While Carlos Correa's strange three-team free agent odyssey seemed to end with a deal to return to Minnesota, and Johnny Cueto appears headed for Miami, the KC Royals continued to nibble around the edges of the free agent market Tuesday when they announced the acquistions of three free agents, none of whom are expected to have the kind of immediate impacts Correa and Cueto will for their clubs.
Kansas City signed infielder-outfielder Matt Beaty and pitchers Kohl Stewart and Nick Wittgren (Twitter link) to minor league deals. Wittgren joining the club had been previously reported, but Beaty's and Stewart's signings hadn't.
Wittgren, a righthanded reliever who's 19-15 with a 3.96 ERA in seven big league seasons, and was 1-0 with a save and a 5.90 ERA in 29 games with St. Louis last season, appears to be arriving with no baggage. The same can't be said, though, about Beaty and Stewart: recent injuries have hindered both.
New KC Royals player Matt Beaty missed almost all of the 2022 season.
Why Beaty played only 20 times for San Diego last season deserves attention. After appearing in 12 of the Padres' first 22 games, left shoulder impingement limited him to five games in May, three in September, and none in June, July and August. His shoulder issue, and the time he spent on the Injured List and a long minor league rehab assignment, surely contributed to his poor .093/.170/.163 line.
Whether Beaty's injury will impact his 2023 season remains to be seen, but it's clear the Royals have reasons to be optimistic about his potential with the club. Beaty broke in with the Dodgers in 2019 and hit .265 with nine home runs in 99 games and, although he slumped to .220 in the short 2020 season, he bounced back the next year with a fine .270/.363/.402 120-game line.
Beaty, then, can't be dismissed as a mere minor league depth acquisition. He possesses occasional power and has played the outfield and infield corners. That he also hits lefthanded suggests he could fill the reserve defender, lefty-bat-off-the-bench role Ryan O'Hearn occupied before the Royals traded him to Baltimore earlier this month.
When Kohl Stewart will pitch for the KC Royals may be an open question.
Righthander Stewart, who can start or relieve (he's started nine of his 21 major league games), brings more injury concern to Kansas City than Beaty. An elbow issue that surfaced in 2021 and limited him to only four appearances for the Cubs (he went 1-1 with a 5.27 ERA) also prevented him from pitching at all last season. That, combined with his decision to opt out of the pandemic-abbreviated 2020 campaign, means he hasn't thrown much in the big leagues since 2019, and he pitched only nine times that season and eight in 2018.
So far, the Royals haven't said when Stewart will be ready to throw in games, which suggests he may not be ready now. But he's sure to spend time in the franchise's minor league system before Kansas City gives him a chance in the majors.
Stewart, who Minnesota drafted with the fourth pick in the 2013 amateur draft, is 5-4, 4.88 across stints with the Twins and Cubs. His wide array of pitches includes a four-seam fastball, sinker, slider, cutter, curve and changeup.
Injuries have limited the recent playing time of two new Kansas City free agent signees.