KC Royals Sign Mike Minor For Rotation Depth

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Sep 8, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor (36) pitches during the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 8, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor (36) pitches during the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /
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The KC Royals added yet another potential starting pitcher by signing former Atlanta Brave Mike Minor to a two-year, $7.24 million contract on Friday afternoon according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Minor’s deal breaks down to $2 million in 2016, $4 million in 2017, with a $10 million mutual option in 2018 that includes a $1.25 buyout. The contract includes the typical Dayton Moore “mutual option” whose purpose seems more about pushing guaranteed money past the contract term rather than any real belief that it will be exercised.

The Kansas City Royals have already added former National League starters Dillon Gee (Mets) and John Lannan (Nationals) on minor-league deals. Now, former Atlanta phenom Mike Minor joins the crowd of former NL starters anxious to rebuild value in front of the best defense in major league baseball.

The 28-year-old Minor is a former first round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 2009, who was ranked as the no. 26 prospect in MLB by Baseball Prospectus before the 2011 season, and no. 37 by Baseball American in the same year. The left-handed Minor made his Atlanta debut at age 22 in 2010, made 15 starts in 2011, and finally won a full-time rotation spot   in 2012.

Mike Minor appeared to realize his potential at age 25 in 2013, pitching 204.2 innings with a 13-9 record and 3.21 ERA in 32 starts. Baseball reference considered him a 3.1 bWAR (Wins Above Replacement) pitcher that season.

Minor, however, crashed in 2014 with a 6-12, 4.77 ERA season cut short by shoulder trouble. He did not pitch in 2015.

Some pundits were surprised that KC Royals general manager Dayton Moore agreed to more than $7 million in guaranteed money, since players have a much more spotty track record coming back from shoulder trouble than the almost-routine Tommy John surgery after elbow injuries.

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I suspect the Kansas City Royals must have positive medical reports on Minor. Add in Minor’s relative youth (28), his high prospect ceiling, and his strong 2013 season, Moore must feel good about Minor’s upside.

Another benefit of signing Mike Minor is his 2016 payroll impact is quite small at $2 million. Heck, if Minor delivers a mere 1.0 WAR of value over the next two seasons, his contract is a bargain. Even if Minor can only help as a bullpen arm, he is likely to be worth $8 million.

On the upside, Minor could provide screaming value if he earns a rotation spot. With pitchers demanding outrageous contracts on the open market, Minor could provide considerable value over the next two seasons even if he is nothing more than a average rotation arm.

I expect Mike Minor to begin the season in AAA Omaha, rather than the Kansas City Royals roster, unless he enjoys a particularly strong spring.

The KC Royals now boast considerable rotation depth with Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Ian Kennedy, Kris Medlen, Danny Duffy, Dillon Gee, and Mike Minor as potential starters heading into spring training in Surprise, AZ. Kansas City could also get Jason Vargas back in the second half of the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery last July.

I like the Mike Minor signing because, if for nothing else, he adds another lefty option to the rotation besides Danny Duffy. Given Duffy’s iffy performance as a starter last season, following a strong 2014, many analysts believe Duffy is better suited as a bullpen arm.

Next: Royals Sign Three Too Minor League Contracts

Dayton Moore continues to exploit the KC Royals recent success, and strong defense, to attract inexpensive pitching depth. The strategy rewarded him with strong performances from Kris Medlen, Joe Blanton, and Chris Young in 2015, and could very well yield similar results in 2016.

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