With just three weeks left on their 2023 schedule, the KC Royals announced four significant changes to their roster before Saturday's game with Toronto. To the Injured Lists go pitcher Austin Cox (60-day List with a left knee issue manager Matt Quatraro reportedly says could be an ACL injury) and catcher Freddy Fermin (10-day with a finger fracture), while Brad Keller returns from a long IL stint and catcher Tyler Cropley heads from Double-A to the majors.
The moves, all but Keller's reactivation prompted by necessity, beg some questions.
Will missing the rest of the season hurt KC Royals reliever Austin Cox?
Until suffering his knee injury Friday night against Toronto, Cox, part of the club's 2018 draft class that boasted a slew of top pitching prospects, was making an arguably decent case to return to Kansas City's bullpen next season. He left the game with a 4.54 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 35.2 innings, numbers that, while not ideal, certainly aren't the worst among KC's lackluster relief corps.
But landing on the 60-day IL with three weeks left in this campaign means he won't pitch again until next year, and might impact whatever plans the Royals have for him. He's eligible for this winter's Rule 5 draft, which means Kansas City must include him on its 40-man roster in November or risk losing him to another club in the December draft. The Royals left him unprotected last year; a knee injury won't improve his prospects for 2023 Rule 5 protection, and could give other clubs pause should Kansas City not shield him this time around.