as he, Brian Flynn and Ryan Madson were battling for the last spot in the bullpen (or possibly two spots if Ned Yost went with an eight-man relief corps).  The righty was arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, agreeing to a $725K deal for 2015.

Coleman, who turns 29 on Saturday, has spent his entire professional career with the Royals.  A fifth round pick from the 2009 draft, Coleman posted a 2.69 ERA, 10.3 K/9 and 2.78 K/BB rate over 140 1/3 bullpen innings from 2011-13, but he struggled last season, managing only a 5.56 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 1.33 K/BB rate over 34 innings.  Despite his issues last year, I suspect Coleman will get some attention from teams looking to add bullpen reinforcements before Opening Day.

Royals Re-Sign Rafael Furcal

The Royals have re-signed infielder Rafael Furcal, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. Furcal was released by Kansas City yesterday.

It appears that the move was designed to get Furcal in camp when he signed initially while preventing the Royals from being obligated to him for a $100K Article XX(B) retention bonus. Furcal does not appear on the list of Article XX(B) free agents I compiled recently, because he signed after that list was posted, but he did in fact qualify for free agency pursuant to that provision and therefore was entitled to its built-in protections.

Royals Notes: Hochevar, Morales, Flynn, Madson, Blanton

The Royals are facing a slew of roster decisions as the regular season draws near, and Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star provided updates on several players today. Let’s take a look (all links to his Twitter account)…

  • Luke Hochevar, who inked a two-year, $10MM contract this offseason, will begin the year on the disabled list. Manager Ned Yost told McCullough and other reporters that he hopes to have Hochevar ready to go by May. Adding a healthy Hochevar to the already exceptional trio of Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera would give the Royals one of the most dominant bullpens in recent memory.
  • Though he hasn’t been given official word of making the roster, there’s a “high probability” that Franklin Morales will be on the roster. Morales chances of making the team likely increased when Tim Collins went down with a torn ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery.
  • Another lefty, Brian Flynn, has been one of the best relievers in camp this spring but has created a dilemma due to the fact that he has options remaining. Adding Flynn to the roster could mean risking the loss of out-of-options righty Louis Coleman or non-roster invitee Ryan Madson.
  • Madson has a “gentleman’s opt-out” at the end of camp that allows him to field MLB offers from other clubs if he is optioned at the end of camp, and while he’s expressed a willingness to pitch at Omaha, he will understandably take a big league offer if presented with one.
  • Veteran right-hander Joe Blanton has accepted an assignment to Triple-A Omaha. Blanton allowed three runs on 13 hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings this spring as he hopes to make a comeback at the Major League level. He’ll serve as a depth piece at Omaha, and one would think that a good performance there would position him as one of the first lines of defense should the Royals lose a member of their big league rotation.

Royals Release Rafael Furcal

The Royals have released infielder Rafael Furcal, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. Furcal was only recently brought into camp on a minor league deal and had been working through a hamstring injury.

The 37-year-old saw only minimal action last year with Miami and has generally been unable to stay healthy since going down with a UCL tear late in 2012. He had been a consistent and reliable presence in the middle infield to that point.

It is unclear whether Furcal will seek another opportunity. Over his productive career, Furcal has slashed .281/.346/.402 in 7,237 plate appearances with 113 home runs and 314 steals. He has been worth more than thirty wins above replacement in total.