Royals lefty Brian Flynn is expected to miss eight weeks of action due to injuries suffered in a fall through the roof of his barn, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. A broken rib seems to be the main injury to the 26-year-old, who turned in 55 1/3 innings of 2.60 ERA ball last year for Kansas City. Though Flynn will clearly now be delayed, there’s no indication that there are any long-term concerns, and the organization’s recent signing of Travis Wood will help restore any lost early-season depth.
12:10pm: Maness can also earn up to $750K worth of incentives, reports MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan (via Twitter).
8:48am: Right-hander Seth Maness has agreed to a minor league contract with the Royals, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter links). Maness will earn $1.25MM if he makes the Major League roster, per Goold. Kansas City was one of at least 16 big league teams to scout the 28-year-old CAA client last week, and Goold reports that the Royals have maintained consistent interest in him this offseason.
Maness, of course, is a fascinating case to watch as he tries to work his way back from an experimental “primary repair” surgery that represents a potential alternative to Tommy John surgery. Maness suffered ligament damage in his elbow last summer and underwent the procedure back in mid-August, and he’s already throwing off a mound. If he’s able to make a full recovery, the seven-and-a-half-month timeline on this newer procedure would be a marked improvement over the 12 to 18 month recovery that is common with Tommy John surgery. Notably, “primary repair” isn’t an option for all players that are diagnosed with torn ulnar collateral ligaments, as the procedure is dependent on both the location and extent of the tear. (Those who’ve yet to read Goold’s excellent look at the surgery from January are highly encouraged to do so.)
Maness was a fixture in the St. Louis bullpen from 2013-16, racking up 237 1/3 innings with a 3.19 ERA, 5.8 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and a hefty 59.4 percent ground-ball rate along the way. Last season, he posted a 3.41 ERA with career worst K/9 (4.6) and BB/9 (2.3) rates. Following the August operation, the Cardinals non-tendered Maness, who has three years and 154 days of Major League service. That fairly limited service time means that if he’s able to make a recovery, the Royals will control him through the 2019 season via the arbitration process.
The Cubs continued adding to their starting pitching depth in the past two weeks by trading for righties Eddie Butler and Alec Mills, both of whom had been designated for assignment by their old teams. Notably, the Cubs gave up prospects of at least modest value to acquire those players — righty James Farris went to the Rockies with an international bonus slot in the Butler deal, and outfielder Donnie Dewees headed to Kansas City for Mills. But the Cubs felt Butler and Mills were attracting enough interest to justify giving up talent to get them, according to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers.
“Both were getting phone calls,” Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said Thursday in an interview with ESPN 1000. “They have options. They can make starts for you. Finding guys who can make starts for you is very difficult and very expensive. We showed the appropriate urgency to get those guys.”
The fact that both pitchers had options was clearly important to the Cubs, as Rogers notes. But the team also thinks Butler, in particular, has a chance to be more than a depth starter.
“He’s an excellent change-of-scenery guy,” said Hoyer. “Our best example is Jake Arrieta. Sometimes a talented guy needs a change of scenery, and that was our logic with Eddie Butler.”
As Rogers notes, Mills was only designated for assignment when the Royals signed Jason Hammel, whose option the Cubs declined earlier in the offseason. The team’s pursuit of starting depth now raises the question of whether the team would have been better off had it simply exercised the option. But Rogers says a key reason the two sides parted ways was that Hammel had a conflicted relationship with manager Joe Maddon, who Hammel felt didn’t have appropriate faith in him and who frustrated him by pulling him out of games before he would have liked to depart. Though the option on Hammel’s contract was a team option, the Cubs allowed him to decide whether he wanted to leave, and Hammel made the call. Rogers’ sources tell him that was due primarily to his relationship with Maddon.
In any case, beyond Arrieta, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey, the Cubs now have Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson, along with Rob Zastryzny, Ryan Williams and now Butler and Mills. Of the last four, it has yet to be determined who the Cubs will turn to first should they need extra rotation help in the big leagues.
An unanticipated series of factors led starter Jason Hammel to sign with the Royals, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star writes. That included not only the fact that Hammel surprisingly reached and then remained on the open market, but also the untimely death of young Royals righty Yordano Ventura. First and foremost a human tragedy, Ventura’s passing also left the organization in need of another starter for the coming season — an uncomfortable situation which Hammel thoughtfully acknowledged in his introductory remarks. “I feel like I need to express my condolences to, first of all, Royals Nation and the Ventura family,” he said. “Just because, I truly feel that if that unfortunate passing doesn’t happen, you guys aren’t talking to me.”
- The Nationals “checked in on” first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss before he signed with the Royals, reports Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. Moss would at least have represented a quality bench piece for the Nationals, whose depth is an issue, as FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron wrote last week. The lefty swinging Moss could theoretically have shared time (and provided insurance) for right-handed-hitting first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and left fielder Jayson Werth — a possibility that led MLBTR to guess that Moss would land in D.C. at the outset of the offseason.
The Cubs have acquired right-hander Alec Mills from the Royals in exchange for minor league outfielder Donnie Dewees, the team announced via press release. In order to clear a spot for Mills on the 40-man roster, left-hander David Rollins has once again been designated for assignment. The 25-year-old Mills was designated for assignment himself earlier this afternoon, suggesting that talks between the Cubs and Royals were either in the works prior to the DFA or came together very quickly.
The acquisition of Mills, for the Cubs, is not entirely dissimilar from the recent pickup of right-hander Eddie Butler from the Rockies. Both right-handers give the Cubs an optionable right-hander that can serve as a depth piece for the the back of the rotation or potentially work out of the bullpen. It seems likely that Mills and Butler will both be Triple-A-bound to start the season, but both could realistically emerge on the big league roster at various points throughout the 2017 season — especially if the Cubs do employ spot starters with regularity later in the offseason to keep their top arms fresh.
Mills made his MLB debut in 2016 on the heels of a solid season split between the Double-A and Triple-A levels. In 125 2/3 minor league innings, he worked to a 3.22 ERA with 8.7 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 with roughly average ground-ball rates. While he’s not universally lauded as a prospect, he’s received some attention from Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen, Baseball Prospectus’ Jeffrey Paternostro and from Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. Reviews on Mills range from solid relief prospect/occasional spot starter with useful sinker to a potential back-of-the-rotation starter.
The 23-year-old Dewees, meanwhile, fits the Royals’ profile of a speed- and contact-oriented hitter. The 2015 second-rounder hit .284/.338/.416 with five homers and 31 stolen bases across 577 plate appearances between the Class-A Midwest League and the Class-A Advanced Carolina League in 2016.
ESPN’s Keith Law recently rated Dewees 15th among Cubs farmhands (subscription required and strongly recommended), noting that he’s a 70-grade runner that can handle center field from a range standpoint but has a 20-grade arm that limits him to left field. Longenhagen ranked him 19th among Cubs prospects offering a similar take (albeit a 30-grade arm instead of 20), writing that without the power to profile as a left field regular, his best scenario is a Ben Revere type. B-Pro’s Steve Givarz was a bit more optimistic about his glovework but still pegs him as more of a fourth outfielder than a potential starter.
As for Rollins, this latest DFA continues one of the more remarkable offseasons in recent memory. Rollins opened the offseason on the Mariners’ 40-man roster but was claimed off waivers by the Cubs in mid-November. Since that time, he’s been claimed by the Rangers, who lost him to the Phillies on waivers not long after. Philadelphia designated him for assignment less than two weeks later and lost him back to Texas on waivers. That stay with the Rangers was even shorter than the first, as the Cubs claimed him once again just two days later.
Chicago will now once again try to slip Rollins through waivers, though given the number of times he’s been claimed this winter, one shouldn’t simply assume that he’ll make it through waivers. Teams that have lost out on left-handed relievers in free agency, for instance, could look at Rollins as a potential fallback option.
Rollins, 27, has a 7.60 ERA in 34 innings with the Mariners across the past two seasons and has averaged 7.1 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9 with a 41.9 percent ground-ball rate. A .379 BABIP in his big league career indicates that he’s had his fair share of misfortune on balls in play, though most ERA estimators peg him for an ERA in the mid-4.00s. Nonetheless, he’s been claimed off waivers five times by three different teams this winter, so there are obviously a fair amount of talent evaluators that believe he can provide some value to a big league team in 2017 and beyond.
Mills, 25, is a semi-surprising DFA casualty for the Royals, as he made his MLB debut in 2016 on the heels of a solid season split between the Double-A and Triple-A levels. In 125 2/3 minor league innings, Mills logged a 3.22 ERA with 8.7 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9. While the former 22nd-round pick showed better in Double-A (2.39 ERA) than in Triple-A (4.19), his K/BB numbers at each level were both solid, and they were accompanied by roughly league-average ground-ball tendencies.
MLB.com has yet to issue its newest list of top Royals prospects, but Mills rated eighth among Kansas City farmhands on their most recent iteration, which was updated throughout the 2016 season. He didn’t crack the organization’s top 15 prospects, as recently laid out by ESPN’s Keith Law, but Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen did note him just outside the Royals’ top 20 back in December. Longenhagen writes that Mills is “purely a relief prospect,” noting that he could be a solid middle relief piece or a sixth starter/long man. Baseball Prospectus’ Jeffrey Paternostro didn’t include Mills in the top 10 but praised his above-average sinker.
While Mills isn’t a standout prospect, he seems like the type that could very well end up claimed if exposed to waivers, so perhaps the Royals will be able to generate some trade interest. Mills does have two minor league options remaining, which should add to his appeal.
The Royals have added a veteran arm to their rotation, announcing on Wednesday that they’ve signed right-hander Jason Hammel to a two-year deal with a mutual option for the 2019 season.
The 34-year-old ACES client will reportedly receive a $16MM guarantee that includes a $5MM salary in 2017, a $9MM salary in 2018 and a $2MM buyout on his option. He can also earn an additional $250K per season for reaching 200 innings pitched.
[Related: Updated Kansas City Royals Depth Chart]
Hammel’s long offseason began when the Cubs allowed him to decide whether he wanted them to exercise his $12MM 2017 option or give him a $2MM buyout. The Cubs ultimately declined the option, already an unusual decision on a reportedly healthy pitcher coming off a solid 3.83 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 season as a back-end starter, and Hammel hit the open market, only to linger there for almost four months. That long period on the market included a change of agencies, from Octagon to ACES.
The $16MM guarantee Hammel will receive over two years has to qualify as a disappointing outcome for him, at least relative to his likely expectations earlier in the offseason. While this offseason was a slow one for starting pitchers in general, Hammel compares favorably to several starters who received similar or greater amounts, either in total contract value or average annual value, including Charlie Morton (two years, $14MM), Bartolo Colon (one year, $12.5MM) and former Royal Edinson Volquez (two years, $22MM).
A fit with the Royals seemingly emerged following the tragic death of Yordano Ventura in a car wreck in the Dominican two weeks ago. Hammel represented the top available starting pitcher on the free agent market at that point. Now he’ll enter a Kansas City rotation picture that will also feature Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Nate Karns, Jason Vargas and Chris Young.
With the exception of an ugly 2013 season in Baltimore, Hammel has generally posted consistently solid results since leaving Colorado in prior to the 2012 campaign — he’s eaten 771 innings in that time, with a slightly-above-average 3.88 ERA to go with 8.0 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. Those peripheral numbers slipped a bit last season with Chicago, to 7.9 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9, but he was still generally effective, with a 3.83 ERA. He relies heavily on his very good slider, a pitch he threw more frequently (35.1%) than any other qualified starter last season except Michael Pineda, Chris Archer and Ervin Santana.
Hammel turned 34 in September, so his new deal will cover his age-34 and age-35 seasons, with the mutual option covering his age-36 campaign. A large number of Royals (including Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Vargas) are eligible for free agency next winter, so Hammel’s addition will help the club bridge the gap between next season and the immediate future beyond it. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star tweets, the Royals’ late deals with Hammel and Brandon Moss have sent their payroll north somewhat, although those increases have been offset in part by the departures of Wade Davis and Jarrod Dyson, as well as Duffy’s extension, which reduced the 2017 salary he would have received through the arbitration process.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the agreement (Twitter link). Hammel will receive $16MM guaranteed, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweeted the terms, and Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star reported the year-to-year breakdown (via Twitter). MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reported the deal’s incentives (via Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
TUESDAY: The Brewers, Reds, Indians, Orioles, Astros and Twins also sent scouts to observe Maness’ workout, according to Goold.
MONDAY: Scouts from at least 16 Major League clubs were on-hand today to watch free agent right-hander Seth Maness work out, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Instagram). Per Goold, the Royals, Cubs and Nationals were all represented at Maness’ audition.
Maness’ showcase is especially intriguing due to the circumstances surrounding his injury. The 28-year-old suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament last summer and underwent surgery in August, but he elected to undergo an experimental “primary repair” surgery that, if successful, could represent a potential alternative to Tommy John surgery. Not every pitcher with a torn UCL can turn to the primary repair procedure as an alternative — the operation is dependent on the location and extent of the ligament tear — but certainly a return to health for Maness in seven and a half months would pique the interest of others with similar diagnoses around the league. (Those who are interested in the matter and missed Goold’s column on Maness last month should absolutely take the time to read through his breakdown of the operation itself and the larger-reaching potential implications of the surgery.)
The 28-year-old Maness was a fixture in the St. Louis bullpen from 2013-16, racking up 237 1/3 innings with a 3.19 ERA, 5.8 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and a hefty 59.4 percent ground-ball rate along the way. Last season, however, he logged a 3.41 ERA with career worst K/9 and BB/9 rates of 4.6 and 2.3, respectively. Following the August operation, the Cardinals non-tendered him rather than pay him a projected $1.6MM via arbitration (projection via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz).
As an added bonus for any club that ultimately signs Maness, if he is indeed able to return and pitch at a high level, he’d remain under club control not just for the 2017 season but through the 2019 season. Maness wrapped up the 2016 campaign with three years and 154 days of Major League service time, so he’d be arbitration-eligible in each of the next two winters before hitting free agency in advance of his age-31 season.
10:00am: Pena will earn at a $535K base salary if he cracks the majors, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). His deal also features $10K in incentives and opt-outs at the end of spring training and on May 1.
6:19am: Former Royals catcher Brayan Pena is returning to the organization on a minor league contract, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link). The deal comes with an invitation to spring training for Pena, who previously played in Kansas City from 2009-12.
Pena, 35, had been sitting on the free agent market since the Cardinals released him Nov. 28. In doing so, the Redbirds had to eat the remaining $2.5MM left on the two-year, $5MM deal they awarded Pena in free agency last offseason. Lingering knee issues weighed down Pena during his stint in St. Louis, where he collected just 14 plate appearances.
As a member of the Royals, Tigers and Reds from 2009-15, the switch-hitter batted .262/.303/.355 in 1,805 plate appearances. Defensively, Baseball Prospectus has given Pena positive overall grades as a pitch framer, though he has fallen into the negatives in recent seasons. Pena has also thrown out 28 percent of attempted base stealers during his career – just above the 27 percent league-average mark.
Barring injuries, Pena is unlikely to see much major league action with Kansas City this season. The Royals’ starting catcher is eminently durable standout Salvador Perez, who has played at least 138 games in four straight seasons, and they gave backup Drew Butera a guaranteed $3.8MM in November.
- The Royals have interest in veteran right-hander Doug Fister. Kansas City is known to be looking for rotation help since the tragic death of Yordano Ventura. Fister (who celebrates his 33rd birthday today) posted a 4.64 ERA, 5.74 K/9 and 1.85 K/BB rate in 180 1/3 innings with the Astros last season. The Padres, Marlins, Pirates and Mariners have all been linked to Fister at various times this winter, though several of those clubs have made other additions to their rotation and may no longer have interest.
- The Royals have several notable players hitting free agency next winter, and “the feeling is the Royals will re-sign at least one of their key hitters, likely Eric Hosmer,” Cafardo writes. Hosmer is a somewhat surprising name to potentially be staying put given that he is represented by Scott Boras, who would usually put a price tag on his client that would be out of reach for the mid-market Royals. Then again, Cafardo also notes that while Kansas City has the pieces to be a contender this season, “if they’re out of the hunt at the trade deadline…look for a major fire sale.” To tie those two items together, the Royals could free up money to re-sign Hosmer if they dealt some other pricey contracts. (One would think Hosmer would also want to be assured that the Royals’ deadline deals were made with an eye towards reloading for 2018 or 2019.) K.C. already locked up one long-term piece by signing Danny Duffy to a five-year extension last month.