Kansas City Royals Rumors

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

Infield Market Notes: Asdrubal, Drew, Toritani

As we inch toward the new year, the market for middle infielders has yet to truly take off. Jed Lowrie has returned to Houston on a three-year contract, and Korean slugger Jung-ho Kang may or may not be Pittsburgh-bound after the Pirates submitted the most aggressive posting fee ($5MM). Here’s the latest on what’s left of the middle infield market…

  • The Yankees, Royals, Rays and Blue Jays have all kept in touch with Asdrubal Cabrera‘s camp, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Each of those clubs has an existing option at shortstop, meaning Cabrera would likely have to shift to second base to join any of those four teams. The Yankees and Blue Jays present the best hitting environments of those choices, if Cabrera is looking for a one-year deal, but he could simply go to whichever club is willing to offer the largest number of years, as well.
  • The Cubs are among the clubs that are showing interest in Stephen Drew, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Chicago is somewhat of a surprising team to be linked to Drew, as they have Starlin Castro at shortstop and can use Javier Baez or Luis Valbuena at second base. Valbuena or Drew could also slot in at third base, but that spot figures to be assumed by top prospect Kris Bryant at some point in 2015.
  • In an update to his weekend piece on the Padres‘ interest in Japanese shortstop Takashi Toritani, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Friars have yet to make a formal offer to the 33-year-old. Toritani is Japan’s most durable player, having played every inning of his club’s past 1,444 games, and he comes with an excellent defensive reputation as well. He’s a career .285/.372/.412 with Japan’s Hanshin Tigers, though some question whether or not his bat can transfer to Major League Baseball.
  • Meanwhile, Heyman tweets that while the Padres and Blue Jays are still interested in Toritani, there’s a “decent” chance that he ends up returning to the Hanshin Tigers next season.

Managers And GMs On Expiring Contracts

Contract length isn’t necessarily a guarantee of job security.  Over the years, we’ve seen countless examples of teams who have made surprising management changes in the wake of an unexpected losing season (such as the Braves firing ex-general manager Frank Wren) or simply due to new candidates coming onto the market (such as the Cubs firing Rick Renteria when Joe Maddon became available).  Similarly, some managers and GMs aren’t troubled by being a so-called “lame duck” entering their last year under contract.  Some have unofficial handshake deals to continue on in their roles as long as they wish, or some actually prefer a one-year deal  — i.e. former Tigers skipper Jim Leyland — if they aren’t sure how much longer they want to remain in baseball.

For other executives and bench bosses, however, an expiring contract can indicate that they’re under significant pressure to get results in their last year under contract.  Here’s a list of managers and GMs who are believed to be entering the last year of their contracts in 2015.  (I say “believed to be” since some clubs keep front office contract terms private, so there could be a few more GMs who are also entering their last guaranteed season, or perhaps some of the names on this list have already been quietly signed to extensions.)  As always, a big tip of the cap to Cot’s Baseball Contracts for many of these details.

  • Blue Jays: John Gibbons’ rolling contract will guarantee his 2015 team option on New Year’s Day, and also add another club option to his deal that covers the 2016 season.  The relationship between Gibbons and GM Alex Anthopoulos is known to be a firm one, though with the Jays so clearly set on contending in 2015, a disappointing record could lead to some questions about Gibbons’ future with the team.
  • Braves: Atlanta’s late-season collapse cost Wren his job, though manager Fredi Gonzalez retained his spot in the team’s dugout.  This is an interesting situation to monitor given how the Braves’ trades of Justin Upton and Jason Heyward indicate that they’re at least partially rebuilding, though the additions of Shelby Miller and Nick Markakis hint that they intend to stay competitive.  All indications are that the Braves plan to contend when they move into their new ballpark in 2017, so if the team will look to somewhat tread water until then, Gonzalez could be safe.
  • Brewers: Doug Melvin has been Milwaukee’s general manager since September 2002, taking over a struggling franchise and helming them to two postseason appearances (in 2008 and 2011) during his tenure.  Since that most recent playoff berth, the Brewers have posted two winning seasons sandwiched around a poor 2013 season for an overall 239-247 record.  The club’s payroll cracked the $100MM threshold last year and projects to do the same in 2015, so the Crew will be expected to rebound from last season’s second-half struggles.  Another middling record won’t cut it in the increasingly-competitive NL Central, so it’s possible Melvin could be on the hot seat if the Brewers aren’t in contention.  That said, given Melvin’s history with the team, I’d guess he’ll receive a two- or three-year extension to give him a bit more time to get things on track.
  • Mets: Terry Collins’ role in his first four seasons as the Mets’ manager has been to act as a teacher and mentor to the club’s young players as the Amazins have been rebuilding.  All signs point to 2015, however, as the season when the Mets are looking to again become a factor in the playoff race.  If the Mets get off to a slow start, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Collins fired in favor of a manager who can theoretically help the team take that next step.
  • Nationals: Matt Williams is technically entering his walk year, though the Nats hold team options on the manager’s services for 2016 and 2017.  Barring a total collapse in Washington next year, Williams isn’t going anywhere.
  • Padres: Bud Black is the rare manager who has lasted in his position through both an ownership change and four different general managers.  Though Black has only posted two winning records in his eight seasons as San Diego’s manager, he is still regarded by many as one of the game’s better skippers, and it’s indeed hard to fault Black given the Padres’ front office instability and sub-par rosters during his tenure.  2015 will be a different story, as new GM A.J. Preller has made several major acquisitions to help revamp the Padres’ lineup.  Black has said he’s not worried about not having an extension in place, and while he probably has reason to feel secure given how long he’s lasted in San Diego already, another losing season could convince the new-look Padres to make a change on the bench.
  • Phillies: The Jimmy Rollins trade indicates that the Phillies are finally embarking on a much-needed rebuild, and it appears that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will be the one to oversee it as he enters the last year of his contract.  You’d think the Phils would’ve already made a change if they wanted a new face to usher in this new era for the team, though it’s worth noting that the Phillies’ upper management situation is also in flux as general owner David Montgomery is on leave while undergoing cancer treatments.  (Former GM Pat Gillick is filling in for Montgomery in the interim.)  It could be that Amaro’s future in Philadelphia won’t be addressed until his contract is actually up, or when Montgomery has recovered enough to resume his duties.
  • Royals: Ned Yost could hardly have made a better argument for a new deal by leading Kansas City to within a game of a World Series title.  Royals GM Dayton Moore hinted that Yost’s contract would be addressed later in the offseason, so it’s probably just a matter of time before Yost is extended beyond 2015.
  • Tigers: Dave Dombrowski is entering the last year of his contract as Detroit’s general manager, president and CEO.  Given his track record with the Tigers, it’s safe to assume that Dombrowski is one of those “has the job for as long as he wants” executives and he’ll get an extension sooner rather than later.

The original version of this post incorrectly indicated that Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill and GM Dan Jennings were heading into the final years of their contracts. In fact, both are already under contract through 2018. Hat tip to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro.


Minor Moves: Mijares, Bowden, Runzler

Here’s a roundup of some recent minor league transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post.  All moves are from Matt Eddy of Baseball America, unless credited otherwise.

  • The Reds have signed southpaw Jose Mijares and right-hander Michael Bowden to minor league deals.  Mijares posted strong numbers (3.23 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 2.22 K/BB rate) over 259 relief innings with the Twins, Royals and Giants from 2008-13 but didn’t pitch in 2014 after he opted out of his minor league deal with the Red Sox last March.  Bowden was drafted 47th overall by the Red Sox in the 2005 draft and was considered a top prospect during his stint in Boston’s minor league system.  He couldn’t manage that same success in the majors, posting a 4.51 ERA over 133 2/3 innings with the Red Sox and Cubs from 2008-13.  Bowden pitched in Japan in 2014.
  • The Diamondbacks signed left-hander Dan Runzler to a minor league contract.  Runzler posted a 3.86 ERA, 9.7 K/9 and 5.5 BB/9 over 72 1/3 IP with San Francisco from 2009-12 and was released by the Giants’ Triple-A team last July so he could pitch in Japan with the Orix Buffaloes.
  • The Marlins inked outfielder Vinny Rottino to a minor league deal.  Rottino, 34, is returning to North American baseball for the first time since 2012 after playing in Korea and Japan over the last two seasons.  This is Rottino’s second stint in Miami, as he played for the Marlins, Mets, Indians and Brewers while collecting 110 career Major League plate appearances.
  • The Rangers signed infielder Tommy Field to a minor league contract.  Field received 81 plate appearances with the Rockies and Angels from 2011-13 and he spent last season at the Triple-A level in the Angels and Pirates organizations.
  • The Royals outrighted outfielder Moises Sierra and right-hander Casey Coleman to Triple-A, the team announced via Twitter.  The two players were both designated for assignment last week to create roster spots for the recently-signed Kendrys Morales and Yohan Pino, respectively.
  • The Blue Jays announced the signing of left-hander Andrew Albers to a minor league deal that includes a Spring Training invite.  Albers posted a 5.89 ERA over 28 starts for Hanwha of the (very hitter-friendly) Korean Baseball Organization in 2014.  His Major League experience consists of a 4.05 ERA, 3.8 K/9 and 3.57 K/BB rate over 60 innings with the Twins in 2013.


Royals Release Carlos Peguero

The Royals have released outfielder Carlos Peguero, the team announced (via MLB.com’s Joey Novak). The 27-year-old had been said to be a candidate to see time as a left-handed bat for the club this year, but the recent signings of Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales largely eliminated that possibility.

Peguero saw little action last year with Kansas City, instead working for the club’s Triple-A affiliate. At that level, he posted a .912 OPS with 30 home runs in 418 plate appearances. Peguero has generally done quite well against the best arms in the minors, but has yet to receive a prolonged chance at the MLB level. He struggled to reach base in a 155-plate appearance stint back in 2011 with the Mariners, and has not gone to bat over 57 times in a big league season since.


Royals Sign Alex Rios

FRIDAY, 2:05pm: The Royals officially announced their deal with Rios, which includes a mutual option for 2016.  That is worth $12.5MM, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation.

MONDAY, 7:10pm: The Royals have agreed to a one-year, $11MM deal with outfielder Alex Rios, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. Rios, a Boras Corporation client, joins Kendrys Morales as veteran additions to the defending American League champs.

Alex RiosThe 33-year-old Rios spent 2014 with the Rangers, slashing .280/.311/.398 with four home runs 17 stolen bases (being caught nine times in the process). That production landed just below league average, one year after Rios put up a .278/.324/.432 line that rated slightly above the league baseline. Of course, he also swatted 18 long balls and stole 42 bags that season (split between the White Sox and Rangers).

Now another year removed from his excellent 2012 campaign, Rios also slid in the baserunning and defensive departments, leaving him valued at just .2 fWAR and .6 rWAR in his 521 plate appearances. A thumb issue ended Rios’s season early and cast at least some slight doubt on his health going forward, though Rios has been a remarkably sturdy ballplayer over his long career.

Kansas City now has its replacement for Nori Aoki in right field, where Rios has spent most of his career. Both players are similarly aged, but the former is probably a safer option going forward with his consistent on-base ability. Of course, Aoki cannot match the ceiling of Rios, who was worth better than four wins above replacement in recent memory. The club spent a fairly significant sum to take a chance on Rios, going well above the $8.5MM that MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted he would land.

Rios joins a recent group of corner outfielders departing the market, leaving players like Michael Morse, Colby Rasmus, and Aoki as the best players available. Of course, that could add impetus to the trade market, which features a number of big names.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Images.


Angels Acquire Johnny Giavotella From Royals

1:57pm: The Angels formally announced the deal.  Right-hander Brian Broderick will be sent to the Royals to complete the transaction.

Broderick, 28, has just 11 big league appearances to his credit with all of them coming in 2011.  He was recently signed out of the Mexican League by KC.

1:55pm: The Angels are close to acquiring second baseman Johnny Giavotella, according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter).  Giavotella was recently designated for assignment by the Royals.  It’s not clear who is going to Kansas City in the deal, but it figures to be a minor trade (link).  Gonzalez adds that the deal could be announced today.

Giavotella, 27, received a fairly lengthy look at second base for the Royals in both 2011 and 2012 but combined to bat just .242/.271/.340 in 376 plate appearances. He’s received shorter call-ups in each of the subsequent seasons but hasn’t fared much better at the plate; overall, Giavotella is a lifetime .238/.277/.344 hitter in the Majors.

A second-round pick out of the University of New Orleans in 2008, Giavotella does carry with him quite an impressive track record at the Triple-A level. In 1840 plate appearances there, he’s slashed .315/.384/.451. It should be noted, however, that those numbers have come in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.


Quick Hits: Johnson, Twins, Rasmus, Correia

The Braves have reportedly been trying to package Chris Johnson or B.J. Upton along with one of their more desirable trade targets, and the Royals at least had some interest in Johnson, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports.  Kansas City’s greater interest was in Justin Upton, though the Royals were considering using Johnson as a platoon partner with Mike Moustakas at third base.  Now that K.C. has signed Alex Rios, however, they can probably be counted out of the running for the younger Upton brother.

Here’s some more from around the baseball world…

  • The Twins aren’t seriously interested in either Asdrubal Cabrera or Jung-ho Kang, ESPN 1500’s Darren Wolfson reports (Twitter links), though Minnesota might “place [a] small bid” on Kang’s services.  Teams have until Friday at 4pm CT to post their bids for Kang.
  • Also from Wolfson, the Twins aren’t interested in signing outfielder Colby Rasmus.
  • Three or four teams are getting “more engaged” with Kevin Correia, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets.  The clubs in question are looking at Correia as a low-cost add as a fourth or fifth starter.
  • The Cardinals could still add another starting pitcher as a depth option, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch writes as part of a reader mailbag.  This would be a low-cost signing, Langosch notes, speculating that the Cards would look for a pitcher trying to recover from either an injury or just a poor 2014 season.
  • The Giants could also be looking to make a similar buy-low signing, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) hears that the club could fill its left field hole with a player coming off a rough season.
  • It’s been a surprisingly busy offseason for scouting director moves, as MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo notes that eight different teams have installed new scouting directors since the start of October.
  • Padres director of baseball options Nick Ennis discusses analytics, the evaluation of new ideas and much more in an interview with Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris.

Royals Designate Johnny Giavotella For Assignment

The Royals announced that they have designated second baseman Johnny Giavotella for assignment in order to clear room on the 40-man roster for the recently signed Kris Medlen.

Giavotella, 27, received a fairly lengthy look at second base for the Royals in both 2011 and 2012 but combined to bat just .242/.271/.340 in 376 plate appearances. He’s received shorter call-ups in each of the subsequent seasons but hasn’t fared much better at the plate; overall, Giavotella is a lifetime .238/.277/.344 hitter in the Majors.

A second-round pick out of the University of New Orleans in 2008, Giavotella does carry with him quite an impressive track record at the Triple-A level. In 1840 plate appearances there, he’s slashed .315/.384/.451. It should be noted, however, that those numbers have come in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.


Royals Sign Kris Medlen

The Royals announced that they have signed right-hander Kris Medlen to a two-year deal that contains a mutual option for the 2017 season. Medlen, who is represented by the Wasserman Media Group, reportedly receives an $8.5MM guarantee. He’ll earn $2MM in 2015 and $5.5MM in 2016. His mutual option is worth $10MM and contains a $1MM buyout that is guaranteed regardless of which side declines.

Kris Medlen

Medlen, 29, was one of the Braves’ best starters for much of 2012-13, but he fell victim to his second Tommy John surgery this past spring and wound up being non-tendered as a result. Medlen earned $5.8MM in 2014 and stood to earn something similar in 2015, although the Braves could technically have reduced his salary to about $4.65MM.

Tommy John surgery has been a significant detriment to the unquestionably talented Medlen’s career. He was enjoying a solid season in 2010 when his right UCL first gave way in August, causing him to miss nearly the entire 2011 season as well. When he returned in 2012, Medlen posted a brilliant 1.57 ERA down the stretch, and he followed that up with a 3.11 mark in 197 frames the following year.

Overall, Medlen owns a 2.95 ERA with 7.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 46.2 percent ground-ball rate in 512 2/3 career innings. Sabermetric ERA estimators such as FIP (3.23), xFIP (3.39) and SIERA (3.68) all feel that he’s a perfectly viable rotation option when healthy.

While it may at first be puzzling to see the Braves let Medlen go, it’s also important to note that he had just one season of arbitration control remaining. Medlen may not pitch again until midseason and would have cost the club between $4.6MM and $5.8MM, and the success rate for second Tommy John surgeries is lower than that of the success rate for first-time patients. Atlanta was said to have discussed a two-year deal with Medlen at one point, but the team may not have been comfortable matching Kansas City’s guarantee.

The Royals figure to start the 2015 season with a rotation of Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy, Edinson Volquez and Jeremy Guthrie, but Medlen could eventually slot in should one of those five get injured. He could also return to the bullpen, where he’s worked extensively in the past, as he builds up arm strength and looks toward a rotation spot in 2016. Guthrie is a free agent following the 2015 season, so there should be at least one opening for him to pursue.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the terms of the contract (Twitter links).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Quick Hits: Braves, Ross, Cabrera, Kang, Aoki

The White Sox, Yankees and Astros have spent heavily on relief help this offseason, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wonders if they’ll end up regretting their expensive contracts for veteran relievers. “In the last couple of years we’ve lost a lot of games late in the eighth and ninth inning,” says White Sox manager Ventura. “After a while you sit there and think, ‘We have to have somebody who can come in and do this.’ Everything has its risks — and this is one of them — but we’re pretty confident we got a guy [David Robertson] who we can put in the bullpen and be a leader.” The reason for all the spending on players like Robertson, Zach Duke, Andrew Miller, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek isn’t so much that teams are trying to emulate the Royals‘ ferocious 2014 bullpen, Crasnick suggests. Rather, it’s more that teams are loaded with cash and pitchers like Robertson and Miller are very good. Here are more notes from around the Majors.

  • The Braves continue to explore potential trades involving Justin Upton and Evan Gattis, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (Twitter links). The Braves have spoken about Upton and Gattis with five teams Wednesday, and continued to consider ways to include B.J. Upton or Chris Johnson in trades involving Justin Upton or Gattis. The Padres had previously looked like a potential destination for Justin Upton, but it would appear that their agreement to acquire Wil Myers today rules them out as a potential trade partner, at least for now.
  • Free agent catcher David Ross is deciding between the Red Sox, Cubs and Padres, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes. Meanwhile, lefty reliever Craig Breslow has spoken to the Red Sox and Cubs. Ross has played for the Red Sox, of course, and has a history with Jon Lester and Theo Epstein of the Cubs (although his signing with the Cubs would likely result in, or come as the result of, a trade of Welington Castillo). The Padres are in the process of trading both Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera, but are also in the process of acquiring Ryan Hanigan and Tim Federowicz, so it’s unclear where Ross would fit in.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera has drawn interest from the Giants, Athletics, Mets, Cardinals and Twins, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Heyman writes that Cabrera could play second base or third base as well as shortstop, although there have been rumblings that Cabrera prefers to play shortstop or second base only, and not third. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle would be surprised if the A’s are interested, as they’ve never shown interest in Cabrera in past years despite up-the-middle needs (Twitter links).
  • Those same five teams have asked about Korean middle infielder Jung-ho Kang, although the Athletics and Mets are downplaying their interest, Heyman tweets. A’s GM Billy Beane has stated on the record that reports of his club’s interest in Kang are inaccurate. Kang was posted earlier this week.
  • Heyman lists the Orioles, Reds and Mariners as possibilities for Nori Aoki, with the veteran outfielder potentially receiving two to three years at $7MM-$8MM per year. Aoki had previously been connected to the Orioles and Reds, with the Orioles mostly interested in him as a backup option. Heyman reported last week that Aoki was looking for a three-year deal. Earlier this offseason, we at MLBTR guessed he would receive two years and $16MM.