KC Royals: Kansas City takes another pitching “Chance”

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images /

The KC Royals continued their pursuit of low-risk pitching help Monday by acquiring Chance Adams in a trade. For the Royals, the move is truly taking a Chance.

The more things change, the more they may be staying the same for the KC Royals. Just a month after the Glass Family Era ended and the new John Sherman-led ownership group assumed control of the club, the Royals’ tendency to choose inexpensive, low-risk pitching help over high-priced, sure-thing pitching deals continued Monday with the acquisition of Chance Adams.

The Royals, literally taking a Chance, acquired the once-promising prospect Adams from the Yankees via a trade for minor league infielder Cristian Perez. Although his days as a Yankee won’t be remembered for their success, Adams recently secured a place in club lore as the player dropped from its 40-man roster to accommodate the addition of Gerrit Cole.

Much of Adams’ minor league career, which began soon after the Yankees picked him in the fifth round of the 2015 Amateur Draft, justified his once-lofty position among the Yanks’ top five organizational prospects. Enough time remained after the draft for Adams to pitch at all three Class A levels before the 2015 season ended; in 14 relief appearances, he went 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA and impressive respective strikeout and walk rates of 11.5 and 2.3.

Used exclusively as a starter in 2016, and pitching at High A and then AA, Adams was dominating. He posted a cumulative 13-1 record and 2.33 ERA and maintained good strikeout and walk rates of 10.2 and 2.8.

Success followed him in the 2017 season. A 4-0 record with a minuscule 1.03 ERA at AA Trenton earned him a promotion to New York’s AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barr farm club where Adams went 11-5 with a 2.89 ERA.

But Adams underwent elbow surgery after that season and his performance hasn’t been the same since. He returned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barr to open the 2018 campaign and went 4-5 with a 4.78 ERA; his control suffered (4.6 BB9) and his WHIP jumped to 1.407 from the previous season’s cumulative 1.078.

Things worsened for Adams when the Yankees called him up to the Bronx in August. His control still suspect, he was 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA (8.22 RA9) in three games; he was rocked for three home runs and walked four in seven innings.

Back in AAA to start 2019, Adams showed signs of improvement, posting a 4-4 record with a 4.63 ERA in 18 games. But a September roster expansion call-up to New York was worse than his brief visit to the majors the year before. In 13 relief appearances, Adams surrendered 24 earned runs in 25.1 innings (8.53 ERA), gave up 39 hits (including seven home runs), and suffered a 1.974 WHIP.

Adams’ 2017 and 2018 performances rendered him dispensable when the Yankees needed to clear roster space for Cole; that they designated him for assignment and then traded him suggests the Yanks weren’t confident he would regain his stellar and dominating pre-2017 form. Although he only pitched in 13 big league games in 2019, opponents’ success against his four primary pitches suggests the same possibility — they hit .351 against his fastball, .353 against his curve, .313 against his slider and .500 against his change.

The story of 25-year old Adams (he’ll turn 26 in August) is not unlike that of Trevor Rosenthal, the veteran reliever the Royals recently signed; both enjoyed success, then fell on difficult times and are looking to salvage their careers with the KC Royals. Consistent with the trend born of David Glass’ tenure as club owner, both are now products of the team’s ongoing scouring of the secondary market for inexpensive pitchers who pose minimal risks. Perhaps more than Rosenthal, Adams will require significant work to make it back to where he once was.

To acquire Adams, the Royals sent young infielder Cristian Perez to New York. Perez, primarily a shortstop but capable of playing second and third, experienced defensive difficulties in his four years in KC’s minor league system and has a career slash of .263/.312/.319. The Royals’ flock of talented major and minor league infielders, and the club’s important quest for pitching, made Perez a predictable trade candidate.

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Chance Adams is the latest in the line of low-risk acquisitions for the KC Royals. If he recaptures the form that made him a top major league prospect, the Royals will enjoy an excellent addition to their pitching staff; if he doesn’t, they won’t suffer catastrophic personnel or financial losses.