- The Royals announced that they have outrighted southpaw Gabe Speier, whom they designated last week. Speier, 25, appeared in the majors in each of the previous two seasons and combined for a 7.62 ERA/6.05 FIP and 11.08 K/9 against 6.92 BB/9 over 13 frames.
NOV. 23: The Royals announced that they have placed Sparkman on unconditional release waivers.
NOV. 20: The Royals have announced a series of roster moves (via Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com). Right-hander Glenn Sparkman and left-hander Gabe Speier have each been designated for assignment, while right-hander Chance Adams cleared waivers and was assigned outright to Triple-A Omaha. Those moves clear 40-man roster space for four players Kansas City added to protect them from the Rule 5 draft: outfielder Khalil Lee, catcher Sebastian Rivero, and left-handers Daniel Tillo and Angel Zerpa.
The 28-year-old Sparkman pitched in 31 games (23 starts) for Kansas City in 2019. He only managed a 6.02 ERA with a minuscule 13.4% strikeout rate in that time. The swingman started this season in the Royals’ bullpen but went down with a forearm strain after just five appearances.
Unlike Sparkman, Speier is exclusively a reliever. While he’s had some productive minor-league seasons, the 25-year-old hasn’t found much success at the game’s highest level. In seventeen MLB appearances for Kansas City over the past two seasons, Speier pitched to 7.62 ERA while walking an untenable 15.9% of opposing hitters.
Adams underwent Tommy John surgery last month and won’t pitch next season. The former well-regarded Yankee farmhand will try to work his way back into the mix in 2022.
- Bowden (via Twitter) also enumerates the Royals plan for the winter: acquire a starting pitcher, middle-of-the-order bat, and centerfielder. They also want to improve their overall on-base percentage, notes Bowden. The Royals tied with the Mariners for 25th in the Majors with a .309 OBP. A team 7.8 BB% also tied for 25th in the Majors. To this point, Hunter Dozier (.344 OBP) and Salvador Perez (.353 OBP) were the only Kansas City regulars with an on-base percentage over .330. Outfield prospect Khalil Lee might provide an internal solution. The 22-year-old walked at a rate of 11.9% in Double-A in 2019, and the oganization holds him in high regard.
Royals right-hander Chance Adams underwent Tommy John surgery last month, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports (via Twitter). The organization never announced the surgery, but the procedure will wipe out Adams’ entire 2021 season. As Flanagan points out, that could be a key factor today as the Royals look to set their 40-man roster in advance of tonight’s deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. Adams could be outrighted off the 40-man roster to open an additional spot for the Royals, whose 40-man roster currently contains 39 players.
Adams, 26, is among the many cautionary tales for top pitching prospects. The 2015 fifth-rounder entered the 2018 season as a consensus Top 100 prospect in the game but struggled through a lackluster Triple-A showing and was hit hard in a brief MLB debut that year. It was a similar story in 2019, and last winter he was designated for assignment then traded to the Royals when the Yankees inked Gerrit Cole to his record-setting contract.
Adams made it to the big leagues with Kansas City in 2020 but was again hit hard in a limited showing. In all, he’s pitched 41 2/3 frames at the MLB level and logged a grisly 8.42 ERA with a 33-to-15 K/BB ratio and a woeful 11 home runs allowed. Even Adams’ last few turns through the Triple-A level haven’t been particularly impressive; in 2018-19 he worked to a combined 4.72 ERA in nearly 200 innings with the Yankees’ affiliate in Scranton.
The Kansas City Royals last made the playoffs in 2015. That was a good year. Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, and a transcendent bullpen won the AL pennant for the second consecutive season, and they finished it off with World Series victory.
That team is the most recent Royals squad to post a winning record. They went 81-81 in 2016, 80-82 in 2017, and then the bottom fell out. They lost 100+ games in each of the next two seasons before posting a 26-34 record in this year’s shortened season. That’s a 70-win pace for a full season, definitely an improvement over back-to-back season in which they failed to crack 60 wins.
Manager Mike Matheny will need to coax a more substantial improvement from his squad if they want to compete in 2021. That’s indeed the plan, however. General Manager Dayton Moore spoke with reporters during a Zoom call today, and he made no bones about his expectations for the Royals in 2021. Moore said, per Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star:
“We expect to win next year. What does that look like? Is it going to be enough wins to make the playoffs? We’ll find out. Our mindset is going to be to win every single pitch, every inning, win every game. That’s the only way that we’re ever going to win another championship, you’ve got to expect to win at all aspects.”
Don’t expect the Royals to be major players in free agency, however. The small market club figures to be judicious in adding from the open market. The primary pieces of the next Royals contender are going to be developed in-house, as has been the Royals preference. They’ve long believed in their current crop of players, even as the team as a whole has struggled. Interestingly, Moore did say that he doesn’t see finances getting in the way of improving the team, should the right opportunity come along.
The Royals plan to pursue their own free agents before expanding to the open market, which would be very “Royals” of them, though returning any of Greg Holland, Ian Kennedy, Mike Montgomery, or even Trevor Rosenthal could help boost a bullpen that needs some work. The Royals have incrementally added young arms like Brad Keller, Kris Bubic, and Brady Singer to veteran Danny Duffy in the rotation. The bullpen remains a work in progress. They did, however, put forth a 3.84 ERA in 2020, a mark that ranked 8th in the majors. Losing Holland would create an opening, with first looks presumably going to Josh Staumont, Kyle Zimmer, Jesse Hahn, and Scott Barlow. That quartet present some intriguing options with which to move forward into 2021.
Otherwise, the Royals will continue to try to develop and build from within. Bobby Witt Jr., Khalil Lee, and Kyle Isbel received high praise from Moore as prospects that could turn into significant pieces. Witt was the #2 overall pick of the 2019 draft, and he has yet to play a full season in the minors.
Thoracic outlet surgery has been a dagger to many careers in recent years, as the track record of successful returns from TOS is considerably smaller than with other major procedures like Tommy John surgery. That said, there have been some notable success stories, including Chris Young and Jaime Garcia. Tyson Ross had a nice 2018 campaign after 2016 TOS, and Royals righty Kyle Zimmer, who also had TOS surgery a few years ago, posted what looked like a breakout campaign in 2020.
- More from Morosi, who reports (on Twitter) that the Royals have shown interest in free-agent righty Matt Shoemaker. They join the previously reported Red Sox in that regard. Injuries have limited Shoemaker during his Angels/Blue Jays career, which began in 2013, but he has been pretty effective when healthy enough to pitch. Shoemaker owns a 3.86 ERA/4.03 FIP with 8.07 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 602 1/3 innings.
The Padres and Royals have completed their August trade that saw reliever Trevor Rosenthal head to San Diego for a player to be named later. The Royals have acquired right-hander Dylan Coleman in exchange, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets.
Now 21, Coleman was a 2018 fourth-round pick of the Padres who has done well at the lower levels, minus a rough High-A debut a year ago. Coleman has pitched to a 3.18 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 56 2/3 innings during his minor league career.
The 30-year-old Rosenthal, a former lights-out Cardinals closer who has battled injuries of late, enjoyed a rebound campaign between the Padres and Royals in 2020. He didn’t allow a single earned run over 10 frames as a Padre and ended the year with a 1.90 ERA/2.22 FIP and 14.45 K/9 against 3.04 BB/9 in 23 2/3 frames. Rosenthal is now one of the most desirable relievers on the open market.
After several weeks of little news about the Angels’ search for a new general manager, several names have emerged as candidate for the position. Four new names join that already lengthy list, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports that former Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has spoken with the team, and longtime Royals executives Gene Watson, Scott Sharp, and J.J. Picollo were also part of the Halos’ first round of interviews, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter).
Amaro is the only one of this quartet who has previously run a front office, as his stint as the Phillies’ GM from 2009-15 was highlighted by the National League pennant in 2009 and three NL East titles. All of that success came in Amaro’s first three seasons, however, largely due to the core of talent built by Amaro’s predecessor Pat Gillick (though as assistant GM, Amaro also had a hand in that roster’s creation). 2011 was still the last time Philadelphia posted a winning record, as their 2008 championship core aged and Amaro wasn’t able to reinforce the team well enough to keep it in contention.
Since leaving the Phils, Amaro moved not to another front office job but rather coaching positions with the Red Sox and Mets. After the 2018 season, he worked as an advisor to Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen, and spent 2020 as a broadcaster for Phillies games. Amaro does have some memorable ties to the Angels, as he was drafted by the team back in 1987 and he spent the first of his eight MLB seasons in a Halos uniform.
Watson, Sharp, and Picollo have all been linked to other general manager openings in the past. Watson interviewed with the Astros last winter, Sharp was a candidate with the Giants and Mets after the 2018 season, and Picollo has been considered for front office jobs with the Twins, Diamondbacks, and Phillies. In fact, Picollo was one of the favorites to replace Amaro as the Phillies’ GM back in 2015 before Matt Klentak was hired, and Picollo’s name has again surfaced as a possibility in Philadelphia now that Klentak is no longer in the position.
According to Rosenthal, Sharp could be the Angels’ preferred choice among the three Kansas City choices. Sharp, Picollo and Watson have all been with the Royals since 2006, working in various positions while moving up the ladder to their current positions as assistant GM (Sharp and Picollo) and senior director of pro scouting/special assistant (Watson).
- Royals left-hander Mike Montgomery and right-hander Kevin McCarthy cleared outright waivers and have elected free agency, reports Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com (Twitter link). Montgomery, 31, was limited to 5.1 innings in 2020 due to a lat injury, derailing his chance of cementing himself in the Kansas City rotation. McCarthy was an oft-used bullpen piece in 2019 but only got into five games last season. Additionally, Kansas City claimed righty Carlos Sanabria off waivers from the Astros, per Flanagan (Twitter link). The 23-year-old reliever performed well in the high minors in 2019 and made his MLB debut in this year.
Holland was a highly accomplished part of the Royals’ bullpen from 2010-15, during which he made two All-Star appearances. However, the Tommy John surgery Holland underwent in the last of those seasons prevented him from partaking in the Royals’ run to a championship and cost him the entire 2016 campaign. Holland had a nice rebound effort with the Rockies in 2017, but his career largely went off the rails from 2018-19, which he divided among the Cardinals, Nationals and Diamondbacks.
To his credit, after settling for a minor league contract in a return to the Royals last winter, Holland emerged as one of the game’s best bounce-back stories in 2020. The 34-year-old ended the season with a sterling 1.91 ERA/2.52 FIP and went a perfect 6-for-6 in save opportunities over 28 1/3 innings, also posting 9.85 K/9 and a 51.4 percent groundball rate. While walks were a serious issue for Holland in the wake of his TJ procedure, he only issued 2.22 free passes per nine this past season, further leading to hope that he’s just about all the way back at this point.
With the offseason now underway, Holland should quickly go from someone who couldn’t land a guaranteed deal last winter to a sought-after commodity. He’s not in the Liam Hendriks/Trevor May/Trevor Rosenthal class of free-agent relievers in terms of potential earning power, but Holland should do pretty well for himself on a one- or two-year deal in the coming months.