Editor's Note: The original version of this story reported that the KC Royals had re-signed pitcher Josh Staumont. That is not the case, and we apologize for any confusion that part of the story may have caused.
Baseball's annual non-tender/tender deadline, that November date by which all 30 clubs must decide whether to offer major league contracts to certain of their players, typically jump-starts an otherwise quiet trade market. And this year proved no different for the KC Royals, who stirred to life with some interesting moves on deadline day Friday, then announced four more Saturday.
Getting things going Friday were two trades with Atlanta — the Royals picked up reliever Nick Anderson in a straight cash-for-player deal, then traded pitcher Jackson Kowar to the Braves for starter Kyle Wright.
The Royals then went about the business of non-tenders, announcing they weren't offering 2024 big league contracts to catcher Logan Porter, outfielder Diego Hernandez, and pitchers Josh Staumont and Austin Cox. To conclude their busy Friday, the Royals re-signed reliever Josh Taylor.
And Saturday, Kansas City announced four more transactions — the signing of a new pitcher, and the returns of the previously non-tendered trio of Porter, Hernandez, and Cox. All inked minor league deals.
Who's the new Kansas City hurler?
In another move to bolster their woeful pitching, the Royals acquired former Mets and Reds reliever Luis Cessa. Cessa, who'll turn 32 in April, is a veteran of eight big league seasons, six with the Mets and the most recent three with Cincinnati. His best performance came in 2021, when in 53 games split between New York and the Reds he went 5-2 with an impressive 2.51 ERA.
But this season was much different for the righthander. A 1-4, 9.00 effort over seven games led Cincinnati to release him in mid-May; he later pitched in the Colorado and Washington organizations without making it back to the majors. Cessa is 17-22 with a 4.43 ERA in the big leagues, and throws a four-seam fastball, slider, sinker and changeup.
The KC Royals are bringing back reliever Josh Taylor
Many expected the club to non-tender Taylor, the reliever they picked up in January's pre-spring training deal that sent Adalberto Mondesi to Boston. After starting him at Triple-A Omaha, the Royals called Taylor up in April and he unfortunately surrendered 17 runs in 17.2 innings before a left shoulder impingement syndrome prematurely ended his season in late May.
But instead of letting him go and trying to re-sign him to a minor league contract, Kansas City brought him back on what appears to be a $1.1 million, one-season salary, and in the process avoided arbitration with the lefty reliever.
A day after their non-tenders, four players are back in the organization
The re-signings of Porter, Hernandez, and Cox were actually routine. For a variety of reasons, clubs frequently non-tender players they like, only to turn right around and return them on minor league deals.
Porter, a catcher with power who KC finally called up this season, can, unless traded, provide some insurance in case Salvador Perez or Freddy Fermin get hurt. Hernandez spent much of the 2023 campaign on the sidelines after dislocating a shoulder in spring training, but his speed on the bases (107 steals in five minor league campaigns, including 40 in 2022 and 35 the season before) is hard to walk away from.
And Cox? The circumstances of his return are the most interesting of the four. In a transactions whirlwind that started Friday, the club designated him for assignment to clear roster space for Anderson and, after they non-tendered him just hours later, he elected free agency, then rejoined the organization on his minor league contract.
Now, after all their Friday and Saturday activity, the Royals certainly aren't done working on their roster. Stay tuned.