The Royals have acquired reliever John Schreiber from the Red Sox in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect David Sandlin, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports (Twitter link). Kansas City placed Kyle Wright on the 60-day injured list to clear a 40-man roster spot.
Schreiber has a 27.4% strikeout rate over his 143 1/3 career innings in the majors, so missing bats has never been an issue for the 29-year-old. Between some home run issues and a lot of bad BABIP luck, however, Schreiber had only a 6.28 ERA over 28 2/3 innings with the Tigers in 2019-20, and he pitched in only a single MLB game with the Red Sox in 2021. The breakout came in 2022, as Schreiber had a 2.22 ERA over 65 relief innings for Boston while also delivering a 28.8% strikeout rate and an above-average 7.4% walk rate.
2023 was more of a challenge, in no small part because Schreiber spent time on the 60-day injured list due to a teres major strain in his right shoulder. Schreiber still posted a respectable 3.86 ERA over 46 2/3 innings and had strong strikeout and barrel rates, though his walk rate spiked up to an ungainly 12.3%. The sinker that was such a weapon for Schreiber the previous season was also less effective — batters had a .395 wOBA against his sinker in 2023, as opposed to a .245 wOBA in 2022.
An argument can certainly be made that the Red Sox might be selling high on Schreiber here, though it’s a risk Kansas City is willing to take for a reliever who is a few weeks shy of his 30th birthday and is arbitration-controlled through the 2026 season. Schreiber had a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings before his IL stint and a 4.85 ERA in 29 2/3 innings after returning, so the Royals might view the righty’s struggles as just a byproduct his injury layoff. Should Schreiber get back to his 2022 form, K.C. suddenly has a big strikeout arm to deploy in high-leverage situations.
Today’s trade continues a very busy offseason for Royals GM J.J. Picollo, who has brought quite a bit of veteran talent to Kansas City in an effort to quickly turn around a team that lost 106 games last season. Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo were the headline-grabbing rotation upgrades, but Will Smith, Chris Stratton, Nick Anderson, and now Schreiber have all joined a reworked bullpen. Schreiber is a bit more of a longer-term add given his years of arbitration control, yet the Royals have put themselves in a position to either directly benefit on the field if these pitchers perform well, or to perhaps benefit in terms of having some trade chips at the deadline if K.C. again falls short of contention.
From Boston’s perspective, moving a solid reliever from Schreiber might not be well received at first by Red Sox Nation, given how the fans have been vocally unimpressed with the team’s moves (or lack thereof) this offseason. Craig Breslow has made a lot of lateral moves in his first winter as the chief baseball officer, continuing the franchise’s recent bent towards adding younger talent rather than splurging on win-now stars.
Sandlin brings some intriguing potential to the table, as the righty (who turns 23 next week) has a 3.41 ERA and an outstanding 32.38% strikeout rate in 68 2/3 career minor league innings. An 11th-round pick for the Royals in the 2022 draft, Sandlin had his 2023 season cut short by a lat injury, and he made only two appearances at the high-A level before being sidelined.
ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel recently ranked Sandlin as the fifth-best prospect in the Royals’ farm system, while The Athletic’s Keith Law ranked the righty seventh. Baseball America was slightly more pessimistic in ranking Sandlin only 20th, but still felt Sandlin might develop into at least a good reliever based on his two primary pitches —- a high 90s fastball and a plus slider. If his changeup and curveball can also develop, Sandlin can perhaps stick in the rotation, though he’s still something of a wild card considering that he hasn’t yet pitched much in pro ball.
MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith reported earlier this week that the Sox were open to offers for not just Schreiber, but also Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin. With Schreiber now out the door, it remains to be seen if Boston is still willing to move either of Jansen or Martin, or if the Sox will stop short of a full-on bullpen overhaul. Jansen or Martin are both free agents after the season and will be prime trade candidates at the deadline if the Red Sox aren’t in contention, so there has been speculation that the Sox might look to increase their return (and cut some salary) by dealing at least one of the veteran relievers now.