- Jorge Soler is getting closer to making his Royals debut. The outfielder, on the shelf since March with an oblique injury, began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha on Friday, relays Dave Sessions of MLB.com. The Royals are unsure when they’ll call up Soler, whom they acquired from the Cubs for closer Wade Davis over the winter. When Soler is healthy enough to return, his bat “could be a big boost,” manager Ned Yost said. Kansas City’s offense entered Saturday dead last in the majors in both runs and wRC+, so its lineup certainly needs a jolt.
- The Royals announced on Friday that they’ve optioned Raul Mondesi and Paulo Orlando to Triple-A Omaha and recalled left-hander Matt Strahm and outfield prospect Jorge Bonifacio from Omaha. Bonifacio, the younger brother of veteran big leaguer Emilio Bonifacio, rates as the organization’s No. 12 prospect at MLB.com, No. 10 over at Fangraphs and No. 9 on the lists from both Baseball America and ESPN’s Keith Law. He’s pegged mostly as a corner outfielder with a nice hit tool but questionable power and limited defensive prowess. The demotion of Mondesi is obviously something to which the Royals were not hoping to resort with their top-regarded minor leaguer, but his .103/.167/.179 batting line through 46 plate appearances may have left them with little choice. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez first reported that Bonifacio was on his way up.
- Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer rates as one of the upcoming offseason’s most interesting free agents, but he isn’t a particularly good player and should consider accepting a qualifying offer if the Royals extend one, FanGraphs’ David Cameron argues. Hosmer has been well below average offensively over the past year, exacerbating mediocre overall hitting with a glaring tendency to ground into double plays, Cameron writes. Overall, Hosmer’s production is comparable to that of Mitch Moreland, who mostly went overlooked on the free-agent market last winter and ultimately signed a $5.5MM deal with the Red Sox. Hosmer is still young and could potentially improve, but there have been few recent indications of that happeneing. It will be interesting to see how teams value him next winter.
- Yordano Ventura’s life and untimely death will always be on the minds of his teammates, and the Royals’ mourning process has, in a way, begun anew as the team starts the season without Ventura around every day, Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star writes. Infielder Cheslor Cuthbert had made a routine of goofing around with Ventura during rides on the team plane, though when the Royals flew out of Spring Training last week, “when I looked, I didn’t see him,” Cuthbert said. “That’s when I realized: ‘He’s not here anymore. It’s hard to accept that.’ ” Dodd’s piece contains many memories and stories about Ventura from his many friends on the team and is well worth a full read.
- The Royals began their season by getting swept by the Twins and will have to perform well in the next few months, or else the team could move quickly to deal free-agents-to-be like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. Jason Hammel and Ian Kennedy could also hit the market if the Royals were to struggle.
This is the latest entry in MLBTR’s Offseason In Review series. The full index of Offseason In Review posts can be found here.
The Royals’ 2016-17 offseason will, sadly, always be remembered for the stunning, untimely death of one of their most recognizable young talents: 25-year-old right-hander Yordano Ventura. In the wake of that tragedy, the Kansas City front office made several late additions to a now-retooled roster that will dedicate the 2017 season to the memory of a friend and teammate who was taken from the world far too soon.
Major League Signings
- Jason Hammel, RHP: Two years, $16MM (including buyout of 2019 mutual option)
- Brandon Moss, 1B/OF: Two years, $12MM (including buyout of 2019 mutual option)
- Travis Wood, LHP: Two years, $12MM (including buyout of 2019 mutual option)
- Total spend: $40MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- Seth Maness, Peter Moylan (re-signed), Bobby Parnell, Brandon League, Chris Withrow, Al Alburquerque, Brooks Conrad, Jonathan Sanchez, Garin Cecchini, Brayan Pena
Trades and Claims
- Acquired OF/DH Jorge Soler from the Cubs in exchange for RP Wade Davis
- Acquired RHP Nate Karns from the Mariners in exchange for OF Jarrod Dyson
- Acquired OF Peter O’Brien from the D-backs in exchange for minor league RHP Sam Lewis
- Acquired minor league OF Donnie Dewees from the Cubs in exchange for minor league RHP Alec Mills
- Acquired minor league RHP Jared Ruxer from the Angels in exchange for RHP Brooks Pounders
- Danny Duffy, SP: Five years, $65MM
- Wade Davis, Jarrod Dyson, Kendrys Morales, Edinson Volquez, Luke Hochevar, Kris Medlen, Dillon Gee, Chien-Ming Wang
Entering the offseason, all eyes were on a host of veteran Royals slated to hit free agency following the 2017 season. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Danny Duffy, Alcides Escobar and Jarrod Dyson all finished up the 2016 campaign knowing that it was possibly the last time they’d all be together as teammates. General manager Dayton Moore spoke candidly early in the offseason and suggested that some payroll regression was likely in store, and Royals fans braced for the potential departures among the ranks of the team’s longstanding core.
And indeed, Moore subtracted some pieces, but perhaps not as many as Royals fans might’ve feared. Davis and Dyson found new homes following trades that sent them to the Cubs and Mariners, respectively. While Moore likely took no pleasure in parting with players who cemented themselves as Major Leaguers during their time with the Royals, the GM and his lieutenants were able to acquire a pair of controllable pieces in each one-for-one swap.
Davis netted former uber-prospect Jorge Soler, who has yet to break out but is still just 25 years of age. And Dyson’s blend of baserunning/defensive wizardry was right up Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto’s alley, prompting the Mariners to trade right-hander Nate Karns to Kansas City in exchange for one highly affordable year of Dyson. Though neither of the acquired assets has solidified himself as a big league contributor, each comes with four years of club control remaining. Acquiring eight years of MLB-ready talent, albeit unproven talent, in exchange for two players entering their contract years was a nice bit of work for the Kansas City front office (especially considering the trades also lowered the Royals’ 2017 payroll).
Another of those core Royals also resolved some of the uncertainty surrounding his status beyond the 2017 campaign, but Duffy did so in a drastically different manner when he signed a five-year extension that’ll guarantee him $65MM (more on that later). Now locked in as the clear top starter in the K.C. rotation, Duffy will be tasked with leading a new-look pitching staff this season.
In Karns, Jason Hammel and Travis Wood, Moore and his staff acquired a trio of arms to help round out the rotation. In the cases of Hammel and Wood, they did so by waiting out a surprisingly weak market to acquire both players at relatively bargain rates. Hammel’s $16MM price tag is especially surprising. Many pundits (we at MLBTR included) pegged him for a three-year deal in a thin market for starters after the Cubs made the then-curious decision to buy out his seemingly reasonable $12MM option for the 2017 season.
Wood spent the winter seeking an opportunity to reestablish himself as a starter, and but he’ll initially work out of the ’pen after Hammel and Karns claimed rotation spots behind Duffy, Ian Kennedy and Jason Vargas. That group doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing lineups, but each can be at least a serviceable arm, and the Royals’ large park and quality defense should compensate for some of the quintet’s shortcomings.
On the position-player side of the equation, the Royals didn’t have an overwhelming amount of work to do. Trading Dyson and watching Kendrys Morales depart created a need for a few additions, but the acquisition of Soler and Peter O’Brien in trades and the late signing of veteran Brandon Moss could well cover those departures. The trio of new additions won’t match the defensive excellence of Dyson in the outfield, but that group brings more to the table offensively.
Read more for further analysis …
- The Royals’ decision to carry Terrance Gore on the 25-man roster out of Spring Training surprised some, but Kansas City manager Ned Yost lauded the game-changing weapon that is Gore’s speed when speaking to MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. As Flanagan points out, the injury to Jorge Soler makes it easier to keep Gore on the roster for now, but he also notes that Yost was hoping to keep Gore even if Soler hadn’t been hurt. “He can win games with that speed,” Yost tells Flanagan. “It’s a huge weapon to have late in a game. I’m not saying we can keep that weapon all season, especially when we go to 13 pitchers. But for now, it made sense.” Flanagan also adds that improvements in Gore’s route-running capabilities could lead to him entering games as a defensive replacement while he’s on the roster.
- The Royals have optioned infielder/outfielder Whit Merrifield to Triple-A, meaning Christian Colon has won a bench job in Kansas City. Merrifield was easily the better of the two last season, having hit .283/.323/.392 to Colon’s .231/.294/.293, but the latter is out of options and could have ended up with another organization had KC demoted him.
The Tigers have agreed to re-sign lefty Daniel Stumpf to a Major League deal and added him to their 40-man roster, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Stumpf, who the Tigers had placed on waivers earlier this week, elected free agency after clearing waivers and before agreeing to his new deal.
The Tigers took Stumpf from the Royals in last winter’s Rule 5 Draft. He became eligible for free agency after clearing waivers because he had previously been selected in the Rule 5 Draft and returned — he pitched five innings for the Phillies in 2016 before being offered back to the Royals. It appears, then, that the Tigers were willing to re-sign him to a big-league deal after he declared free agency because they could then option him to the minors, despite his having been a Rule 5 pick previously and the fact that he will again occupy a spot on their 40-man.
Stumpf pitched a total of 41 1/3 innings of relief in the minors last season, posting a 2.83 ERA, 8.5 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 with four separate affiliates in two organizations. He has a history as a starter and has shown the ability to pitch multiple-inning stretches. He threw his fastball in the 92-MPH range in his stint with the Phillies last season, also throwing a slider and change.
March 31: Stumpf has cleared waivers, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports (via Twitter). The club announced he has been offered back to Kansas City, though as noted he could also elect free agency.
March 30: The Tigers have placed lefty Daniel Stumpf on waivers, the pitcher himself told reporters including Evan Woodberry of MLive.com (via Twitter). He was taken in the Rule 5 draft last winter from the Royals.
Because Stumpf was previously taken in the Rule 5 draft and returned to K.C. — last summer, he was shipped back from the Phillies — he’s in something of a unique situation, as Woodberry notes. If he clears waivers, Stumpf would have the right to reject an assignment with the Royals and instead take free agency.
Stumpf, now 26, only made a few MLB appearances last year because he first served a PED suspension. He was assigned to Double-A by the Royals, where he worked to a 2.11 ERA with 11.0 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 — thus setting up his latest Rule 5 adventure. He failed to follow up on that this spring, though, allowing four earned runs on five hits and five walks while striking out eight opposing hitters in 8 2/3 frames.
A number of Royals moves on Monday moved the team closer to setting their 25-man roster for the start of the season, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star and other reporters have noted. Here’s the breakdown of where the Royals’ roster stands:
- First, the team optioned lefty Scott Alexander and outfielders Billy Burns and Peter O’Brien to Triple-A Omaha and assigned catcher Zane Evans, infielder Humberto Arteaga and relievers Yender Caramo, Eric Stout, Al Alburquerque and Malcom Culver to minor-league camp. The moves left veteran righty Peter Moylan as the Royals’ clear choice for the last spot in their bullpen. (Another veteran, Seth Maness, remains in camp, but he is recovering from injury and will not be ready for Opening Day.) Moylan’s minor-league deal with the Royals contains an opt-out clause tomorrow, so the team seems likely to place him on their 40-man roster shortly. Moylan allowed just one run in eight Spring Training innings, striking out six and walking one.
- Royals manager Ned Yost also announced that Raul Mondesi would serve as the team’s starting second baseman, beating Whit Merrifield, Christian Colon and Cheslor Cuthbert. Cuthbert will make the team, while Merrifield and Colon are still competing for a bench job. The 21-year-old Mondesi was the surprise winner of the job after batting just .185/.231/.281 in 149 plate appearances in his rookie season in 2016, but he was previously a top prospect and had a very strong spring, batting .378/.391/.623.
- Finally, Jorge Soler, who had been projected to start in right field, suffered a strained oblique this weekend and appears likely to begin the season on the disabled list. It’s only a grade I strain, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets, and Soler may be able to begin resuming baseball activities in a week, so perhaps he can avoid a lengthy absence. That means Paulo Orlando will likely begin the season as the team’s right fielder, with Brandon Moss also occasionally helping at the position. Terrance Gore, who the Royals value for his speed and defensive ability, now seems likely to occupy a bench spot with Soler on the shelf.