Did the KC Royals land another reclamation project?

(Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports) /

It seems the KC Royals, known for securing the low-risk, potentially high-reward services of pitchers recovering from injuries or prolonged bad spells, are embarking on yet another of their familiar reclamation projects. They announced Thursday (Twitter link) that they’ve signed big league veteran reliever Sam Freeman, who last saw action with Washington in 2020, to a minor league contract.

Freeman meets the basic prerequisites for Royal reclamation. At 34 (35 in June), he’s been around enough (nine seasons split between the Cardinals, Rangers, Brewers, Braves, Angels and Nationals), hasn’t pitched as well recently as he did in the more distant past, and is coming off his second Tommy John Surgery.

But just who is this new Royals pitcher?

Sam Freeman comes to the KC Royals with some mixed pitching credentials.

After four seasons in their minor league system, the Cardinals brought southpaw Freeman to the big leagues in June 2012. He was an unremarkable 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 24 appearances; his 10 walks in 20 innings foretold the control issues he’s experienced ever since.

Freeman began 2013 back in the minors but returned to pitch parts of August and September in the majors, winning his first big league game and lowering his ERA to 2.19. He spent most of 2014 with the Cards, going 2-0, 2.61 in 44 games, but posted a marginal 4.5 BB9.

St. Louis traded Freeman to Texas for a player to be named later shortly before the 2015 campaign and he walked 25 in 38.1 innings for the Rangers, who shipped him to Milwaukee the following April. He pitched just seven times and walked nine in 7.2 innings for the Brewers, became a free agent after the season, and signed with Atlanta. He was 5-5, 3.34 in two years with the Braves, but control still troubled him—he averaged almost five walks per nine innings.

Released during 2019 spring training, Freeman moved on to the Angels but pitched for them only once before they released him in August. Washington soon signed him, then re-signed him when he became a free agent after the season. He made it back to the majors in July and pitched only five innings before a flexor strain forced him out of action in August.

Unfortunately, the injury led to Tommy John Surgery and a missed 2021 campaign for Freeman. He also underwent TJS in 2010.

Freeman owns a respectable 8-7, 3.58, 271-game record, but a 5.2 BB9. Control is clearly a concern.

On the other hand, he’s a groundball pitcher, inducing grounders 51.5% of the time since he broke in with St. Louis. He throws a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a splitter and a curve.

The bottom line? If Freeman recovers well from Tommy John Surgery, maintains his GB%, and harnesses his control issue, he could find success in the middle of the Kansas City bullpen. And that’s an area in need of help.

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Sam Freeman is Kansas City’s latest minor league signee.