Minor, 34, is headed into the second season of a two-year, $18MM contract originally signed with Kansas City. He’s due $10MM this season, plus a $1MM buyout on a mutual option for the 2023 season. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweets that the Royals are covering that $1MM buyout. Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer adds that Kansas City is also covering $500K of Minor’s salary. That leaves the Reds on the hook for about $7.3MM in additional salary commitments, when factoring in the projected $2.2MM (via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz) that would’ve gone to the arbitration-eligible Garrett.
It’s frankly bizarre to see Cincinnati take on cash to acquire a struggling veteran starter, considering they commenced their offseason by placing a highly productive veteran starter, Wade Miley, on outright waivers — content to just give him away in order to save the same $10MM salary that is owed to Minor. The move to add Minor, who has an ERA north of 5.00 in each of his past two seasons, is a clear downgrade over simply keeping Miley. One can also imagine that if the goal was to add a veteran to the staff after trading Sonny Gray, there were options in free agency at a similar or even lesser price point.
Minor has been a durable source of innings over the past four years, starting at least 28 games in each full season and another 11 during the shortened 2020 campaign. However, he posted a 5.05 ERA in Kansas City through last year’s 158 1/3 innings, punching out 22.3% of his opponents against a strong 6.1% walk rate. Metrics like FIP (4.29) and SIERA (4.20) feel Minor’s strikeout and walk rates ought to have yielded a better ERA, but it’s quite a bet for him to bounce back when factoring in how the change of scenery could adversely impact Minor. As a fly-ball pitcher whose biggest Achilles heel during that time has been a susceptibility to home runs (1.43 HR/9 since 2018), the move to Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park seems like a poor fit (particularly at a time when the National League is adding the designated hitter).
Perhaps the Reds plan to explore additional trade scenarios surrounding Minor. Perhaps they believe pitching coach Derek Johnson, who coached Minor at Vanderbilt more than a decade ago, can help Minor return to form. Whatever the motivation behind the trade, it’s strange to see Cincinnati going out of its way to add salary after so aggressively finding ways to cut payroll over the past 18 months. In a vacuum, the trade for Minor is a sensible enough bet on a rebound for a prominent veteran — but in the context of the Reds’ recent string of transactions, it’s just rather puzzling.
As for the Royals, they’ll add a hard-throwing lefty with big bat-missing ability who has never quite put things together for a prolonged run of success. The 29-year-old Garrett averages 95 mph on his heater and has fanned just under 30% of his opponents dating back to 2018, but he’s also susceptible to walks (12.1%) and home runs (1.36 HR/9). Home runs have been a particular issue for Garrett over the past two seasons, although a move out of Cincinnati and into the spacious Kauffman Stadium could help him cut back on those long balls.
Garrett is controlled through the 2023 season via arbitration, so if the new environs can finally coax some consistency from him, he could be a vital piece of the Royals’ relief corps. Beyond the strikeouts and velocity, Garrett ranks 14th among all qualified relievers with a 15.7% swinging-strike rate since 2019, so the potential for a breakout is there. He’ll join a Kansas City bullpen that is increasingly deep in hard-throwing arms who can miss bats, pairing with righties like Josh Staumont and Scott Barlow as well as southpaw Jake Brentz.