Hot and heavy rumors and speculation surrounding the KC Royals and their 40-man roster came to an abrupt end Tuesday.
Facing a 5 p.m. CDT deadline to establish its 40-man for Rule 5 Draft purposes, the club didn’t keep fans on the edge of their seats for long. The Royals announced seven player moves before Noon (Twitter link)—they added three players and designated three others for assignment, and signed another.
That last move, which avoided a potential arbitration tussle, is likely to generate more controversy than the other six combined.
The KC Royals have signed Ryan O’Hearn to another one-year contract.
Kansas City, perhaps by virtue of his pinch hitting success only, avoided arbitration with Ryan O’Hearn by signing him up for another year. O’Hearn, the target of much fan criticism in 2022 after following up seasons of hitting .195 in 2019 and 2020, then .225 in 2021, with a .239 average this season, hit .367 (11-for-30) this year as a pinch hitter.
And it looks like he’ll earn more than the $1.3 million Kansas City paid him this season—Kansas City Star KC beat writer Lynn Worthy reports O’Hearn is getting a raise:
The Royals might have done the deal with O’Hearn in order to keep and trade him, but finding a trade partner willing to give much of a return seems improbable.
What other moves did KC make?
The KC Royals added an outfielder, a catcher and a pitcher to the 40-man.
Kansas City protected outfielder Diego Hernández, catcher Freddy Fermin, and pitcher Alec Marsh from the Rule 5 Draft by placing them on the 40-man roster.
Hernández, who we recently suggested could be a 40-man addition, is a speedy outfielder with a good glove and bat. Playing for both High-A Quad Cities and Double-A Northwest Arkansas this season, he stole 40 bases—five more than he swiped the year before—and hit .284, including .298 for the Double-A Naturals. Look for him to start the 2023 campaign at Triple-A Omaha.
MLB Pipeline ranks Hernández as Kansas City’s 20th-best prospect.
Adding Fermin to the 40-man may signal the Royals will carry three catchers again next season (and could mean the club has no, or little, interest in a reunion with Cam Gallagher). He received his first taste of the majors this season by playing for Kansas City three times. His 37 minor league homers in the last three years prove he has some power and he has a career .268/.350/.408 minor league slash.
Kansas City took Marsh in the second round of the 2019 amateur draft; since then, he’s struggled in the minors, winning just three of his 23 decisions and accumulating an unsightly 6.10 ERA. Despite his troubles, MLB Pipeline rates him 19th among the club’s Top 30 prospects.
To make room for their additions, the KC Royals DFA’d a trio of players.
Because Kansas City entered Tuesday with one open spot on its 40-man roster, adding three players and keeping O’Hearn required the club to remove three to get to the 40-man limit. They did so by designating pitchers Jake Brentz and Nathan Webb, and outfielder Brent Rooker, for assignment.
Brentz, who had a breakout rookie season with the Royals in 2021 (5-2, 3.66 ERA), missed most of the 2022 campaign after suffering a left flexor strain in April. Don’t be surprised to see him return, however—Kansas City non-tendered Richard Lovelady, who was then recovering from Tommy John Surgery, last year but soon signed him to a minor league deal.
Webb has been in the organization since it picked him up in the 34th round of the 2016 draft. He’s never made it to the big leagues and is 15-17, 6.11 in 110 minor league appearances (26 starts).
The Royals acquired Rooker in July via the trade deadline deal that sent Gallagher to San Diego. He hit .160 with a pair of RBIs in 14 games following the trade. He also posted a .338/.424/.775 line and hit nine homers in 20 games for Omaha.
Kansas City made seven roster moves Tuesday.