The Kansas City Royals signed veteran hurlers Wandy Rodriguez and Joba Chamberlain to minor-league contracts on Sunday. Right now, both figure to be experienced major-league insurance in case the KC Royals pitching staff suffers an injury, or an implosion, between now and October. Yet, they’re also something else. The signings show just have far the Kansas City Royals have come in the minds of their peers.
The KC Royals have become a combination of Mecca, and Lourdes, for pitchers seeking a quick fix for their major-league career.
Back in 2007, general manager Dayton Moore had to overpay to get Gil Meche to sign a long-term contract in Kansas City. In the winter before the 2011 season, staff ace Zack Greinke threw a hissy fit to escape the losing atmosphere at Kauffman Stadium.
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Today, veteran pitchers hoping to make a comeback—or looking to show they’ve still got it after a career bump—are DYING to play in front of the KC Royals best-in-baseball defense. With a passel of Gold Glove winners behind them, and the massive outfield at the K, there’s no better venue in all of major league baseball to help a veteran who’s looking to rebuild his reputation.
If a pitcher can’t succeed in Kansas City, he’s not likely to make it anywhere else. The best part, from their point of view, is: a pitcher is likely to put up such enticing numbers for the Kansas City Royals, that other teams could overpay for their services.
That’s gold for a guy looking for that one last contract to carry him into retirement (while helping him make up for some of the shekels that he might have squandered in his youth).
That unspoken reality has helped the KC Royals this season, and figures to help them for some years to come—until their reputation fades. Dayton Moore has shown a knack for building bullpens even when the Kansas Ctiy Royals lost game after game, in part, due to atrocious defense. Now that he’s got Cain and Company as regulars on ESPN’s Web Gems segment, Moore has produced an embarrassment of bullpen riches.
I hardly think it’s an accident that BOTH righty reliever Joba Chamberlain and left-handed starter Wandy Rodriguez accepted minor-league deals with Kansas City, when other playoff contenders offered better chances at finishing the season with a big league job. They’re hoping to get a chance to appear on the big stage of the playoffs, as members of the famed Kansas City Royals bullpen. I have to believe their agents want to put their clients in the best display case available for this winter’s free agent scramble.
Just look at what the KC Royals have done for Ryan Madson and Joe Blanton. Both were out of baseball last winter, and figure to have much-enhanced contract profiles for next season. The Kansas City Royals released Blanton in July, and the Pirates immediately installed him as a long man in their pen. Ryan Madson figures to get closer offers after his 2.42 ERA and 8.0 K/9 season—with two saves—for the KC Royals.
That’s why 29-year-old Joba Chamberlain and 36-year-old Wandy Rodriguez, both of whom have pitched in the majors this season, are willing to slog in AAA Omaha. Heck, Chamberlain was a solid reliever as recently as last season for the Tigers, and Rodriguez made 12 starts for playoff-bound Pittsburgh in 2013.
Now, they’re hoping to snag a bit part in the KC Royals all-in season.
So, the old story of the rich getting richer is playing out in Kansas City this season. Let’s hope it culminates in a World Series title.