- The Royals announced their 2020 coaching staff under new manager Mike Matheny, with a few new faces in the mix and some familiar faces returning in some different roles. Pitching coach Cal Eldred and hitting coach Terry Bradshaw will remain in their positions, while Pedro Grifol moves to bench coach from his past quality control/catching coach job, and Vance Wilson goes from bullpen coach to third base coach. Rusty Kuntz will become the Royals’ first base coach for the third time in his 12-year stint as a member of the K.C. organization, while Larry Carter will take over as bullpen coach after 22 years in various minor league roles for the club. John Mabry joins the staff as a Major League coach, after working under Matheny as the Cardinals’ hitting coach when Matheny was the St. Louis manager. Former coaches Dale Sveum and Mike Jirschele will remain with the Royals in as-yet-unassigned new roles.
We’ve been tracking the day’s arbitration decisions in the run-up to tonight’s deadline, which has produced a bevy of last-minute calls. In addition to those already covered elsewhere (with all projected salary figures from MLBTR/Matt Swartz projections) …
- The Padres announced they have non-tendered Miguel Diaz and Pedro Avila. Neither hurler had yet been eligible for arbitration, so this amounts to no more than a roster cleanup. Avila had already been designated for assignment. Diaz, meanwhile, saw extensive action as a Rule V pick in 2017 but has only sporadically logged MLB time since.
- Relievers Javy Guerra and Koda Glover were non-tendered by the Nationals, per a club announcement. Guerra would have cost a projected $1.3MM. Glover announced earlier today that he would retire.
- The Red Sox non-tendered infielder Marco Hernandez and reliever Josh Osich, per a team announcement. Neither projected at big dollars — $700K and $1.0MM, respectively — but obviously the club felt it could put the roster spots to better use on other players.
- The Blue Jays have non-tendered relievers Derek Law and Jason Adam, along with backstop Luke Maile. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter) and Scott Mitchell of TSN (on Twitter) were on the news. Law projected at $1.3MM, while Maile was in line for a $800K payday. Adam is still pre-arb eligible.
- The Giants announced today that they have non-tendered outfielder Joey Rickard ($1.1MM projection), southpaw Tyler Anderson ($2.625MM), and righty Rico Garcia (pre-arb). Both Anderson and Garcia were claimed from the division-rival Rockies after the end of the 2019 season.
- In addition to other moves earlier today, the Braves have non-tendered catcher John Ryan Murphy and outfielder Rafael Ortega. Each provided depth down the stretch in 2019 for the Atlanta organization. Murphy would’ve been owed a projected $1.2MM, while Ortega remains shy of arbitration eligibility.
- A host of players were non-tendered by the Royals, per a club announcement. Righty Jesse Hahn was cut loose along with infielders Humberto Arteaga, Cheslor Cuthbert and Erick Mejia. Among these players, Hahn (projected $900K) and Cuthbert ($1.8MM) have the most MLB experience. With these 40-man trimmings, the K.C. org should be able to place some claims and/or make Rule 5 selections in the coming weeks.
- Righties Ian Gibaut and Wei-Chieh Huang are each heading to free agency after being non-tendered by the Rangers. Neither is anywhere near the service time needed for arbitration eligibility, so this was just an opportune time for the Texas org to drop them from the MLB roster.
With tonight’s 8pm ET deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players looming, there’ll be several players who agree to one-year contracts for the 2020 season today. It’s common for the day of the non-tender deadline to be a big one for arbitration agreements, though it’s also worth noting that many of the players who agree to terms today will do so at a rate that’s lower than the salary figures projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
Broadly speaking, players who agree to terms on a salary this far in advance tend to be those who were at risk of being non-tendered, and their teams are able to use tonight’s deadline as leverage in bringing about a deal that saves them a bit of cash. A look at some of the early instances of players agreeing to terms reveals this to be true already; Mike Zunino ($4.5MM salary vs. $4.9MM projection), Wilmer Difo ($1MM salary vs. $1.2MM projection) and Scott Alexander ($875K salary vs. $1MM projection) have all agreed to lesser terms rather than risk being cast out into the free-agent market.
We’ll keep track of today’s players who avoid arbitration in this post and update throughout the day…
- The Padres have a deal for $1.5MM with infielder Greg Garcia, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. That’s a shade under his $1.7MM projection for the 30-year-old.
- Infielder Orlando Arcia has avoided arbitration with the Brewers, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Though he’s set to lose some playing time, it seems Arcia will be expected to retain a notable role. He’s considered a talented defender at short and was long expected to come around with the bat, but it hasn’t happened yet.
- Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes is in agreement on a $1.1MM deal, per Robert Murray (Twitter link). It’s a guaranteed deal, which isn’t standard for arbitration pacts. Barnes had projected at $1.3MM on the heels of a disappointing season. It seems he’ll be asked to function as the club’s second backstop in 2020.
- The Rangers have a deal in place with right-hander Nick Goody, the club announced. He’ll earn $915K, according to MLB.com’s TR Sullivan (via Twitter). Goody projected to earn $1.1MM, so he’s taking a discount on that mark with his new club.
- Just-acquired righty Jharel Cotton has agreed to a $640K deal with the Cubs, Rosenthal tweets. Cotton had projected at $800K but he’s surely focused first and foremost on getting a significant MLB opportunity. He didn’t quite make it back to the majors in 2019 after a long injury layoff but figures to represent a swingman option for the Chicago club in 2020.
- Outfielder Alex Dickerson and lefty Wandy Peralta are in agreement with the Giants, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter links). Dickerson settled for $925K, which is well under his $1.2MM projected earning power. The 29-year-old has had trouble staying healthy but usually hits when he is on the field. He rewarded the San Francisco organization for taking a shot on him last year by turning in a .290/.351/.529 batting line in 171 plate appearances. As for Peralta, he lands right at his projected value with a $805K salary. The 28-year-old was claimed off waivers late in the 2019 season.
- The White Sox and James McCann avoided arbitration with a one-year deal worth $5.4MM, tweets ESPN’s Jeff Passan. McCann’s deal checks in a half million dollars north of his $4.9MM projection. Chicago’s addition of Yasmani Grandal has likely relegated McCann to backup duties, so he’ll be a rather expensive second catcher for the South Siders. A free agent next winter, McCann hit .273/.328/.460 with a career-high 18 home runs, but his bat went dormant in the season’s final few months and his .359 BABIP seems particularly ripe for regression.
- The Athletics avoided arbitration with left-handed reliever T.J. McFarland by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $1.8MM, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. That salary effectively puts McFarland in line for the same salary he’d have received had he had his $1.85MM club option exercised by the Diamondbacks. Arizona, however, bought him out for $50K and then ran him through waivers, at which point the A’s claimed him. The 30-year-old posted a 4.82 ERA with a middling 5.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 56 2/3 innings this past season, but he’s a ground-ball behemoth (61.1 percent). He’ll be a free agent next winter and had been projected at $2.1MM.
- Infielder Ehire Adrianza and the Twins agreed on a $1.6MM salary for the upcoming season, Nightengale tweets. The versatile utilityman hit .272/.349/.416 in 236 plate appearances while appearing at all four infield spots and both outfield corners. Adrianza, a free agent next winter, was projected at $1.9MM.
- Outfielder Travis Jankowski agreed to a rare arbitration pay cut with the Reds, Bobby Nightengale Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. After earning $1.165MM in 2019, he’ll be owed $1.05MM in 2020 if he makes the club. A fractured wrist cost him much of the season in 2019, and he was just 4-for-22 when healthy and in the Majors. Jankowski did have a nice season in Triple-A, though (.393 OBP in 39 games), and the Reds gave up some international funds to acquire him, which seemingly indicated that they planned to tender him a contract. He was projected to earn $1.2MM.
While he didn’t debut in the majors until 2018 and hasn’t posted lights-out results since then, it’s still not hard to see Hill’s appeal. He’s a respectable reliever who comes with several years’ team control, as he’s not slated to reach arbitration until after the 2021 season or free agency until the conclusion of the 2024 campaign.
The groundball-heavy Hill’s coming off a season in which he induced worm burners at a 57.3 percent rate, struck out 8.85 batters per nine and walked 2.95. Those solid numbers helped the soon-to-be 30-year-old to a 3.63 ERA/3.84 FIP across 39 2/3 innings. And the relatively soft-tossing Hill, owner of a 90.2 mph average fastball velocity this past year, proved capable of retiring same- and right-handed hitters. Granted, Hill was markedly better against lefties (.217 wOBA) than righties (.316).
For the Yankees, adding Hill would seemingly give an already strong bullpen a third sturdy lefty to go with Zach Britton and Aroldis Chapman. The club’s bullpen is facing the departure of righty Dellin Betances in free agency, though injuries prevented him from factoring in during its 103-victory, AL East-winning campaign in 2019.
Nov. 27: Bonifacio has cleared waivers and is now a free agent. Additionally, the team announced that catcher Nick Dini and right-handers Conner Greene and Arnaldo Hernandez, who were designated for assignment at the same time as Bonifacio, have cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Omaha.
Nov. 25: The Royals announced that they’ve requested unconditional release waivers on outfielder Jorge Bonifacio. He was designated for assignment last week.
Bonifacio, 26, was the team’s primary right fielder in 2017 and gave fans some cause for optimism, hitting .255/.320/.432 with 17 homers, 15 doubles and a triple in that rookie campaign. He’s since been tagged with an 80-game PED suspension, however, and has generally struggled to produce at the plate. Over his past 291 plate appearances in the Majors, Bonifacio hit .234/.317/.371.
Were he a proficient defender in the outfield, perhaps the Royals would’ve been more inclined to keep Bonifacio in the fold. However, he’s limited to the corners and has posted -6 Defensive Runs Saved and -7 Outs Above Average in his big league career to this point. He’s also out of minor league options, meaning he’d need to break camp with the team in Spring Training or else be designated for assignment then. The Royals opted not to wait to make that move, thus giving themselves more 40-man roster flexibility this winter.
If Bonifacio goes unclaimed, he’ll become a free agent in 48 hours.
NOVEMBER 26: The sale has been formally announced.
NOVEMBER 21: MLB owners have approved the sale of the Kansas City Royals baseball club to area businessman John Sherman, as reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link).
In August, word came that longtime Royals owner David Glass was discussing a potential sale with the KC-based Sherman, with the final price expected to exceed $1BB. Today’s procedural approval by owners and the league itself marks an official transition of ownership.
Sherman’s acquisition was never expected to be in serious doubt, in part due to the 64-year-old’s existing ties to the game. Sherman has been a minority stakeholder in the division-rival Indians since 2016, holding the official title of vice chairman since that time. Sherman, who made his fortune in the natural gas and energy industries, is expected to divest himself of his ties to the Indians now that this sale is approved.
Glass’ tenure as KC owner saw his club reach the broadest possible spectrum of highs and lows. Glass purchased the Royals for a reported $96MM back in 2000. Over the next two decades, the franchise would record 100-or-more losses in six separate campaigns, while reaching the World Series consecutively in 2014 and 2015 (ultimately bringing home a ring in ’15). Next year will mark the 14th full season of club direction under GM Dayton Moore, with the Royals currently engaged in another future-oriented youth movement.
The Cubs are showing “continued interest” in Royals’ second baseman/outfielder Whit Merrifield, reported Jon Paul Morosi of MLB Network earlier this week. The two-time reigning MLB hits leader is guaranteed just $15.25MM over the next three seasons (with a team option for a fourth) under the affordable extension he signed with Kansas City in January.
It’s not difficult to see why the Cubs are interested in Merrifield, but they (or any other suitor) will have a hard time prying him away from KC. Merrifield (31 in January) has been extremely durable and productive the past three seasons. Since the start of 2016, he’s taken 2,404 plate appearances of above-average hitting (.296/.344/.445, 109 wRC+), while chipping in elite baserunning and passable defense at multiple positions. The Cubs have an uncertain mix at Merrifield’s primary position, second base. Addison Russell is a non-tender candidate, and Ben Zobrist is a free agent. Nico Hoerner, David Bote and Robel García are promising options to varying extents, but none is a proven MLB contributor. Merrifield would be an unquestioned upgrade.
Of course, that combination of productivity and affordability has made him a staple in Kansas City, which hasn’t expressed any desire to let Merrifield go. Royals’ general manager Dayton Moore wouldn’t move Merrifield for anything less than a “crazy” offer (in the executive’s words) at July’s trade deadline. More recently, Moore admitted that no one on the roster is entirely untouchable given the club’s ongoing rebuild, although he then lauded the All-Star as a player and person, giving no indication the front office has seemingly changed course on trade discussions.
With the Royals’ resistance to trading Merrifield in the past, it seems unlikely anything will come to fruition with the Cubs or any other team in the immediate future. If Kansas City were to market Merrifield aggressively, other teams beyond Chicago would surely enter the fray. That said, it’s interesting that Theo Epstein and the rest of the Cubs’ front office have considered a Merrifield pursuit as one of the many options on the table for a team seemingly poised for a roster restructure this offseason.
The Royals announced that they’ve designated outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, catcher Nick Dini and right-handers Conner Greene and Arnaldo Hernandez for assignment in advance of tonight’s deadline to set 40-man rosters prior to December’s Rule 5 Draft. Those four roster spots will go to left-hander Foster Griffin, right-hander Carlos Hernandez, shortstop Jeison Guzman and outfielder Nick Heath, each of whom has had his contract formally selected, per the team. Kansas City’s 40-man roster is full.
Bonifacio, 26, was the team’s primary right fielder in 2017 and gave fans some cause for optimism, hitting .255/.320/.432 with 17 homers, 15 doubles and a triple in that rookie campaign. He’s since been tagged with an 80-game PED suspension, however, and has generally struggled to produce at the plate. Over his past 291 plate appearances in the Majors, Bonifacio hit .234/.317/.371. For a defensively limited corner outfielder who is out of minor league options, that lack of output was no longer sufficient enough to keep his place on the roster.
Greene, also 26, was claimed off waivers from the Cardinals late last November — nearly a year ago to the day. The once-well-regarded prospect struggled to a 5.13 ERA in 112 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, though, averaging 4.3 walks per nine innings pitched along the way. His control issues expanded beyond walks, as he plunked nine batters and threw a whopping 21 wild pitches.
Dini made his MLB debut at the age of 26 this past season but hit just .196/.270/.357 in 64 plate appearances with Kansas City. He’s a lifetime .288/.347/.437 in five minor league seasons who hit .296/.370/.565 in last year’s supercharged Triple-A environment.
Arnaldo Hernandez, 23, tossed 23 sharp innings in Double-A but was hammered for a 6.39 ERA with a dismal 65-41 K/BB ratio and 24 homers allowed in just 105 1/3 Triple-A innings.
Griffin, 24, was a first-round pick in 2014 and has gone unselected in prior Rule 5 Drafts. He didn’t post particularly appealing Triple-A numbers in ’19 (5.23 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 4.4 BB/9) but notch a 49.2 percent grounder rate. He’s also impressed in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, tossing 23 1/3 innings of 2.31 ERA ball with a hearty 31-to-6 K/BB ratio.
Hernandez, 22, posted a 3.50 ERA with a 43-to-9 K/BB ratio in 35 innings with the Royals’ Class-A affiliate. Guzman didn’t hit much in A-ball and isn’t considered among the organization’s top prospects, but the Royals are bullish enough to protect him from being selected. Heath didn’t have much power, but he’s a prototypical Royals player, as evidenced by his 60 steals between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019.
Royals designated hitter Jorge Soler has made a change in representation. According to a tweet from Jon Heyman of MLB Network, Soler has chosen to work with agent Casey Close of Excel Sports Management after previously working with ACES (link).
The timing of this change is certainly interesting. Soler’s current contractual status with Kansas City is unique, owing to the nine-year, $30MM accord he signed with the Cubs as a 20-year-old back in 2012. After logging a 2019 campaign that included a .265/.354/.569 slash and 48 home runs, Soler is “signed” for the 2020 season at just $4MM. However, the 27-year-old retains the right to opt out of that guaranteed salary and into MLB’s arbitration process this winter, as is the case with many Cuban defectors who signed Major League deals under the previous international free agency infrastructure. Given Soler’s counting stats alone, he’s almost a certain lock to opt for the arbitration route.
Though KC still holds Soler’s rights through 2021, it stands to reason that club exec Dayton Moore might kick the tires on a potential long-term extension with the slugger this winter. If the club aims to contend within the next two seasons, as they’ve stated, Soler and his potent bat (136 wRC+ in 2019) project to be indispensable to Kansas City’s currently tepid offensive attack (cumulative 84 wRC+ in 2019).
And it certainly seems like Moore might agree with that logic: yesterday, we heard that the club is interested in using its financial resources to secure the services of existing players into the future. Hunter Dozier, Adalberto Mondesi, and Brad Keller could all be viable candidates for such an allocation, but Soler’s potentially imminent entry into arbitration could give the Royals added incentive toward wrapping an extension this winter. If both parties are open to such an idea, our own Steve Adams recently used Randal Grichuk’s five-year, $52MM 2019 extension with the Blue Jays as a touchstone for possible negotiations between Royal officials and Soler reps.
Reynolds, 29 in December, was a 2nd round draft choice of the New York Mets back in 2012. He appeared sparingly for the Mets in 2016 and 2017 as a superutility player, appearing everywhere but catcher, pitcher, and centerfield.
The Nationals purchased his contract prior to the 2018 season, but never cracked the regular rotation in Washington. He was designated for assignment last winter to make room on the 40-man roster after the signing of Brian Dozier. The Oklahoma native spent all of last season with Triple-A Fresno, putting together a strong season hitting .295/.401/.521 with 16 home runs across 449 plate appearances.
The Royals are buying low here to build some organizational depth. Reynolds’ defensive versatility helps his chances of getting an opportunity at the big league level, but he’s more-than-likely on-hand for depth in case of injury. For his big-league career, Reynolds owns a .223/.295/.340 line across 240 plate appearances.