- The Royals have placed reliever Greg Holland and outfielder Jorge Soler on the 10-day injured list with oblique strains, per a team announcement. They reinstated reliever Ian Kennedy from the IL and recalled first baseman/outfielder Ryan McBroom in corresponding transactions. The season’s now officially over for Holland, who enjoyed a major bounce-back year in his return to KC after signing a minor league deal in the offseason, as well as Soler. A 48-home run hitter a season ago, Soler totaled eight in 173 plate appearances this year and finished with a .228/.326/.443 line. He’ll be eligible for arbitration for the final time during the offseason.
Royals closer Greg Holland was shut down after warming up last night due to an oblique injury, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. That issue could seemingly render him unavailable for the remainder of the season.
Regardless of whether Holland gets into one of Kansas City’s final three games, it’s hard to paint his 2020 season as anything other than a resounding success. The 34-year-old pitched 28 1/3 frames out of manager Mike Matheny’s bullpen and plowed through opposing lineups with a 1.91 ERA, a 2.51 FIP, 9.9 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, just one home run allowed and a career-best 51.4 percent ground-ball rate.
Holland ramped up his slider usage to a career-high 50.7 percent this year, and his 93.3 mph average fastball was his best since 2017. The final stretch of games in 2020 proved particularly impressive, as Holland rattled off 13 1/3 shutout innings with just six hits and one walk while racking up 18 strikeouts. Certainly, ending on an injury — even a non-arm injury — isn’t an ideal way to finish out the season, but for a former star who returned to his original organization on a make-good minor league pact, the season could scarcely have gone much better.
This winter isn’t expected to be particularly kind to mid-tier free agents, but Holland should easily find himself a guaranteed deal this time around and could conceivably field multi-year offers. The Royals held onto him at the trade deadline and will surely have interest in re-signing the veteran, although they have some in-house options to step into the ninth inning should he find a more enticing deal elsewhere. Josh Staumont and Kyle Zimmer have both taken substantial steps forward in 2020, while fellow righty Scott Barlow’s secondary metrics look much more impressive than his pedestrian 4.45 ERA. Flanagan wrote earlier this week that if the Royals can’t lure Holland or Trevor Rosenthal, whom they traded to San Diego last month, back to the organization in the offseason, they’ll likely explore similar additions of bargain veterans with some upside.
Royals icon Alex Gordon is set to announce his retirement after a 14-year career at the Major League level, reports Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com (via Twitter). The club has confirmed Gordon’s retirement. He’ll play out the remainder of the current season before formally calling it a career.
Now 36 years old, Gordon was the No. 2 overall pick by the Royals back in 2005. He spent his entire professional career in the organization, helping to stoke a baseball renaissance in Kansas City as the Royals appeared in back-to-back World Series, including their 2015 victory.
Long before Gordon was the face of the franchise, however, he was perhaps the poster child for not giving up on a top prospect after early struggles. Gordon spent just one full season in the minors before arriving in the big leagues with outlandishly high expectations in 2007. He put together a pair of solid but unspectacular seasons as the Royals’ third baseman in 2007-08 before a pair of injury-ruined campaigns in 2009-10 caused many to write the once-promising talent off at just 26 years of age. Struggles at third base had prompted the Royals to move Gordon to left field, and his .222/.319/.365 slash line in those two seasons certainly didn’t look like the savior for which Royals fans had pined after more than a decade of mediocrity.
That feels like an eternity ago, and it’s entirely due to Gordon’s remarkable mid-20s turnaround. Healthy in 2011, Gordon erupted with a .303/.376/.502 batting line, strong baserunning skills and elite left-field defense that netted him the first of an eventual seven Gold Glove Awards. From 2011-15, Gordon batted .281/.359/.450 while making three All-Star Games and totaling 26.4 wins above replacement. His breakout made him the foundational bedrock upon which the team’s young core could be built up.
Fellow homegrown talents such as Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Danny Duffy and Greg Holland joined trade acquisitions Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, James Shields and Wade Davis (among others) in fueling a brief but brilliant peak for GM Dayton Moore’s club. After a near-miss versus the 2014 Giants, the 2015 Royals ended a three-decade World Series drought. While Gordon’s overall postseason numbers — .222/.333/.398 — don’t stand out as dominant, the Royals may not have had a trophy to celebrate without his one-out, game-tying home run against Jeurys Familia in the bottom of the ninth of 2015’s Game 1 (video link).
Gordon’s breakout and the team’s revenue boost from consecutive World Series showings gave now-former owner David Glass the financial comfort to offer the three-time All-Star a franchise-record contract valued at four years and $72MM. That arrangement spanned the 2016-19 seasons, and while Gordon mulled retirement this time last year, he ultimately opted to return for one final go-around.
Certainly, Gordon wasn’t planning on doing so in the absence of the fans who hold him so dear in their hearts, but one can certainly imagine ample future opportunities for the K.C. faithful to express their gratitude. Teammate Whit Merrifield has already suggested that it’s “time to build the statue” on Instagram, and it seems there’s a good chance that Gordon will be the last Royal to ever don No. 4.
With four games yet to play, we can’t be sure of the exact totals Gordon will carry into retirement, but his overall body of work is strong. In 7237 plate appearances, all with the Royals, he’s a .257/.338/.411 hitter with 190 home runs, 113 stolen bases, 357 doubles, 26 triples, 867 runs scored and 749 runs batted in. Since he became a full-time outfielder in 2011, Gordon has the fourth-most Defensive Runs Saved of any Major League player, regardless of position, with 112.
All told, Gordon’s career has been worth 35 wins above replacement, per Baseball-Reference, although his value to the organization’s fans and the teammates who’ve followed his lead over the course of his career transcend that number. Gordon earned more than $117MM in his 14 MLB seasons and, along the way, cemented himself as a legend within the franchise’s lore — one who’ll be celebrated in Kansas City alongside greats like George Brett and Frank White for decades to come.
The Royals announced Wednesday that they’ve optioned right-hander Jakob Junis to their alternate training site and placed Matt Harvey on the injured list due to a lat strain. Righty Scott Blewett and infielder Erick Mejia are up from the alternate site in place of Junis and Harvey.
For Junis, who turns 28 today, this move represents the latest step in a downward trajectory over the past two seasons. He looked to have emerged as a serviceable innings eater for Kansas City in 2017-18, when he tossed 275 1/3 innings over 46 starts, averaging 8.0 strikeouts, 2.2 walks and 1.54 homers per nine innings along the way.
However, Junis was rocked for a 5.24 ERA last season, and the 2020 campaign has been nightmarish. He has yet to complete five innings in any of his six starts this year, and he’s surrendered at least two runs in each of those outings. Overall, he’s sitting on a 6.94 ERA and a similarly grisly 6.76 FIP. He’s falling behind hitters more regularly (57 percent first-pitch strike rate compared to 62.7 in 2018) and has already served up seven long balls on the year.
Junis will need to stay down at the alternate site for 10 days unless he’s recalled in place of someone who is going on the injured list, so it’s quite possible that this move effectively ends his 2020 season. He’s already crossed the three-year threshold in terms of Major League service time this year, meaning he’ll be eligible for arbitration this winter. Given his 5.44 ERA and 5.05 FIP over his past 37 MLB starts and 198 2/3 innings, Junis isn’t a lock to be tendered a contract this winter.
Harvey, too, seems likely to be done for the year in the wake of this injury. While there’s no official word on the severity of the strain, a lat strain typically isn’t something from which a pitcher returns in the minimum 10-day allotment. The former Mets ace had hoped this latest comeback attempt would prove more fruitful than previous efforts, but Harvey turned in his worst numbers to date at the MLB level. He managed just 11 2/3 innings between four starts and three relief outings, yielding 15 runs on 27 hits and five walks with 10 strikeouts along the way. Harvey served up six dingers in that stretch.
If there’s a small silver lining, Harvey’s 94.5 mph average fastball was up from recent years, but it’s still shy of the 96-97 mph he averaged at his brief but dominant peak. Unfortunately for Harvey, injuries have decimated what looked to be one of the most promising young arms in the game earlier last decade. The former No. 7 overall pick logged a brilliant 2.53 ERA and 2.65 FIP through his first 427 Major League innings — plus another 26 2/3 frames of 3.02 ERA ball in the playoffs — but he’s undergone both Tommy John and thoracic outlet surgery. Few pitchers have had successful returns from a TOS procedure, and battling back from both of those major operations is an even more daunting task.
Infielder Matt Reynolds, whom the Royals designated for assignment over the weekend, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Omaha, per a team announcement. That he was outrighted to Triple-A and not to the alternate training site is an important distinction, as it indicates that he’s been removed from the team’s player pool, thus rendering him ineligible to return to the Royals in 2020.
The 29-year-old Reynolds appeared in three games with the Royals this season after signing a minor league pact over the winter. The former Mets and Nationals infielder was hitless in 11 trips to the plate in his first taste of big league action since the 2018 season in Washington.
Reynolds, a career .212/.282/.323 hitter, has never seen more than 130 plate appearances in a Major League season but carries a solid track record at the Triple-A level, where he’s batted .286/.361/.441 in parts of six seasons (2038 plate appearances). That includes a .295/.401/.521 showing last year. The 2012 second-rounder has appeared at every position on the diamond other than catcher, even pitching two minor league innings, over the course of his professional career. His outright by the Royals likely puts an end to his 2020 season, but his Triple-A track record and defensive versatility should create opportunities for him to sign a minor league deal with a new club in need of infield depth this offseason.
The Kansas City Royals have been busy this afternoon. They announced a number of roster moves. In terms of additions, Kelvin Gutierrez has been reinstated to the active roster from the injured list, and Nick Heath has been recalled. To make room, Matt Reynolds has been designated for assignment and Ryan McBroom has been assigned to the team’s alternate training site.
Heath, 26, has 2 hits in 6 at-bats this season for the Royals, his first taste of big-league action. The speedy centerfielder split 2019 between Double-A and Triple-A, slashing .255/.345/.387. Heath is a burner who will get into games as a pinch-runner. He stole 60 bases last year in 73 attempts for an 82% success rate.
Gutierrez has been a top-20 prospect for the Royals, but an elbow strain sent him to the 60-day injured list in July. He debuted last season, appearing in 20 games and slashing .269/.304/.356 as their starting third baseman for much of May. Injuries slowed his progress before a toe fracture ended his season in September. Maikel Franco takes his licks as the Royals’ regular third baseman these days, but the 26-year-old Gutierrez will serve as his backup, per MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan (via Twitter). Franco has spent time DHing recently due to a leg injury, so Gutierrez may get some playing time right off the bat. He’ll be at the hot corner and batting sixth for the Royals today.
Gutierrez ostensibly takes Reynolds’ roster spot. The 29-year-old journeyman had taken on the backup third baseman role, but he went hitless in 11 at-bats while striking out 7 times. Reynolds was called up from the alternate training site earlier this week, but he’ll now be exposed to waivers before reassignment.
McBroom is probably the most recognizable name of the bunch. He’s appeared in 34 games for the Royals this season. Most of his time has come at first base or designated hitter, but he’s also frequently been brought off the bench as a pinch-hitter and occasionally sees time in the outfield corners. A triple slash of .253/.291/.493 contributed negative 0.1 rWAR, but positive 0.2 fWAR for the 28-year-old this season. With Franco taking at-bats at designated hitter because of his leg injury, the Royals have less need for McBroom’s power bat.
The Rays have acquired speedy outfielder Michael Gigliotti from the Royals to complete a July 21st trade, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). The deal allowed Kansas City to keep control over Rule 5 draft pick Stephen Woods Jr. The Royals have announced the deal. The team also announced the release of Ofreidy Gomez and the addition of right-hander Alec Marsh to the team’s alternate training site.
The Royals selected Woods with the 4th overall pick of the 2019 Rule 5 draft. The 25-year-old right-hander made two appearances for the Royals this season without yielding a run. He was making the jump to the show from High-A, but this deal allows the Royals to move him freely from the active roster to the alternate training site as they so choose.
Gigliotti was a 4th round draft choice of the Royals in 2017. Baseball America ranked him as the Royals #27 overall prospect heading into the 2020 season, while Fangraphs did not place him among their top 43 prospects. Fangraphs prospect scribe Eric Longenhagen wrote, “Gigliotti has the best approach and contact skills of this group but he’s performed against competition much younger than him and has been hurt a lot.” The slender 24-year-old split 2019 between the Royals of the Arizona League, Single-A, and High-A. Across the three levels, Gigliotti hit .282/.369/.368 while swiping 36 bags.
Right-hander Matt Harvey has gotten another chance this year to get his once-great career back on track, but he hasn’t been able to take advantage of the opportunity since the Royals promoted him Aug. 18. He’ll now move to the Royals’ bullpen with a couple weeks left in the season, while Carlos Hernandez will join their rotation, Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star tweets.
A front-end starter earlier in his career, injuries – including thoracic outlet surgery – knocked Harvey from elite status a few years ago. He hasn’t recovered since, and this is now the second straight horrid season in the majors for the Dark Knight. He struggled so much with the Angels last year that they bailed on him in July 2019 despite an $11MM investment. While Harvey did land a minor league contract with the Athletics the next month, he didn’t make it back to the majors last season and didn’t find another deal until the Royals signed him this past July.
From the non-contending Royals’ standpoint, there wasn’t much to lose in giving the 31-year-old Harvey a shot. The buy-low move has yielded disastrous results so far, though, as Harvey has surrendered 13 earned runs on 22 hits (including five home runs) and an 8:5 K:BB ratio in just 10 innings. He hasn’t lasted longer than three innings in any of his five appearances with KC.
Based on his performance in recent years, Harvey is likely headed for another minor league pact in the offseason. Of course, that’s if anyone wants to roll the dice on a hurler who has recorded a major league-worst 6.07 ERA in 317 1/3 innings since 2017.
Soler has not appeared in a game since Saturday. The Royals had hoped he’d heal enough from a few days off, but they still hope to get him back before the end of the season. Soler hasn’t quite lived up to the ceiling he set in 2019, but he’s remained a power threat in the middle of the Royals’ order. He owns a triple slash of .235/.331/.456 on the year over 159 plate appearances with 8 long balls and a still-robust .221 ISO.
Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom have served as designated hitter the last two games. The Royals are likely to cycle different players through the role as long as Soler is out, using the spot to semi-rest regulars like Hunter Dozier, O’Hearn, or Maikel Franco.
Reynolds is a 29-year-old left-side infielder who’s previously appeared in the majors with the Mets and Nationals. He spent all of 2019 with the Nationals’ Triple-A club in Fresno, putting up an impressive triple slash of .295/.401/.521 with 16 home runs. It was his best season by a fair margin, but given his age, the Royals do not likely expect much from Reynolds. That said, he could be one of the players used to cycle through as designated hitter, or he could spell Franco on occasion at third.
The Royals announced (Twitter links) several minor moves today, including the news that infielder Humberto Arteaga has been released. Kansas City also outrighted left-hander Randy Rosario to the team’s alternate training site, while minor league righties Jonathan Bowlan and Jon Heasley have both been added to the 60-man player pool and will also report to the alternate site.
Rosario will remain in the K.C. organization after he was designated for assignment on Thursday to clear a spot for newly-acquired outfielder Edward Olivares. After coming to Kansas City on a waiver claim last September, Rosario’s first full season with the Royals has been a struggle, over the small sample size of 3 1/3 innings. Rosario has a 8.10 ERA after allowing three runs from seven hits and three walks over four appearances.
Arteaga had been part of the Royals’ 60-man player pool but never got the call up to the big league roster this season. An international signing from the Dominican Republic in 2010, Arteaga’s long stay in the Royals’ farm system finally paid off with his first MLB promotion in 2019, as he hit .197/.258/.230 in 135 plate appearances. Arteaga has mostly played shortstop during his career, but he also offers experience at second and third base to any new team who could be looking for utility infield depth.
Bowlan and Heasley are both 23 years old, and were both members of the Royals’ 2018 draft class — Bowlan was selected in the second round (58th overall) and Heasley in the 13th round. Neither pitcher has worked above the A-ball level, so it’s probably unlikely that either will be promoted to the MLB roster, though their inclusion at the alternate training site will help continue their development given the lack of any proper minor league baseball this season.