The KC Royals didn’t acquire many new players before the MLB lockout brought big league free agency and trades to a disappointing halt. Suddenly gone for a time uncertain is the fire in the major league Hot Stove.
But the freeze doesn’t cover strictly minor league deals and doesn’t prevent non-playing personnel from freely moving between organizations.
So it is that some former Royals have located new workplaces recently. Meibrys Viloria and Jeison Guzman had already found new clubs.
It appears 2 ex-KC Royals will vie for spots with the Nationals in 2022.
Third baseman Maikel Franco came to Kansas City for the 2020 campaign and did everything the club wanted him to do. He hit eight homers and drove in 38 runs (numbers that extrapolate to almost 22 and 107 for a regular 162-game season) and hit .278. His defense wasn’t stellar, but it really wasn’t expected to be—the Royals were more interested in his bat than his glove. He played in all 60 games and was by all accounts popular in the clubhouse.
But the Royals, likely concerned with what Franco might make in arbitration, or what they’d have to pay him to avoid that process, non-tendered him after the season. Baltimore signed him for 2021, then released him in August; Atlanta picked him up on a minor league deal but he never made it to the Braves.
Now, it looks like Franco is headed for Washington—the Washington Post reported Sunday the Nationals have signed him to a minor league contract.
The signing means Franco will join infielder Lucius Fox with the Nationals. Fox took a more indirect path to Washington: the Orioles claimed him off waivers from Kansas City in November, and the Nats acquired him via a subsequent waiver claim.
Already playing for the Nationals is ex-Royal Alcides Escobar, who hit .288 with a .340 OBP last season and signed for 2022 well before the lockout began.
The KC Royals may have to face a former top draft pick in the AL Central.
Brandon Finnegan’s place in Kansas City baseball history is secure. After making him a first-round draft choice in 2014, he became the first player ever to appear in the College World Series and the big league World Series in the same season.
But he didn’t last long in Kansas City—the Royals included him in the 2015 deal with the Reds that brought Johnny Cueto to town. But save for an arguably decent season (10-11, 3.98) with a bad Cincinnati team in 2016, baseball hasn’t been the same for Finnegan since and he last appeared in a major league game in 2018.
Finnegan’s post-2016 struggles fit the basic mold for one of the Royals’ periodic pitching reclamation projects, a potential move recently described in this space as one to avoid.
Kansas City, though, won’t get the chance to make a mistake. Finnegan recently signed with the White Sox, which means he could get the chance to pitch against the Royals next season.
An ex-KC Royals pitcher who worked in Japan in 2021 is on the move again.
From 2018-2020, pitcher Glenn Sparkman appeared in 50 games for Kansas City. Splitting his assignments almost evenly between the rotation and the bullpen, Sparkman went a disappointing 4-14 with a 5.67 ERA. But he accomplished what’s sadly become a rarity in the game, throwing a shutout against the White Sox in 2019.
The Royals let Sparkman go after the 2020 season. He pitched most recently in Japan and has reportedly caught on with the Lotte Giants of the KBO.
A former first round draft pick lands a front office job with Colorado.
It didn’t take Clint Hurdle long to make it to Kansas City after the Royals picked him in the first round of the 1975 draft. Universally considered a “can’t miss” player, Hurdle never reached stardom—he finished 10 years in the big leagues with a .259 average and 32 homers.
Hurdle played parts of five seasons with the Royals. His best year by far was 1980, when he achieved career full-season highs in homers (10) and average (.294). He hit .417 in the ’80 World Series against Philadelphia, and also played for the Reds, Mets and Cardinals before retiring in 1987.
Hurdle is best known as a manager. He skippered Colorado to a 534-625 record from 2002-2009 and took the Rockies to the World Series in 2007. He also managed the Pirates to three straight postseason appearances (2013-2015) and a 735-720 record from 2011-2019.
Hurdle is now back with the Rockies, who recently named him special assistant to the general manager.
Several former Royals are finding employment elsewhere.