Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports
Barring an unexpected trade of someone like Greg Holland or Omar Infante, the Royals big league roster appears to be pretty well set. There are some areas that could stand to improve, but the team seems confident in their current group of guys, so I’m guessing we don’t see any more major activity in that area.
However, the Royals may not be done making moves this winter. Teams are always looking to improve depth, because you never know when an injury or two can derail your season. It helps to have competent players waiting in Triple-A, should anything go wrong.
The Royals have already signed a few interesting players to minor league deals, including Ryan Madson, Ryan Roberts, Brandon Jacobs, and Alex Liddi, but there are still several players on the free agent market who could provide some insurance, along with a little upside. Let’s take a quick look at some candidates for minor league deals, along with a few relevant statistics and bits of information. Some of these guys may wind up signing big league deals somewhere, but for the time being, their options appear limited.
Brandon Beachy (RHP) – He’s recovering from his 2nd Tommy John surgery and won’t see big league action until mid-season, but Beachy has struck out over a batter per inning in his 267.2 career innings, and has a 3.23 ERA. If he’s signed and eventually promoted to the 40-man roster, the team would have him under control for another season, further increasing the potential value.
Chad Billingsley (RHP) – Having dealt with injuries in each of the last three seasons, Billingsley has lost some of the shine he once had. But he’s still only 30 years old, and has a career 3.65 ERA in nearly 1,200 innings, along with 7.9 strikeouts per 9 innings.
Alexi Ogando (RHP) – Dave wrote about Ogando last week, noting that apparently his shoulder doesn’t look too great, medically speaking. When healthy, he’s been effective, posting a 3.12 ERA in 381 innings before the 2014 season. He could provide some depth to both the rotation and the bullpen, which could be even more helpful if the prospects aren’t ready to contribute.
Felipe Paulino (RHP) – Paulino was hurt in 2014 (noticing a trend here?) but we’ve all seen him at his best, having watched him throw 162.1 innings in a Royals uniform, to the tune of a 3.55 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning. It’s unlikely Paulino will be healthy for a full season, but now that he’s almost three years removed from TJS, there’s no reason not to give him a shot. Plus, his nickname is Jumbo. Jumbo.
Donnie Murphy (2B/3B/SS) – Come home, Donnie. The former Royal had a poor debut in Kansas City back in 2004 and 2005, but then again, who didn’t have a poor debut then? Since that time, Murphy has bounced around as a utility man for seven different organizations, even having a career year with the Cubs in 2013, when he hit .255/.319/.530 in 163 plate appearances. He’s not going to approach those numbers again, but he could provide some middle infield depth, grit, and veteranny goodness to the organization.
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Ramon Santiago (2B/3B/SS) – Speaking of veteran middle infield depth, Royals fans should be familiar with Santiago from his 10 years as a Tiger. He’s never been particularly good with the bat, as shown by his .643 OPS, although his glove has rated as basically average at second, third, and shortstop.
Eric Young (OF) – I’ve always thought of Young as a Royals-type of player. He doesn’t hit for power, he doesn’t strike out much, and he’s not an on-base machine. What he is, however, is fast, and very good defensively. Young has stolen 138 bases at an 81% clip in his career, including 30 swipes in 36 attempts with the Mets last season. The Royals have some outfield depth in Omaha already, but Young would be a nice fit.
The Royals hope they don’t have to rely on minor league signings this season, but considering the minimal cost, it’s better to have that depth before the season than to wait until something happens. Some people may point out that the Royals don’t need more depth because they have some prospects who might be ready to step into a big league role at some point this year. Counterpoint: those prospects may not be ready. What could it hurt to have that insurance policy hanging around?
No one should expect much from any of these players listed above, but they have all had some kind of success at the major league level in the past, and with minor league deals, there’s no harm in trying to help them recapture it. There is no risk involved, only reward, even if that reward is very small in most cases. Still, a small reward is better than no reward at all.