The Royals announced that right-hander Luis Cessa, left-hander Austin Cox, catcher Logan Porter, and outfielder Diego Hernandez have all been signed to minor league deals. Cessa is a newcomer to the organization, while Cox, Hernandez, and Porter are making quick returns after being non-tendered yesterday.
Best known for his team with the Yankees as a starter, reliever, and swingman, Cessa had a 2.51 over 64 2/3 bullpen innings with New York and Cincinnati during the 2021 season. Cessa moved back into swingman work in 2022 with mixed results (a 4.57 ERA), and things went south for the right-hander in 2023. Pressed into rotation work at the start of the year, Cessa struggled to a 9.00 ERA over 26 innings and was released by the Reds in May. That marked the end of Cessa’s big league work last year, as he caught on with the Rockies and Nationals on minor league contracts but continued to struggle badly at Triple-A.
Cessa’s career 4.43 ERA and 4.41 SIERA are virtually identical, so the righty hasn’t exactly gotten away with a lack of missed bats throughout his career. Cessa has gotten by with some good whiff and chase rates despite the low strikeout totals, and he had been good at limiting heavy contact in the form of barrels prior to 2023. Control had also never really been an issue for Cessa prior to 2023, yet his walk rates crept upwards at both the MLB and minor league levels, leaving him even less margin for error.
The 31-year-old will try to get on track with the Royals, who need pitching of all kinds whether in the rotation or bullpen. Since Kansas City isn’t expected to be a big spender this winter, it seems likely that the team will look to bring any number of veteran arms into camp on minor league or low-cost deals, in the hopes that at least a couple of them could break out and win jobs on the Opening Day roster.
None of Cox, Porter, or Hernandez were eligible for salary arbitration, but Cox and Porter were designated for assignment this past week and ultimately cut to open up some space on Kansas City’s 40-man roster. In Hernandez’s case, the outfielder will return for his sixth season in the Royals’ farm system, and will probably start 2024 back at Double-A.
Cox made his MLB debut in 2023, posting a 4.54 ERA over 35 2/3 innings before his rookie year came to an unfortunately early end. Cox tore his ACL while trying to cover first base during a fielding play in the Royals’ game with the Blue Jays on September 8, and he’ll now miss most or all of the 2024 season in recovery. It seems quite possible that a handshake deal was in place for Cox to rejoin the Royals, as he was only DFA’ed yesterday and quickly passed through waivers, so he’ll now get to rehab in a familiar environment.
Porter was another 2023 debut, as he had a .647 OPS in 38 plate appearances over his first 11 games in the Show. An undrafted free agent who signed with the Royals in 2018, Porter hit .248/.367/.394 over 594 PA at Triple-A over the last two seasons, and should again serve as a depth option at the minor league level behind the Royals’ big league catching tandem of Salvador Perez and Freddy Fermin.