Royals: Should Kansas City bring back Tim Collins?

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

It’s been a few years since the reliever left the Kansas City Royals, but a reunion might not be out of the question for a team in need of bullpen arms.

Kansas City Royals fans may remember back to the days before the team won the World Series. While it wasn’t always the happiest of times, the years leading up to the World Series did provide some good baseball, and exciting moments as the team improved more and more, eventually hitting the postseason.

During those years, there was a lot of movement. As the Royals continue to push on with a rebuild, those names and members of that exciting era of Royals baseball have started to vanish, and there aren’t many left in Kansas City.

One member of the Royals from 2011 to 2014 who was a staple in the bullpen is available in the free agency, relief pitcher Tim Collins. Collins spent the better part of his major league career with the Royals, pitching in relief during their rise to the top from 2011-2014.

Some of the Royals pitchers may resemble Collins a bit today in that they share a constant struggle, walks. Collins had trouble at times and typically gave up a lot of walks. What set him apart from current Royals pitchers, though, was his ability to use some damage control and also record some strikeouts.

Collins provided the team with consistency year to year. Again, the walks were consistent, walking almost 4 batters per nine innings, but his ERA from 2011 to 2014 stayed almost the same; 3.63, 3.36, 3.54, 3.86. While he may not have always been the person to send out in a close game (unless you want to increase your heart rate), in a low leverage situation, Collins could likely get the job done.

Collins’s overall struggles started in 2014. In the years prior, he had pitched 67.0, 69.2, and 53.1 innings, but in 2014 he only managed 21.0 in the regular season. Collins started the season off with an injury and bounced around between Kauffman and the minors for a portion of the season.

He managed to pitch a good May (2.63 ERA), but only appeared in 4 games in both June (0.00 ERA) and September (2.45 ERA). Collins also appeared in the postseason, where he produced well for the team. Unfortunately, Collins had to undergo Tommy John surgery the following March and looked to be out for the entire 2015 season.

Battling issues and recovery from the surgery, Collins found himself on the injured list through the 2016 season. He was activated from the injured list on November 4, 2016, and elected free agency shortly thereafter.

Collins again spent most of the 2017 season in the minors, continuing to recover from his injuries. In 2018, after starting the season in the minors, Collins found his way back to the majors. He managed to see games from May through the end of the season with one stint back in the minors from early July to mid-August.

In his first season back in the majors, Collins was typically used in very short relief scenarios, .1-.2 innings each outing. He saw similar production in terms of strikeouts and his continued struggles with walks, but his ERA rose (4.37) from his time in Kansas City, and his FIP had increased significantly; 3.40 in 2013, 4.80 in 2014, 5.76 in 2018.

When the season was over, Collins again elected free agency, hoping for a fresh start somewhere else. In 2019, Collins, unfortunately, didn’t get a stable position. He moved around multiple teams, seeing both the Cubs and the Reds organizations during the regular season. Though he ended with the Reds, Collins only saw major league time in Chicago.

Though it’s a small sample, Collins looked as though he was back on the right track. Over 9 games and 8.2 innings, Collins held an ERA of 3.12 with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. His strikeout rate was the lowest of his career with 4.2 per nine innings, but his walks were also lower, bringing his walks per nine down under 4 (3.1) for the first time in his career and his FIP looked better at 4.83.

On November 4, Collins elected free agency and is now available. Collins is a player that might warrant some looks from the Royals, but he would have to come on the right deal. He is a very high-risk signing. With a history of injuries and no good, current sample of how he may perform, any team looking at him should be cautious.

While there are some risks with Collins, there are some upsides as well. The Royals bullpen has continued to struggle with consistency. Collins is a player who, in the past, has provided a very consistent arm who can get himself out of situations when needed.

Collins will also be 30 going into the 2020 season. While this might not be exactly what the Royals are looking for, as far as pitching goes, there aren’t a lot of young free-agent options. Also, while he has been injury-plagued, Collins’s arm has not been used as much as some others. Again, it’s high risk, but it’s likely other free agents the Royals are looking at fall into this category as well.

While Collins might not be the answer to all of Kansas City’s issues, he could be a risk worth taking. He is only worth it, though, if he comes on the right deal. With his history, there is a good chance the Royals could bring him on at a low price, or a minor league contract.

For a team that doesn’t look to be spending much to prepare for 2020, finding players that could provide some upsides at a bargain is important, and Collins could be one of those players. The upsides are there, and the downsides are very apparent, but compared to the typical free agent signings of the team, Collins could be a candidate.

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The Royals have not let much information go about who they are looking for in free agency this year. While Collins is likely not on the list, he is one “Royals reunion” player that might have the most upsides, if he can get his footing. It will be interesting to see the moves the Royals make, and if there will be any familiar faces returning to Kauffman in 2020.