11:19am: Royals general manager Dayton Moore announced that Mondesi has been diagnosed with a torn ACL (Twitter link via Lewis). That’ll quite likely end his season and, depending on his recovery, perhaps even his tenure with the team. Mondesi will be arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter. He’d likely command a salary similar to this year’s affordable $3MM rate, but coming off a major knee injury, it’s not a lock that he’ll be tendered a contract. The Royals will have the entire season to evaluate him and monitor his recovery before making that call. If he’s progressing well, it’s an eminently reasonable price, but only time will tell how the rehab process goes.
As for Singer, he will indeed be built back up as a starting pitcher in Omaha, Moore added. That could point to a quick turnaround and return to the Majors, assuming all goes well. Singer last pitched on April 26 and threw two innings. It’s feasible that he could make a start in the next few days.
11:15am: The Royals announced a series of roster moves Thursday, most notably optioning right-hander Brady Singer to Triple-A Omaha and placing shortstop Adalberto Mondesi on the 10-day injured list. Outfielder Kyle Isbel and infielder Emmanuel Rivera are up from Omaha in pair of corresponding moves. Mondesi is dealing with a knee injury, and tests last night revealed some structural damage, per Alec Lewis of The Athletic (Twitter link).
Outside of a brief rehab assignment in 2021, it’ll be the first minor league stint for Singer since 2019, when he was only a year removed from being the No. 18 overall selection in the 2018 draft. Singer made the Royals’ Opening Day roster in 2020 and has been on the big league roster (or injured list) since that time. He looked like a potential fixture in the rotation after a solid rookie showing in 2020, when he pitched to a 4.06 ERA with league-average strikeout and walk rates plus an excellent 53.1% grounder rate in 64 1/3 innings.
The 2021 season didn’t go as smoothly, however. Singer had an up-and-down first half but was generally serviceable prior to the All-Star break, logging a 4.52 ERA in 85 2/3 innings. He was averaging under five innings per appearance, however, and by mid-July his velocity had dipped a bit from its early-season average. Singer was clobbered by the Orioles for seven runs in just two innings on July 17, and the Royals put him on the injured list with shoulder fatigue a couple days later. Singer returned in just under a month, but he didn’t make it through the remainder of the season, as he went back on the injured list in late September with a biceps strain.
Kansas City somewhat surprisingly moved Singer from the rotation to the bullpen this year — a new role for a pitcher who’d started all 39 of his prior big league appearances. The results so far haven’t been great; Singer yielded four runs on seven hits and a walk with six strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. Manager Mike Matheny said at the time the Royals set their Opening Day rotation that the organization still viewed Singer as a starting pitcher in the long term. It’s possible, then, that Singer will get the opportunity to stretch back out and return to the Majors as a starting pitcher. Kansas City has gotten poor results from both Kris Bubic and Carlos Hernandez, which could open the door for Singer or some of the organization’s other young arms to seize a starting job.
Optioning Singer carries implications beyond the right-hander’s immediate role or even beyond the team’s current rotation mix, however. Because Singer broke camp with the Royals in 2020 and was on the roster all last season, he entered the year with exactly two years of MLB service time. He’d need to spend 172 days on the roster in 2022 to reach three years of service and remain on track for free agency following the 2025 season. If Singer spends more than two weeks in the minors, it’ll push that free-agent eligibility back to the 2026-27 offseason. He’d likely still qualify for arbitration as a Super Two player — barring a particularly lengthy stint in Omaha — but the amount of time he spends in the minors will nonetheless be worth monitoring closely.
As for Mondesi, the knee injury is the latest in a long line of ailments that have kept the talented but increasingly fragile infielder out of the lineup. Mondesi has missed time over the past few seasons with oblique, hamstring, groin and, most notably, shoulder injuries. The shoulder issue proved to be particularly costly, as Mondesi twice suffered a subluxation before undergoing surgery that came with a six-month recovery timeline.
Mondesi played in 59 of the Royals’ 60 games in 2020, but overall from 2019-21, he appeared in just 196 of 384 possible games (51%). There’s no clear timetable for just when Mondesi might rejoin the Royals, but the very mention of structural damage portends a potentially significant time away from the lineup.
In the interim, the Royals are deep in middle-infield options. Bobby Witt Jr. has been playing third base with Nicky Lopez at second base, but both are experienced and more than capable shortstops. Whit Merrifield has been lining up in the outfield more often than not this season but could certainly shift back to second base, with Lopez sliding over to shortstop. That setup could open the door for Isbel — an accomplished minor league hitter who’s yet to solidify himself in the big leagues — to get a larger look in the outfield.