STORY UPDATE: Well after we published this story, the KC Royals announced they have non-tendered Austin Cox who, as this story discusses, they had earlier in the day designated for assignment. Still later, MLB.com listed on its transactions tracker that Cox has now chosen free agency.
As Friday afternoon reached its midpoint, and with just a few hours left before the passage of the evening's contract tender (or non-tender, if you prefer) deadline, the KC Royals made a couple of moves. Tinkering with their troubled bullpen, they sent cash considerations to Atlanta for big league reliever Nick Anderson, and designated Austin Cox for assignment.
The first transaction could, and should, be only the first adjustment general manager J.J. Picollo makes to Kansas City's relief corps, a unit that had the second-worst ERA, gave up the third-most home runs, and walked the fourth-highest number of batters, in the majors. The second move was necessitated by the first — the Royals had to open up a 40-man roster spot for Anderson.
Nick Anderson brings some experience to the Kansas City bullpen
Anderson's acquisition adds a righthander who knows the professional baseball ropes. This season was his fourth in the majors, but at 33 he's been pitching since breaking in as a pro at the Class A level in 2015. He's 17-8 with a nice 2.71 ERA in parts of seven minor league seasons.
More importantly, Anderson owns a more than respectable 3.09 ERA over 128 major league relief appearances, and his performances include a notable 0.55 ERA in 19 2020 games. H was also 5-4, 3.32 in a rookie season split between Miami and Tampa Bay in 2019.
Unfortunately, injuries caused him to miss all but six games of the 2021 season and all of 2022. He went 4-0, 3.06 in 35 games for the Braves this year.
Anderson also boasts impressive big league career strikeout (12.69 BB/9) and walk (2.35 BB/9) numbers and an effective curveball, four-seamer, sinker, combination.
Interestingly enough, Anderson brings his eligibility for arbitration with him to the Royals; Major League Baseball Trade Rumors projects he'll command a $1.6 million salary for next season, an amount his new team can easily afford.
The KC Royals DFA'd Austin Cox, but that may not mean much
Kansas City had to remove someone from the 40-man roster to accommodate Anderson's arrival, and Cox was the choice. And not a very surprising one at that.
Cox, remember, is on the mend from the anterior cruciate ligament tear he suffered in September and underwent subsequent surgery, so whether he'll pitch at all for anyone next season remains to be seen, and is no sure thing. Designating him for assignment, then, may be a low-risk proposition — given the uncertainty that surrounds him, other teams aren't likely to claim Cox on waivers or be interested in trading for him.
If he's not claimed on outright waivers or traded, the Royals could retain rights to Cox by outrighting him to the minors, so he may remain a Royal.
Cox broke into the majors for the first time this season and went 0-1, 4.54. He pitched only 24 times before the ACL injury ended his season, and will officially still be a rookie whenever he returns to action. His five-year minor league record is 22-16 with a 3.65 ERA