The Royals announced today that they have requested unconditional release waivers for right-hander Louis Coleman, who had previously been designated for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for fellow right-hander Ian Kennedy (Twitter link).
Coleman, who will turn 30 on April 4, tossed just three innings for the Royals in 2015 but had been a regular member of the bullpen in the four seasons prior, pitching to a combined 3.25 ERA with 9.6 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9 in 174 1/3 innings. However, Coleman’s production tailed off badly in 2014, when he recorded a 5.56 ERA in 34 big league innings. While he rebounded with an outstanding 2015 season in Triple-A (1.69 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 in 64 innings), the Royals possess one of the game’s deeper bullpens and have a number of options on the depth chart even with the removal of Coleman from the 40-man roster.
Coleman had been arbitration eligible this offseason and, in fact, already agreed to a one-year deal worth $725K. However, arbitration contracts are not fully guaranteed, so the Royals are only on the hook for 30 days of his prorated salary — just under $119K. This isn’t the first time that the Royals have designated a player after agreeing to an arbitration salary; two years ago, the team designated Emilio Bonifacio for assignment after having agreed to a considerably more significant $3.5MM salary. Bonifacio was ultimately released (and went on to sign a minor league deal with the Cubs), leaving Kansas City responsible for about $575K of his salary.
As for Coleman, he’s now free to pursue a contract with any team and sign for any amount. While a minor league deal is a possibility, Coleman would be controllable for two more years beyond the 2016 season were he to land on a big league roster and spend the bulk of the season in the Majors. He could also be controllable for three years, if he only spends a portion of the year in the Majors; with three years, 18 days of service, Coleman would need 154 days in the Majors or on the Major League DL in order to reach four full years of service and qualify for free agency after 2018 season.