The Royals announced this afternoon they’ve signed lefty reliever Sam Freeman to a minor league contract. The club didn’t specify whether the deal included an invitation to big league Spring Training.
Freeman has appeared in parts of nine MLB seasons. The Texas native broke in with the Cardinals in 2012 and spent the next few seasons as a situational option in St. Louis. While Freeman didn’t post particularly impressive strikeout and walk numbers, he was generally successful at inducing ground balls and keeping runs off the board. Between 2013-15, he posted a 2.74 ERA over 88 2/3 frames between the Cardinals and Rangers, racking up grounders on more than half the balls in play against him during that stretch.
The southpaw didn’t fare well in a brief look with the Brewers in 2016, but he posted a 3.34 ERA with a 55.8% grounder rate in 110 1/3 innings for the Braves between 2017-18. Freeman missed a few more bats than he had earlier in his career during that time, but he walked an alarming 12.6% of batters faced. Released by Atalanta shortly before the start of the 2019 season, he logged minimal MLB action with the Angels and Nationals over the next two years.
Freeman underwent Tommy John surgery late in the 2020 campaign, the second time in his career he’d required that procedure. That cost him all of last season, but he’ll try to work his way back to the majors in Kansas City. The 34-year-old averaged a solid 94.1 MPH on his fastball during his most recent action. He owns a 3.58 ERA over 233 2/3 career big league frames, overcoming a lofty 13.3% walk rate thanks to his success keeping the ball on the ground and avoiding the long ball.
Kansas City has stockpiled veteran bullpen depth via a few non-roster pacts in recent weeks. The Royals also added Arodys Vizcaíno and Colten Brewer on respective minors contracts earlier this month. They’re obviously barred from acquiring major league free agents during the course of the lockout, but they’re likely to target additional bullpen arms with more certainty whenever the transactions freeze comes to a close.