KC Royals News: Chicago strikes again, Matt Sauer confusion clarified, roster moves

Catching up with Kansas City.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Someday, Brad Keller may be able to forget the disappointment of his 2023 season with the KC Royals. Keller followed up a 6-14, 5.09 ERA 2022 campaign, the worst of his career, by going a disappointing 3-4, 4.57 in a season all but wrecked by right shoulder impingement syndrome and thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms — he pitched only 11 times in the majors.

Keller became a free agent for the first time when the season ended, and that the handwriting was on the Kauffman Stadium wall for him grew increasingly obvious as the offseason progressed without any indication that general manager J.J. Picollo would include Keller in his promising reconstruction of Kansas City's pitching staff.

Now, it's certain Keller won't be with the Royals, or even a member of their organization, when they open the season at home against Minnesota March 28. Keller just signed a minor league contract with the White Sox, who've been plucking up former Royals ever since Chris Getz, an ex-Royal himself, became their general manager last August.

Because the Sox also invited Keller to spring training, he'll get a chance to make the big league club. The righthander went 38-53 with a 4.57 ERA in six Royal seasons, and was named the Kansas City chapter of the Baseball Writer's Association of America Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year winner in 2018 and 2020.

Kansas City makes several personnel adjustments

The Royals have again reduced the number of players working in their major league camp. The latest moves began Thursday when they optioned pitcher Jonathan Bowlan, who needed a good Cactus League season, to Triple-A Omaha, and moved catcher Tyler Cropley and pitcher Christian Chamberlain to minor league camp.

More moves came Friday when the club optioned bullpen prospect Will Klein and fellow reliever Steven Cruz to Omaha, and reassigned catcher Rodolfo Durán to its minor league camp.

Just what is Matt Sauer's situation with the Royals?

This is an easy question to answer, but with a caveat. Sauer is, via December's Rule 5 Draft, one of the hurlers Picollo brought in over the winter to beef up Kansas City's shaky pitching staff.

That's the short answer; the need for the caveat lies in what his Rule 5 status means.

The popular misconception is that the Royals must offer Sauer, for whom they paid the Yankees $100,00, back to New York if they fail to keep him on the major league roster for the entire 162-game 2024 season.

But that's not what Rule 5 mandates — the Royals only risk having to return him to the Yanks if they decide they need, or want, to remove him from the 26-man roster.

Here's how it actually works. Let's say Sauer slumps, and Picollo and manager Matt Quatraro want to send him down to Omaha where he can work on whatever ails him. It's not at that point that the Royals must give New York a shot at him; instead, they're required to first put him on waivers. Then, if no other club claims him, KC must offer him to the Yankees for $50,000. Should New York pass, Kansas City can then send Sauer to Omaha.

Sauer can also spend time on the Injured List, but still has to be active for 90 days. If his injury prevents him from satisfying the 90-day rule this season and the Royals want him back next year, he remains subject to Rule 5 movement restrictions until he gets that 90th day. The Royals can also trade him, but Rule 5's limitations follow him to his new team.

Through Friday's Cactus League games, Sauer has struck out six, walked three, given up five hits, surrendered a run, and recorded a win in four innings spread across three appearances.

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