The Royals announced Tuesday that they’ve designated lefty Jake Brentz, right-hander Nate Webb and first baseman/outfielder Brent Rooker for assignment. Their roster spots will go to right-hander Alec Marsh, catcher Freddy Fermin and outfielder Diego Hernandez, each of whom has been selected to the 40-man roster in advance of tonight’s deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft.
Kansas City also announced a one-year deal with non-tender candidate Ryan O’Hearn, avoiding arbitration and ostensibly locking him into a roster spot for the 2023 season. Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star reports that O’Hearn will be guaranteed $1.4MM and can earn another $250K of bonuses. O’Hearn was paid $1.3MM in 2022 and is controllable through the 2024 season via arbitration.
Brentz, 28, had a nice rookie season with the Royals in 2021 when he pitched to a 3.66 ERA with a 27.3% strikeout rate in 64 innings of relief. A 13.3% walk rate always served as a red flag, but as a bat-missing lefty with an average fastball of 97 mph and a 49% ground-ball rate, Brentz showed plenty of promise. His 2022 season was unfortunately blown up by injury, however. Brent tossed just 5 1/3 innings with a woeful 9-to-11 K/BB ratio and a 23.63 ERA (14 earned runs) before undergoing surgery to repair a torn UCL in his pitching elbow. That procedure, performed in late June, ended his season.
Webb, 25, was limited to just 33 1/3 innings across three minor league levels this season, struggling at each stop and spending more than two and a half months on the injured list. Although he was healthy to finish out the season, Webb concluded his 2022 campaign with a combined 9.99 ERA and 39-to-27 K/BB ratio in those 33 1/3 frames.
Rooker, acquired on Aug. 2 in a trade that sent backup catcher Cam Gallagher to the Padres, appeared in only 14 games with the Royals and went 4-for-25 with four walks and a double. Drafted by the division-rival Twins with the No. 35 overall pick back in 2017, Rooker was a bat-first prospect touted for his plus raw power but has managed just a .200/.289/.379 batting line in 270 Major League plate appearances. He’s a career .274/.387/.590 hitter in parts of three Triple-A seasons, so it’s possible another club will take a look on waivers or in a minor trade — particularly since he still has a minor league option year remaining.
The Royals again opted against non-tendering the now-29-year-old O’Hearn, despite the fact that four full seasons have elapsed since his productive rookie effort in 2018. Since hitting .262/.353/.597 in 170 plate appearances as a 24-year-old rookie, the lefty-swinging O’Hearn has managed only a .211/.282/.351 slash in 901 plate appearances. Even with a pair of younger, highly touted first base prospects in Vinnie Pasquantino and Nick Pratto needing playing time next season, though, Kansas City will continue to hope O’Hearn can eventually recapture that rookie form and factor into the first base/DH mix.