KC Royals Sign Trio Of Relievers To Minor League Deals

KC Royals general manager Dayton Moore continued to fill out his roster on Saturday by signing relievers Al Alburquerque, Brandon League, and Chris Withrow to minor league deals.

The Kansas City Royals seem to be trying to build a bullpen through volume. A little over a week ago, Dayton Moore brought in Jonathan Sanchez and former Tigers closer Bobby Parnell on minor league deals. Now, he’s adding former Seattle and Dodgers closer Brandon League, former Detroit set-up man Al Alburquerque, and former Dodgers first round draft pick Chris Withrow.

Of the three, only Withrow pitched significant innings last season. Withrow posted a 3.58 ERA in 37.2 innings pitched for the Braves in 2016, but his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) was a much less impressive 4.90. He also walked 4.1 hitters per nine innings and struck out a mere 6.7 per nine. In short, his peripherals suggest his solid numbers were more due to good fortune than skill.

However, the KC Royals apparently hope that he’ll improve in his second season back from elbow surgery in 2015. Before his injury, the 27-year-old Withrow struck out 11.4 hitters per nine innings in 56.0 innings pitched for the Dodgers in 2013 and 2014.

Al Alburquerque managed to toss 2.0 innings for the Angels last season, after a stint in AAA. Alburquerque’s average fastball velocity declined to the low 90’s by 2016, after formerly touching 100 mph in his rookie season (2011).

Before pitching for the Angels, 30-year-old Alburquerque was an effective set-up man in Detroit for five seasons where he compiled a 17-6, 3.20 ERA with a 11.0 K/9 in 225.0 innings.

Thirty three-year-old Brandon League hasn’t pitched in major-league baseball since 2014, and not at all since 2015.  His career has been derailed by shoulder problems. But, before his injuries, League represented Seattle in the 2011 All-Star game during a 2.79 ERA, 37 save season.

The Mariners traded League to the Dodgers at the trade deadline in 2012, and Los Angeles signed him to a three-year deal before the 2013 season. The Dodgers cut him before the final year of the deal due to shoulder troubles, despite his 2.57 ERA in 2014.

To me, it appears that Dayton Moore hopes to find one or two effective relievers by signing a horde of bounce-back candidates. I don’t think these moves preclude a Greg Holland or Luke Hochevar signing, if their price falls into Kansas City’s range. With $7 million freed up by swapping Wade Davis for Jorge Soler, and another $2 million saved by shipping Jarrod Dyson to Seattle in return for Nate Karns, I suspect Moore has gained at least a little payroll leeway to make such an offer.