Buried somewhere between a turkey carcass and whatever grandma does with those sweet potatoes, the Royals made a couple of moves Thanksgiving weekend.
Even amateurs know you use the Friday after the holiday to bury the bad news, so it wasn’t exactly surprising that the Royals chose that day to announce Mike Matheny would be joining the club as a special advisor. Despite protestations from the beats not to read too much into this move (as in, the Royals just brought the successor to Ned Yost into the org), it’s never too early to panic. Dayton Moore is quite predictable when it comes to matters such as this. Anywho, why rehash that unpleasantness when Colby summed everything up quite succinctly.
The other move the Royals made, one with fewer long-term consequences, they grabbed right-hander Connor Greene from the Cardinals via waivers. In a corresponding move, they designated Burch Smith for assignment. This is what qualifies as action this winter in Kansas City. Bundle up.
Damn if I know what the Royals see in Greene that they need to create a roster space for him at this very moment. I’m no Burch Smith fanboy, but Greene? When he’s standing next to Josh Staumont and you point at Staumont as having better control, that should raise a red flag or six about the newest Royal. Greene opened the 2018 season in the Texas League and posted a 5.9 BB/9 in just under 50 innings. If you’re going to issue walks like that, it would be nice if you could counter with an abundance of whiffs. An 8.0 SO/9 isn’t going to do it.
Still, that work earned Greene a promotion to the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate where he practically flip-flopped his strikeouts (5.9 SO/9) and walks (an astronomical 8.0 BB/9). He’s struggled with control before, but never like this. For good measure, he went to the Arizona Fall League and walked 15 in just under 10 innings. Damn your small sample size. That’s abysmal.
It was enough for the Cardinals to drop him from the 40-man roster ahead of the deadline to set rosters prior to next month’s Rule 5 draft. Greene arrived in the St. Louis organization last year in the deal that sent Randal Grichuk to Toronto. Prior to that trade, Greene was rated as the Blue Jays fifth best prospect by the BP prospect crew.
The good news: He does throw hard.
The velocity stands out, reaching triple digits from an easy delivery, and sitting 94-98 mph throughout his starts. Greene’s fastball is lively with above-average movement in the mid-90s, though it will become true when he reaches back for peak velocity. The changeup is a second strong pitch with arm-speed deception and good fade.
The Royals obviously see something in the delivery they can fix that will yield better control. Note that by using the word “better” the bar is already set extremely low. Another thing that works in Greene’s favor that I’m sure the Royals realize is that he’s been young for the league he’s played in at every stop along the organizational ladder. Not that age matters so much when you can’t find the strike zone, but he probably deserves a chance or three before he rides off to the independent leagues. And the Royals, on a never-ending quest for bullpen help and in a low pressure situation of zero expectations, can afford to give him that chance.
We saw what Smith could do for a full season and it wasn’t impressive. Why not go ahead and switch him out for another live arm. Still, the control issue for Greene is a massive problem and if he can’t fix that, he’s topping out in the bullpen at Triple-A.
The deadline to tender contracts to players eligible for arbitration is Friday evening. The Royals have three players on the roster who can go to arbitration: Cheslor Cuthbert, Brian Flynn and Jesse Hahn. All three are eligible for the first time.
Cuthbert is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make $1.1 million next year. That’s not going to break the bank, even on a club looking to scrimp and save like the Royals. However, why keep him around at all? He missed most of last summer with an injury and when he was in the lineup, both in Kansas City and Omaha, he didn’t exactly produce. He’s just not an average offensive player, even when healthy. Same could be said about the defense. If he had any kind of versatility, you could possibly entertain an argument to keep him around, but it just doesn’t seem to make enough sense. I’m with Flanagan here; the roster space a non-tender would create is more valuable.
Flynn saw his walk rate increase while his whiff rate tumbled. Not a great combination, but the lefty does keep the ball in the yard for the most part, which limits the potential damage. He gave the Royals 75 innings out of the pen and MLB Trade Rumors figures that’s good for a raise to a cool $1 million. Why not? It gives the Royals a little more certainty in the bullpen. Not that you would necessarily give Flynn key innings on the regular, but you can certainly find a tiny bit of value in an average reliever.
Hahn pitched just six innings in three minor league stops while rehabbing from an injury. (My god! That’s Kyle Zimmer’s music!) He had surgery to repair his UCL (not Tommy John) in August and is now in the process of another rehab. Trade Rumors projects the biggest raise for the starter, at $1.7 million. That’s quite a chunk of change for a pitcher who is not supposed to be ready until the early part of next year. But it’s a cost the Royals should absorb as they need to find out if Hahn can rebound from his latest injury. The upside is certainly there.
Every move the Royals make should be viewed through the prism of their timetable to contend. The smart money says they’re in rebuild mode at least until 2022, which means neither Flynn or Hahn figure to be around when the next expected wave of talent from The Process 2.0 reaches the majors. That doesn’t disqualify them from getting tendered as the Royals still need to fill their roster for the upcoming sesaon. It’s just that, at these arbitration prices, it’s a bit of business even the Royals can afford.