Baseball’s winter of transactions has begun. To no one’s surprise, the KC Royals haven’t signed any big free agents. Nor have they made any trades.
And, no, they haven’t non-tendered Ryan O’Hearn.
But the Royals aren’t standing pat—with just a few days left to finalize their 40-man roster for purposes of protecting players from next month’s Rule 5 draft, they’ve moved some players and added others. Several transactions brought the 40-man to 39 players as of late Thursday night, but more moves will undoubtedly take place before the Nov. 15 deadline to set that roster.
Players not on the 40-man roster who signed with a big league club at age 18 and have played five professional seasons, and those who signed at 19 or older with four pro campaigns under their belts, are Rule 5-eligible and subject to being drafted by any club with at least one space available on their 40-man. With limited exceptions, drafting clubs must keep draftees on their 26-man roster all next season or risk losing them.
What have the Royals done so far?
The KC Royals have lost four relievers to waivers and DFA’d a catcher.
Kansas City’s first changes came Oct. 26. Unbeknownst to fans because such moves typically don’t become public, the club had three pitchers—Luke Weaver, Tyler Zuber, and Ryan Weiss—on waivers, none of whom are now on the 40-man. Seattle claimed Weaver, Arizona took Zuber and, after no one claimed Weiss, the Royals outrighted him to Triple-A Omaha.
Interestingly, the Diamondbacks DFA’d Zuber Wednesday. He missed this season rehabilitating from a shoulder injury.
Weaver became a Royal Aug. 1 via a trade deadline deal with the D-backs that sent Emmanuel Rivera to Arizona and gave up 15 runs (12 earned) in 19.1 innings with KC. Weiss came to Kansas City by way of another transaction with Arizona: the Royals claimed him off waivers July 1 and he went 2-2 with an unsightly 7.82 in 30 appearances at Omaha.
The Mariners struck again Wednesday when they made a waiver claim on reliever Gabe Speier, who was 0-2, 3.83 in parts of four Kansas City campaigns.
Thursday brought another 40-man move. KC designated backup catcher Sebastian Rivero for assignment, meaning he could end up with another club or, if unclaimed, back in the Royals’ minor league system.
Starter Zack Greinke also dropped off the 40-man when he elected free agency Sunday.
Five players found themselves added to the KC Royals’ 40-man roster Thursday.
Although players on the 60-day Injured List don’t count against the 40-man roster during the season, they must be placed on the 40-man, or moved, during the offseason; with the Nov. 15 roster deadline approaching, Kansas City transferred five Royals to the 40-man Thursday.
The most notable returnee is Adalberto Mondesi. After injuries forced him to miss all but 35 games in 2021, he suffered an ACL tear early this season and played only 15 games. Although the club will likely keep him, the move might have been made simply to protect him from the Rule 5—any team choosing him must pay Kansas City $100,000, and the Royals may feel they can reap a better return if they find a trade partner for the oft-injured infielder.
Also back on the 40-man are relievers Jake Brentz and Richard Lovelady. Brentz had a good 5-2, 3.66 rookie season in 2021 but was 0-3 and yielded 15 runs in 5.1 innings before a left flexor strain forced him to the IL in late April. He didn’t make it back to Kansas City but pitched twice on a late season rehab assignment to Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Lovelady, after struggling with the Royals in 2019 and 2020, was 2-0 with a 3.48 ERA over 20 games in 2021. But he suffered a UCL sprain before the season ended and later underwent Tommy John Surgery; he didn’t pitch again until late this year when he didn’t give up a run and struck out nine in four minor league innings.
Pitcher Ángel Zerpa was also restored to the 40-man. He appeared in three games (two starts) for the Royals this year and was 2-1 with a 1.64 ERA. A knee injury ended his season in July.
Samad Taylor also joined the 40-man. A versatile player capable of playing in the infield or the outfield, Taylor has been with the organization since August when Toronto traded him and pitcher Max Castillo for Whit Merrifield. Unfortunately, Taylor was injured at the time and didn’t play until the Arizona Fall league began last month—he’s slashing .152/.237/.318 with two homers, 10 RBIs and nine steals in 21 games.
Who the Royals add to their 40-man roster before Tuesday’s deadline, and who gets cut to make room for them, will be interesting to see.
Kansas City is making 40-man roster moves and will make more before next week.