KC Royals: Latest signing makes little, if any, sense

(Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports) /

Something curious stirs within this KC Royals’ organization when unemployed veteran pitchers somehow make it onto the club’s radar. The franchise seemingly wears as a badge of honor its penchant for seeking and signing hurlers no one else appears to want.

It’s happened again.

Now appearing in rather subtle fashion on the “transactions” section of the Royals’ official website is notice of its most recent free agent signing—the struggling team has added Anthony Swarzak, late of the Arizona Diamondbacks, to its fold. According to the single-line entry, Swarzak is now on a minor league contract.

Swarzak, whose six recent appearances for the D-backs started his 11th big league season, is a journeyman righthander who began as a starter but took on part-time relief duty in 2011; he switched to permanent full-time relief work in 2015. He’s pitched for nine major league clubs, and is four years removed from his last good season.

Going that long without distinction is, in and of itself, enough to question the Royals’ latest signing.

Before 2017, Swarzak’s best campaign was 2013 with Minnesota, when he first pitched exclusively out of the pen. He was 3-2 in 48 games that season, and posted a good 2.91 ERA. Evidenced by a 2.1 BB9 and 3.14 SO/W ratio, his control was good.

Swarzak was 3-2 again in 2014, but his ERA jumped to 4.60 and his walk rate increased. He left Minnesota for Cleveland that winter, but ended up pitching in Korea after appearing in only 10 games before the Indians’ organization sent him to the minors and later released him.

Following an unremarkable 2016 season with the Yankees, Swarzak split 2017 between the White Sox and Brewers, posting a combined 6-4, 2.33 record. He’s 6-11 since then with stops with the New York Mets, Seattle, Atlanta and Arizona.

Swarzak was 0-1 with a 9.64 ERA (five earned runs over 4.2 innings) in six games before the Diamondbacks released him late last month.

So, what reasons did the KC Royals have for signing Anthony Swarzak?

Just why the KC Royals chose to sign Swarzak, who’ll be 36 in September, isn’t yet known. The bullpen has been inconsistent at times this season, but the solution doesn’t realistically lie with Swarzak—little gleaned from his career 26-37, 10 save, 4.36 ERA record, achieved primarily in relief, strongly suggests he is destined for success in Kansas City.

And the Royals are currently carrying 14 pitchers on their big league roster and have plenty of younger arms in the minors if they become unsatisfied with any of the major leaguers. Now seems a strange time to take on another “reclamation project.”

Those projects do, however, occasionally work out well for the KC Royals, with Greg Holland and Trevor Rosenthal (and Wade Davis to a lesser extent) being the latest examples of such success. But those three were far more accomplished when they signed than is Swarzak. What he can bring to the table is a bit of a mystery.

Triple-A Omaha will likely be Swarzak’s first stop in Kansas City’s system. What help he might ultimately provide at the major league level certainly remains to be seen.

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Kansas City has signed Anthony Swarzak. Why is a good question.