Royals boost pitching staff with surprising Saturday trade

KC deals away prospect for a reliever.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The KC Royals career of pitching prospect David Sandlin is over almost before it really began.

Sandlin, a 2022 draft pick who pitched only one full season for the organization, is gone, off to Boston in a fairly surprising deal the club announced late Saturday morning. Coming to Kansas City is big leaguer John Schreiber, a reliever with some proven bullpen credentials.

What makes the latest in general manager J.J. Picollo's encouraging winter acquisitions more than a bit surprising is the involvement of the promising Sandlin. An 11th-round draft choice of the pitching-challenged Royals two seasons ago (we gave the selection a B), Sandlin signed in time to pitch once that summer in the Arizona Complex League and struck out three in the two innings he worked.

Sandlin, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the 19th-best KC prospect before Saturday's deal, started last season at Single-A Columbia, where his impressive 4-1, 3.38 ERA, 12.2 K/9 effort in 14 starts warranted a late June bump-up to High-A Columbia. Unfortunately, he pitched only twice for the River Bandits before an injury forced him to the sidelines in early July and kept him there for the rest of the campaign.

He finished the season 4-2, 3.51 with an 11.75 K/9 and 2.43 BB/9.

Trading David Sandlin nets the Royals a promising bullpen addition

That the Royals might still be searching for a new closer, even after they'd already acquired veteran closer Will Smith, became known late last month. Whether Schreiber fits that bill remains to be seen, but it's certainly possible.

Why? Schreiber's eight saves tied for the Boston lead in 2022. The season was his best yet in the majors — the Sox deployed him 64 times, and he went 4-4 with a nifty 2.22 ERA, an excellent 0.985 WHIP, and 74 strikeouts in 65 innings.

What may be a more likely role for Schreiber, though, is as a set-up man for Smith. He'd get plenty of chances to pitch and could be ready to take Smith's place should Smith find himself attractive to other clubs during the midsummer trade deadline period.

Overall, Schreiber, a righthander, is 8-6 with a 3.58 ERA in his five-season,139-game career. He throws a slider more than any other pitch, and supplements it with a four-seam fastball, changeup, and sinker. And while his career 10.36 K/9 is good, last year's 4.82 BB/9, a mark that exceeded 3.00 for the first time in his big league career, suggests his control may bear watching.

The Royals immediately added Schreiber to their 40-man roster and moved pitcher Kyle Wright to the 60-day Injured List.

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