With a young team, KC was not really expecting to be very active these past few months. But that did not mean the Royals were going to sit around and do nothing. Whenever we found a player on the waiver wire that was good enough to make our 26-man, we put in a claim. Whenever a trade offer came along that we felt made us better in the long run, we explored it in depth. And so – it ended up being a busy offseason. Here is some commentary on every big league move the Royals made this offseason.
– LF Jeffrey Sherman to CWS
+ P Easton McGee
+ IF Marshall Larkin
KC’s first move of the off-season came October 30th, when the Royals made a 2-for-1 swap with the White Sox. In what could only be described as a surprise move by the KC faithful, KC shipped off one of their young starters. Sherman had a nice rookie campaign in 2020, hitting .281 with 12 HR in 105 big league starts after hitting .304 to start the year in Omaha. But with Bernard Blanchard pushing Sherman out of the starting roll entering 2021, and with CF Billy Rounds blocking a move to CF, Sherman was likely to be a 4th outfielder or DH, and it really made sense to move him. 23-year-old Easton McGee is probably never going to be more than a AA SP, but our scouts are impressed by infielder Marshall Larkin’s potential. He should make strides defensively once we pick a position for him – probably 2B – and the 20-year-old projects to have a decent stick. Larkin hit .306 in 48 games in rookie ball in 2020.
– C Andres Esparza to OAK
+ C Javier Lopez
Just a day later, the Royals moved one of their best players. Andres Esparza was a waiver claim last offseason, and he had a fantastic year, representing the Royals at the All-Star game and finishing with a .314 batting average and 17 HR. But he was projected to get a hefty raise in arbitration, and that did not fit with our vision, so he became one of the few players we intended on moving. And in a swap with the Oakland A’s, we found a younger catching option in Javy Lopez. Javy is slated to start 2021 in rookie ball, so this move created a gaping hole in catching at the big-league level.
+ Manager Jose Mota
On November 8th, the Royals filled their vacant manager position with a guy who – as the son of a former major league player and longtime Dodgers coach Manny Mota – has spent his entire life living and breathing baseball. While Mota has only 1 season of managerial experience at the minor league level, he did go 0-for-2 for the Royals in 2 games many years ago. On a more serious note, he had tendencies that fit well with what management wants to do, and should be a great fit for this roster, and his lack of experience means he costs only $550,000.
– Bench Coach Ryan Minor fired
+ Bench Coach Scott Steinmann
Mota wanted to bring in his own bench coach, so we allowed it. Steinmann and Mota spend hours and hours discussing strategy and both are considered by outsiders to be gifted tacticians.
– P Andrew Burke to DET
+ DH Joey Votto
+ OF Jeremy Kinney
On November 23rd, the Royals and Tigers made headlines when KC took 37-year-old Joey Votto and his $22 million salary off Detroit’s hands. In it for KC? Prospect Jeremy Kinney. We are very excited about Kinney, a lefthanded line-drive hitter with good contact, gap power, and avoid K’s potential. He projects to be a fine center fielder and at 23, should not be too far off. Kinney will start 2021 in Omaha. Joey Votto will start at DH for KC. He is on the block and might be moved for another prospect while KC retains salary, giving us a total of 2 prospects for taking on the salary, or he may end up playing the entire season in KC drawing walks and selling tickets.
– P Ryan Weathers to HOU
– IF Antonio Morales to HOU
+ P Melvin Garner
+ IF/OF Brandon Gill
+ OF Garrett Mitchell
+ C Francisco Alvarez
Just two days after the Votto trade, the Royals made their most difficult trade of the off-season. This one was tough, and hopefully will not be one we regret later. Kansas City, a rebuilding team, surrendered a 21-year-old pitcher who had the highest ceiling of any of our pitchers AND a rookie 3rd baseman who hit 22 HR in just 98 games. Not really guys you see rebuilding teams move. Additionally, we took on Melvin Garner, a 26-year-old starting pitcher with a $4.8 million salary coming off a season in which he posted a career-worst 5.48 ERA. Fans were displeased, and the Royals took a lot of heat in message boards. But looking deeper, Garner was 14-8 with a 2.92 ERA the season before, and Kansas City scouts think he has not lost anything but confidence. Playing in Kaufman Stadium should prove beneficial for Garner, and 26 is not exactly old. No, we would never flip Weathers for Garner 1-for-1, but there are other pieces to this puzzle. There is the hope within the organization that Kody Clemens will be ready to take over for Morales at 3B in 2021. But that hope was challenged in September, when Kody went 3-for-43 in his first big league action. Enter 22-year-old Brandon Gill, who is now the #3 prospect in the Royals system. KC scouts think he will eventually be a better player than Morales. He will start 2021 in AA Northwest Arkansas. If Clemens flounders, hopefully Gill will be ready sooner rather than later.
Also coming over in the deal is Garrett Mitchell, a 22-year-old outfielder that mostly fits the mold we are looking for, even if he is projected to strike out more than we would like. He will start 2021 in A+ Wilmington. And there’s 19-year-old Francisco Alvarez, a catcher we think has even more potential than recently acquired Javy Lopez. Alvarez will start 2021 in A Lexington.
In summary, we are not sure we will like this trade if some of the prospects do not pan out, or if Melvin Garner proves to be more like his 2020 self and less like the 2019 version. But Houston came at us with what we thought was a fair offer, and after several days this is what we settled on.
+ C Ryan Casteel
On December 7th we picked up Ryan Casteel from Oakland off waivers. While not really gifted at anything, Casteel does a lot of things decently. He will get a shot to stay on the 26-man this spring.
– C Ken Boucher to CLE
On December 10th, catching prospect Jen Boucher was claimed on waivers by Cleveland. While we would have loved to keep Boucher, what in essence was a trade of Casteel for Boucher is one we would take, so we were not too disappointed. Besides, there are more catching candidates coming up.
+ C Jackson Williams
On December 12th, KC landed their first MLB Free Agent signing. 34-year-old Jackson Williams was brought in on a 1-year, $1.3 million deal. A fantastic defensive catcher, we are hoping he provides some quality innings behind the plate. Williams is not the best hitter, but he is tough to fan, something we value heavily in KC.
+ LF Donald O’Dell
+ P Javier Garcia
On December 21st we picked up two players in the Rule 5 draft. O’Dell from the Cubs and Garcia from the A’s. O’Dell is a 25-year-old balanced hitter who can play both corner OF spots decently, and while he is slow, he in sneaky good on the basepaths. Garcia is a 24-year-old pitcher who could fit in as a starter or a reliever – he will be in the pen in 2021 – and has good control and stuff. If he can keep the ball in the ballpark, he should be quite effective for KC in 2021.
+ P Miguel De Los Santos
On January 10th, after a few weeks of minimal activity, the Royals added fan-favorite Miguel De Los Santos, signing him to a minor league contract. Make no mistake though, he will be on the 26-man roster come opening day. De Los Santos isn’t just here to sell tickets though, he will be a lefty out of the pen for us and hopefully provide some veteran leadership for our young ballclub.
+ IF Barry Crocker
On January 19th we grabbed 25-year-old 3B Barry Crocker off waivers from Cleveland. By this point, we were second-guessing the trading of Morales to Houston enough to want to pull in an insurance policy for Kody Clemens, who was not impressive in his brief big-league playing time in September. Crocker checked enough of the boxes we were looking for, so we submitted a claim and now he’s got a try-out this spring.
+ P Felix Sterling
On January 23rd, the Royals picked up a pitcher named Felix – the first of two this offseason. The Reds had placed Sterling on Waivers and we swooped in and were very pleased to land him. Felix appeared in 52 games for the Reds in 2020, posting a 4-1 record and a 3.03 ERA. The 27-year-old should easily win a spot in our bullpen in 2021.
– SS Luis Rodriguez to CWS
+ 1B Roderick Shoulders
+ OF Brian Cooper
In what was largely another move to pick up a prospect as thanks for taking an inflated contract, we picked up Roderick Shoulders and Brian Cooper from divisional foe Chicago in exchange for an international squad player.
Shoulders is a lefthanded bat (which we love) and at $6 million is not too much salary to take on, although he’s owed $7 million in 2022 and $8 million in 2023. Still, he is actually an upgrade over our other 1B so we may hang onto him rather than trying to flip him for another prospect. He hit 7 HR in 27 games for the ChiSox last year.
Cooper is just another OF prospect with 55+ potential in contact and avoid K’s. Our goal is to stack our system with as many of these guys as we can find and pour $36 million a year into development and hope a handful of them turn into stars.
+ P Felix Hernandez
On January 25th, KC signed their 2nd pitcher named Felix of the offseason. By mid-January, ticket sales were down, and management decided to pursue popular players that were not too expensive and that we thought could make our 26-man (see De Los Santos). While Felix was seeking 4 years – which seemed like a lot for a 34-year-old pitcher on the downside of his career – he was only looking for $22 million total. So, after scouting reports showed he still had top stuff and solid control, we started negotiating. The way we look at it, he is worth 10 million this year and next, meaning years 3 and 4 of the deal are only $1 million per, just with deferred salary. And we have so little money tied up in contracts the next few years, that if we must cut him loose it will not matter. Ideally, he’ll flourish, and we can flip him for some prospects while retaining some of his salary. But do not tell him I said that.
– P Jack White to CWS
Our friendly neighborhood White Sox claimed Jack White off waivers on January 27th as we tried to remove him from the 40-man roster. White was our prize in the Heyward trade last year, so I really hated losing him for nothing, but those are the risks you must take.
+ P Steven Inch
In the player auction on February 2nd, KC bought RP Steven Inch from Minnesota for $300K. Inch was talented enough to win a job in our pen and was 1-2 with a 4.35 ERA in 51 appearances for the Twins last year, but the real reason we went after him was his popularity. Ticket sales are still well below where they were this time last year.
+ C Steven Clevenger
In what will likely be the final move before Spring Training begins, the Royals bought Clevenger from the Rockies for $600K. It occurred to us rather late that all the guys competing for the catching job in KC were righties, and we really wanted at least one lefty in the mix. Clevenger – a veteran at 34 – may not make the club, but he will get a shot. The veteran was an All-Star in 2014, but he is only expected to provide depth at this stage of his career.