Royals lefty Mike Minor struck out the side to end the Indians’ winning streak and pick up his first career save over the weekend, and he tells MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that he’s intrigued by the idea of holding a late-inning relief role moving forward. “I value starting over not knowing when you’re going to pitch,” said Minor, a potential free agent after the season. “But if there’s an opportunity to be an eighth-inning guy or ninth-inning guy, that’d be great.” Minor says that he spoke to Wade Davis about his transition from struggling starter to dominant reliever when the two were teammates last season, and he also pointed to Zach Britton’s similar emergence as one of baseball’s top relief arms. The Royals hold a $10MM mutual option on Minor for the 2018 season, though the 29-year-old’s dominant season could also lead to a return to free agency. In 73 innings, Minor has averaged 10.2 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 with a 43.4 percent ground-ball rate — all of which has resulted in a 2.71 ERA.
- The Royals’ best course with potential free agents Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer might be to extend qualifying offers to all of them, Rosenthal opines. That would at least give them a windfall of draft picks if all three players were to sign big contracts elsewhere. The Royals seem to be running out of time to contend, and the extra draft picks would give them a head start on reloading.
- Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star took an excellent look at the remarkable late blooming of Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield. As Dodd points out, Merrifield is one of just seven players in the past 50 years to debut after his 27th birthday and compile five wins above replacement in his first two seasons. The others on that list were all established stars in other countries before coming to the United States (e.g. Ichiro Suzuki, Jose Abreu, Hideki Matsui). Dodd tracks Merrifield’s minor league career, noting that he was passed on entirely in the Rule 5 Draft along the way. It’s a must-read column that is rife with quotes from GM Dayton Moore, Merrifield’s coaches from his amateur days, several of Merrifield’s teammates and, of course, Merrifield himself. Now 28 years old, Merrifield has broken out with a .285/.324/.463 batting line, 17 homers, 29 steals and quality defense at second base — likely cementing himself in the Royals’ lineup for the 2018 season and beyond.
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
- Left-hander Onelki Garcia has cleared waivers after being designated for assignment and been sent outright to the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate, tweets MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Garcia, 28, made a pair of appearances — one start, one relief outing — with the Royals in what was his first Major League action since 2013, though the results weren’t pretty. In six innings, the southpaw yielded nine earned runs (13.50 ERA) on the strength of a dozen hits and five walks with two strikeouts. Garcia has appeared in just three big league games, though he owns a 4.24 ERA with 9.3 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9 in parts of five minor league seasons.
With just a few weeks left in the season, we have a pretty clear idea of which Rule 5 draft picks will stick with their drafting teams. At this point, having already carried the player this far and with expanded rosters easing any pressures, teams are quite likely to stay the course. Here’s how this season’s Rule 5 group has shaken out thus far:
It isn’t official yet, but these
- Miguel Diaz, RHP, kept by Padres (via Twins) from Brewers: As part of the Pads’ unusually bold Rule 5 strategy, the club kept three youngsters this year. Diaz, 22, has managed only a 6.21 ERA with a 31:22 K/BB ratio over 37 2/3 innings. But he is showing a 96 mph heater and will remain with the organization, quite likely heading back to the minors next season to continue his development.
- Luis Torrens, C, kept by Padres (via Reds) from Yankees: The youthful backstop — he’s just 21 — has struggled badly on offense in limited action. Through 133 plate appearances, he’s slashing just.169/.246/.212 — with just four extra-base hits, none of them home runs.
- Allen Cordoba, INF, kept by Padres from Cardinals: And then there’s Cordoba, who’s also just 21 years of age. He faded after a hot start at the plate, but on the whole his output — a .209/.284/.304 batting line and four home runs over 215 plate appearances — is fairly impressive given that he had never before played above Rookie ball.
- Dylan Covey, RHP, kept by White Sox from Athletics: Technically, owing to a DL stint, Covey has only compiled 83 of the minimum 90 days of active roster time required to be kept. But he’s going to make it there before the season is up, meaning that the Sox will be able to hold onto his rights and option him back to the minors in 2018. Covey, 26, has struggled to a 7.90 ERA with 4.9 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9 over 54 2/3 innings, allowing 18 long balls in that span.
- Stuart Turner, C, kept by Reds from Twins: Turner has seen minimal action, appearing in just 33 games and taking only 77 trips to the plate. And he’s hitting just .141/.184/.268 in that sporadic action. Clearly, though, the Reds have seen enough to believe he’s worth the trouble to hang onto.
Still In Limbo
- Kevin Gadea, RHP, selected by Rays from Mariners: Gadea has not pitched at any level this year owing to an elbow injury. He’ll remain with the Tampa Bay organization for the time being, but will still need to be carried on the 40-man roster over the offseason and then on the active roster for at least ninety days for his rights to permanently transfer.
- Armando Rivero, RHP, selected by Braves from Cubs: It’s the exact same situation for Rivero as for Gadea, though he has had shoulder problems.
- Josh Rutledge, INF, selected by Red Sox from Rockies: This was not your typical Rule 5 move. Boston snagged the veteran infielder after he signed a minors deal with Colorado. He ended up seeing minimal MLB time owing to injuries and his season ended recently with hip surgery. Rutledge is eligible for arbitration this fall and isn’t likely to be kept on the 40-man roster regardless.
- Anthony Santander, OF, selected by Orioles from Indians: Since he only made it off of the DL late in the summer, Santander can accrue only 45 days on the active roster. If Baltimore wants to keep him, then, it’ll need to put him on the Opening Day roster next year. Santander has seen minimal playing time thus far, recording two hits in twelve trips to the plate, though he put up impressive numbers on his rehab assignment.
Kept By Other Means
- Daniel Stumpf, LHP, signed with Tigers after electing free agency upon return to Royals: This is another unusual situation. As a previous Rule 5 returnee, Stumpf was eligible to elect free agency upon being returned to his original organization. That’s just what happened when Detroit sent him back to Kansas City; the southpaw then turned around and re-signed a MLB deal with the Tigers. He has ended up turning in a rather productive year, posting 32 1/3 innings of 2.78 ERA ball with 8.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 at the major-league level and showing even more impressive numbers during his time at Triple-A.
- Tyler Jones, RHP, returned to Yankees by Diamondbacks: Jones has thrown rather well at Triple-A since going back to the New York organization, posting 10.7 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 63 2/3 innings, though he has also allowed 4.38 earned per nine.
- Caleb Smith, LHP, returned to Yankees by Brewers: Smith ended up earning a 40-man roster spot and spending some time in the majors after showing quite well as a starter in the minors. But he has been knocked around in his 18 2/3 MLB frames on the year.
- Justin Haley, RHP, returned to Red Sox by Twins (via Angels): The 26-year-old didn’t stick with Minnesota, allowing a dozen earned runs in 18 innings before being returned to Boston. But he has thrown well since landing back at Triple-A Pawtucket, posting a 2.66 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 44 innings over seven starts.
- Tyler Webb, LHP, returned to Yankees by Pirates: Webb also gained a 40-man spot with the Yankees after showing some intriguing K/BB numbers at Triple-A. He was ultimately dealt to the Brewers.
- Aneury Tavarez, OF, returned to Red Sox by Orioles: Tavarez played his way back up to Triple-A upon his return to his former organization, but has hit just .244/.292/.400 in 145 plate appearances there.
- Glenn Sparkman, RHP, returned to Royals by Blue Jays: Sparkman was bombed in his one MLB appearance and has been limited to just 30 1/3 minor-league frames due to injury.
- Hoby Milner, LHP, returned to Phillies by Indians: Another player who has risen to the majors with the organization that originally let them leave via the Rule 5, Milner has turned in 24 1/3 frames of 1.85 ERA ball in Philadelphia. Of course, he has also managed just 15 strikeouts against ten walks in that span.
- Mike Hauschild, RHP, returned to Astros by Rangers: The 27-year-old righty struggled badly in his eight MLB frames. Upon returning to the rotation for Houston’s top affiliate, Hauschild has uncharacteristically struggled with free passes (5.3 per nine).
The Royals have claimed righty Mike Morin off waivers from the Angels, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports on Twitter. To create space on the 40-man roster, the club designated southpaw Onelki Garcia for assignment.
Morin had been designated for assignment recently by the Halos. The native Kansan has struggled through 14 1/3 MLB innings this year, allowing 11 earned runs on 21 hits. But Morin has posted solid strikeout-to-walk ratios (8.4 K/9, 2.5 BB/9) in 164 1/3 total frames in the majors over the past four seasons. And he was more effective this year at Triple-A, carrying a 3.20 ERA while also frequently working multiple innings (he compiled 39 1/3 frames in just 22 appearances, including one start).
For now, Morin will join a bullpen mix that’s already loaded with arms due to September call-ups — assuming, at least, that he’s activated. My calculations show that Morin has likely accumulated around 68 days of MLB service this year — owing, especially, to a DL stint early in the season — after entering the year with 2.110 on his ledger. That would suggest he has already passed three full years of service, which would make him eligible for arbitration this fall.
As for the 28-year-old Garcia, who spent last year pitching in Mexico, he made only two MLB appearances on the year and has just five total at the game’s highest level. He spent most of the year working at Triple-A, where he posted a 4.75 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 over 85 1/3 innings.
- Braves youngster Ronald Acuna blossomed into one of the game’s best prospects this season, and Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser (subscription required) outlines how Atlanta was able to sign the talented and surprisingly unheralded outfielder in 2014 for a mere $100K bonus. Interestingly, Acuna said that he was expecting to sign with the Royals before the Braves upped their offer to that $100K, and thus Acuna simply went with the highest bidder.
- It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Royals dealt Kelvin Herrera this winter, as the closer is in line for a big salary bump in his last year of arbitration eligibility. Rosenthal estimates Herrera will earn something in the $7.5-$8MM range in 2018, up from the $5.325MM Herrera earned this season. Brandon Maurer or Ryan Buchter could take over as Kansas City’s closer if Herrera is dealt. Herrera drew some trade buzz earlier this season as one of the many bullpen options the Nationals were exploring, and surely he would garner interest this offseason, even if Herrera hasn’t quite been as dominant this season as in recent years. This all assumes, of course, that Herrera’s current forearm issue doesn’t prove to be anything serious. With Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer all potential leaving K.C. in free agency this winter, a Herrera trade could further portend the start of a rebuild for the Royals.
- Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy offered a candid assessment of his opt-out clause when speaking with Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. “It would be pretty stupid if I did,” said Kennedy when asked about the possibility of exercising that clause. “You don’t go to the free-agent market pitching how I’ve been. No one is going to want that.” Set to turn 33 in December, Kennedy started the season with a strong April and has had some patches of success in 2017. However, he’s been shelled for 36 runs in his past 36 1/3 innings, allowing 49 hits (nine homers) and 17 walks against 30 strikeouts in that time. His current 5.47 ERA would be the worst full-season mark of his career and all but eliminates the possibility of forgoing the remaining three years and $43MM on his contract. Royals fans will want to check out Dodd’s column in full, as it’s packed with candid quotes from Kennedy and additional insight from manager Ned Yost.
The Royals have claimed righty Sam Gaviglio off waivers from the Mariners, per an announcement from the Seattle organization. Kansas City, meanwhile, has released veteran hurler Neftali Feliz, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets.
That move will open a 40-man spot for the M’s as they put together a slate of September call-ups. Gaviglio, 27, debuted this year for Seattle, working to a 4.62 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 over 62 1/3 innings. He was tagged for 15 long balls in that span. Gaviglio did throw better at Triple-A, though, posting a 3.88 ERA across 72 frames in 13 outings.
As for Feliz, the 29-year-old landed with the Royals after an unsuccessful run with the Brewers earlier this year. He gave K.C. twenty outings of 4.74 ERA ball, averaging 7.6 strikeouts and 3.8 walks per nine. Milwaukee will continue to pay the remainder of the $5.35MM owed to Feliz for the season.