- The Royals have promoted right-hander Clay Buchholz from Double-A to Triple-A, per Tony Boone of the Omaha World-Herald. Buchholz will make a rehab start Sunday, his second of the year, and could debut with the Royals as early as next Saturday, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com suggests (Twitter link). The 33-year-old Buchholz, who missed nearly all of last season with the Phillies after undergoing surgery to repair a flexor tear in his right forearm, joined the Royals last month on a minor league contract. That deal includes a May 1 opt-out, perhaps making it all the more likely the Royals will promote him – especially considering how poorly fifth starter Eric Skoglund has fared in the early going.
- Meanwhile, injured Royals cornerstones Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon are “very close” to returning, manager Ned Yost told Rustin Dodd of The Athletic and other reporters on Sunday. Yost added that both players could come back from their rehab assignments during Kansas City’s next series, which begins Tuesday. Perez suffered a Grade 2 MCL tear in his left knee on March 28, while Gordon has been out since April 10 with a labral tear in his left hip. Gordon got off to a woeful start (.174/.208/.217 in 24 PAs), as has his team, which entered Sunday with the worst record in the AL (4-15).
- The Royals assigned minor league signee Clay Buchholz to Double-A after he showed well in extended Spring Training, tweets MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Buchholz, who missed nearly all of the 2017 season following surgery to repair a flexor tear in his right forearm, tossed 4 2/3 shutout innings with one hit, two walks and five strikeouts in the first of what should be multiple rehab outings. Flanagan reminds that Buchholz has a May 1 opt-out date in his deal, however, so Kansas City could have to make a call on the longtime Red Sox righty before too long. With Nate Karns on the disabled list and Eric Skoglund struggling through his first two starts, there does appear to be room to fit Buchholz into the mix in Kansas City.
The Mets made repeated inquiries on Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto during the offseason, says Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic in a video tweet. They also asked the Marlins about Starlin Castro. However, at that point in the winter, the club had just traded Christian Yelich to the Brewers, and they had also unloaded the contracts of Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna; they weren’t looking to cut any more salary at that moment in time. While the Mets are prepared to roll with Tomas Nido and Jose Lobaton for now, Rosenthal suggests that the club could attempt to revisit Realmuto discussions at some point.
More from Rosenthal…
- Although it’s early, Rosenthal suggests that Mike Moustakas looks like a hot trade candidate, citing his physical condition and low salary as selling points for the Royals third baseman. According to GM Dayton Moore, Moustakas is “running as well as he ever has.” Rosenthal figures that Kansas city will be among the most active trade deadline sellers in July, and could also dangle southpaw Danny Duffy, second baseman Whit Merrifield and closer Kelvin Herrera.
- The shifting power structure of Orioles ownership might affect the way the club approaches a potential Manny Machado trade, should they end up willing to deal him. Peter Angelos was always opposed to making trades with the division-rival Yankees, but the younger Angelos’ might not place such a restriction on the concept. There are a number of other reasons to throw cold water on the idea of a Machado-to-Yankees swap, as Rosenthal notes, such as the presence of Brandon Drury and the Yankees’ possible focus on pitching. Still, the idea seems more plausible now that Peter Angelos’ sons are more active in the running of the club.
- One rival executive estimates that there are “tens of millions” of dollars riding on the health of Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson’s shoulder. Rosenthal posits that the former AL MVP will be much less valuable as a free agent if there are questions surrounding his ability to play third base; much of his value lies in his defensive prowess. Being viewed as a first base/DH type for the bulk of his remaining career could eliminate some NL teams as suitors, and it doesn’t help that Donaldson is about to turn 33.
- Royals catcher Salvador Perez could make his 2018 debut during the team’s next homestand, which runs from April 24-29, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com writes. Perez, who suffered a Grade 2 MCL tear in his left knee on March 28, began a rehab assignment at the Double-A level on Saturday. The Perez-less Royals have gotten terrible offensive production early this year from behind-the-plate fill-ins Drew Butera and Cam Gallagher, who combined for a .175/.227/.250 line entering Saturday. Thanks in part to their struggles, Kansas City’s a woeful 3-10.
- “It was very much a split decision” within the Royals front office to re-sign Alex Gordon to a four-year, $72MM deal in the 2015-16 offseason. Gordon’s return to Kansas City was seen as something of a surprise at the time, though he had a strong personal desire to return to the team and the Royals were willing to spend extra to retain a key member of their World Series-winning team. Gordon was entering his age-32 season at the time, however, and some in the organization felt “he had had worn down by that point” and wasn’t a good investment. These concerns seem to have been well-founded, as Gordon has hit just .213/.300/.343 over 1071 PA through two-plus years of that contract.
The Royals announced that they’ve placed left fielder Alex Gordon on the 10-day disabled list with a labral tear in his left hip. Recently claimed outfielder Abraham Almonte has been recalled from Triple-A Omaha to take his place. Kansas City didn’t provide an immediate timeline within its announcement, though manager Ned Yost suggests that the injury may not be as bad as it sounds (Twitter link via Rustin Dodd of The Athletic). Yost said that Gordon will be re-evaluated in five days and could return as soon as two weeks down the road in a best-case scenario.
Gordon, 34, inked a franchise record four-year, $72MM contract with the Royals in the 2015-16 offseason. At the time, the left fielder had made three consecutive All-Star teams and been one of the key factors in the Royals’ return to prominence in the American League Central. From 2011-15, Gordon slashed .281/.359/.450 (121 OPS+) and took home four Gold Glove Awards. Baseball-Reference pegged his efforts at 27.2 wins above replacement in that five-year peak, while Fangraphs credited him with 24 WAR.
However, Gordon’s production immediately went south in the first season of a four-year contract that has transformed from a cause for celebration among Royals fans to an albatross deal for the franchise. Since Opening Day 2016, Gordon has posted a woeful .213/.300/.343 slash in 1071 plate appearances, missing time along the way with a fractured right wrist (in May 2016). He’s still owed $20MM in 2018 and 2019, plus a $4MM buyout of a mutual option for the 2020 season.
Royals left-hander Danny Duffy was a popular name in trade rumors during the offseason, but he ended up staying put. Duffy remains a trade candidate, however, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. It would take “the right package of prospects” to land the 29-year-old Duffy, Cafardo writes. Duffy’s under control through 2021 for a total of $60MM. He’s off to a rough start this year – albeit over two just two appearances – having allowed eight earned runs on 10 hits and five walks (with eight strikeouts) in 9 2/3 innings.
- There are teams interested in signing free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera to a minor league deal, per Cafardo. It’s unclear, though, whether the 33-year-old would be open to signing a minors pact. An inability to contribute in the field or on the base paths have likely been the main culprits for Cabrera’s unemployment, and it doesn’t help that he hit an uninspiring .285/.324/.423 (98 wRC+) across 666 plate appearances between the White Sox and Royals in 2017.
That outcome was just what the Royals hoped for when they removed the talented, but oft-injured hurler from their 40-man roster and ultimately released him. Clearly, no other teams were willing to utilize a 40-man spot to take a chance on Zimmer; evidently, none offered a better opportunity to him otherwise.
Zimmer, 26, is still working back from shoulder problems that are the latest in a line of ailments. The fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, he has shown well when healthy. Zimmer has a 3.54 ERA in the minors, with 10.8 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9, but has compiled those numbers in just 259 total innings.
April 5: Zimmer has cleared unconditional release waivers and is now a free agent, the Royals announced.
April 3: The Royals have placed former top prospect Kyle Zimmer on release waivers, as Maria Torres of the Kansas City Star was among those to report (Twitter links). He had been designated for assignment recently.
It is not entirely clear why Zimmer was placed on release rather than outright waivers, but the Royals evidently do not plan to bid adieu if he does clear. Rather, Torres notes that the hope would be to plug Zimmer back in the system — presumably, on a new minors deal — if another club does not elect to put him on its 40-man roster or otherwise woo him with a more appealing offer.
The 26-year-old Zimmer has not yet had a chance at making good on his promise owing to a litany of injuries. He has already undergone elbow, shoulder, and thoracic outlet procedures since being taken fifth overall in the 2012 draft.
Shoulder troubles again limited Zimmer last year, when he worked to a 5.40 ERA in 36 2/3 innings in the upper minors. But he was long rated as one of the game’s hundred best prospects and has recorded 310 strikeouts in his 259 career minor-league frames.
The Angels have acquired righty Miguel Almonte from the Royals, per a club announcement. Cash or a player to be named later will head back in return for Almonte, who has been optioned to Triple-A by the Halos. To create an opening on the 40-man roster, the Los Angeles organization designated catcher Juan Graterol for assignment.
Almonte, who was removed from the 40-man recently to create space for a player of the same last name, will celebrate his 25th birthday today by joining a new organization after seven years in the Kansas City system. While he was once viewed as a quality prospect, Almonte has had trouble earning MLB opportunities and has in recent years been shifted mostly into a relief role.
Still, Almonte’s arm obviously caught the attention of the Angels front office. He threw 47 innings of 1.72 ERA ball last year in the upper minors, over which he recorded 52 strikeouts against just 13 walks. But injuries again limited him in 2017 and Almonte is slated for some further time off after dealing with shoulder problems this spring.
As for the 29-year-old Graterol, he has seen limited MLB chances with the Halos over the past two seasons. He does have plenty of experience in the upper minors over a dozen-year professional career. Graterol carries a .652 OPS in his 353 Triple-A plate appearances and a .690 mark over 477 turns with the bat at the penultimate level of the minors.