Finally. Blaine Boyer was placed on the disabled list with a back strain. (I know. Insert your own snark about his “injury” here.) This should realistically end his tenure in Kansas City. We can use all the caveats available to us this season. The Royals aren’t contending this year. They are just beginning their rebuild. The record doesn’t matter. Yada, yada, yada. Those are still truisms, yet there is something frustrating with the way they latch on to certain players and use them beyond what any other professional franchise would do.
Boyer is simply the latest in a long line of players that include Yuniesky Betancourt, Kyle Davies and even Alcides Escobar. There’s simply no reason for Boyer to be on the disabled list because he should have been given his release long ago. There is nothing he’s doing well this season. His strikeout rate of 3.9 SO/9 is criminal. His walk rate of 5.2 BB/9 is obscene. The 11.76 ERA is disgusting and his 7.76 FIP makes me nauseous.
Boyer was good back in 2015 for the Twins. He was OK for the Brewers the following year but things didn’t go as well for him in Boston last summer. At $1 million for this year, it wasn’t an insane move for the Royals to take a flyer on Boyer for the 2018 season. Relievers, as we all know, are fungible. They can dominate one year and revert to the opposite end of the spectrum the next. The trends weren’t promising for Boyer over the last couple of years, and in today’s swing and miss game the depressed strikeout rate was a red flag, but it wasn’t a bad gamble to throw some money his way to see what, if anything, was still left in the tank.
But when it becomes apparent that there’s nothing there, you have to be ready to move on. And that’s where the Royals always seem to stumble.
Thanks to the Baseball Reference Play Index, we see relievers as bad as Boyer has been don’t often have a chance to stick around. Boyer has thrown 20.2 innings this year, so that’s our baseline. Here are the relievers in the last 20 years to throw at least 20 innings with an ERA of over 11.
None of those guys pitched a full season in the big leagues. Because they just weren’t good enough. (Apologies to those I may have triggered with an Albie Lopez mention. Had I known that name was going to turn up on my search, I would have skipped this post altogether.)
The point is not to disparage Boyer. It’s to ask, again, what exactly compels the Royals to keep someone around who clearly isn’t good enough to be in the big leagues. And it seems to be a relatively minor matter to be discussing a now injured reliever on a team destined for close to 100 losses. Yet, if the front office can’t see this in the low pressure situation of the opening stages of a rebuild, can we trust their judgment if they ever get back into a position to contend? Just because they caught success once, doesn’t mean it can happen again. Were lessons learned from the first Process?
As far as this situation goes, it’s best for both parties to to completely sever ties and let Boyer decide if he wants to continue to pursue a major league career. It’s not working for him in Kansas City.