The Royals roster shuffle
The Royals are making moves and positioning themselves to add some young names to the 40-man roster ahead of an upcoming deadline.
With the World Series coming to a close on Tuesday, the baseball offseason kicks off in full. “Kick off” is a relative term given the most important date in the winter calendar is December 1, the day the current CBA is set to expire. It’s going to start, but you figure that in about 30 days, it’s going to stall.
Sure, the free agents have been released en masse, but it’s safe to expect a lack of any kind of impact moves until a new CBA is signed. Unfortunately, despite Rob Manfred’s spin, it’s anyone’s guess as to when that will happen. Still, there are a couple of key dates that remain on the calendar, the first of which is November 19, when teams need to have their 40-man rosters set ahead of the Rule 5 draft.
When Freddie Freeman caught the throw at first for the final out of the 2021 season, that officially made Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Ervin Santana and Jesse Hahn free agents. Davis and Hahn were on the 60-day IL, so the four only represent two spots on the 40-man roster. The Royals have made a few roster moves in the last couple of days to open up a few more spots. Let’s start with the most recent.
The Royals released Ryan McBroom
Whoa. Just like that. Released. Looks harsh. The verbiage from the press release was a bit more gentle. “(We) have requested Unconditional Release Waivers on first baseman/outfielder Ryan McBroom for the purpose of allowing him to sign with an Asian team.”
So McBroom has an opportunity to play overseas and the Royals are letting him go.
McBroom was acquired from the Yankees in late 2019 and had a decent enough September, hitting .293/.361/.360 with an OPS+ of 92. He had roughly the same number of plate appearances in 2020, but went on a pinch-hitting dinger barrage and finished at .247/.282/.506, with an OPS+ of 107. Average those two small samples and you have a roughly average major league bat. Fun how that happens.
McBroom spent almost the entirety of 2021 in Omaha where he hit .261/.337/.524 in just under 500 plate appearances. He is the definition of the Quad-A player. Good enough to anchor the middle of the lineup and bash 30+ home runs in the upper levels of the minors, but with a skill set that doesn’t translate to consistent success in the majors.
With the success of the young hitters throughout the system, and the need to put some of those bats on the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, McBroom didn’t have a spot on this roster. He’s traveling across the Pacific, to an unspecified league in Asia. That skill set that didn’t work in the majors will probably allow him to dominate in the Pacific Rim. Wherever he lands, it won’t be surprising if he puts up some crazy impressive numbers.
Hanser Alberto elected free agency
It’s procedural, but allow me to geek out on the MLB roster rules. The Royals removed Alberto from their 40-man roster by placing him on waivers. He could’ve stayed with the organization as technically a minor league player, but instead has chosen to return to the free-agent market.
Entering the 2021 season, the Royals needed infield coverage, and “Lefty Killer” Alberto, who could play second, third and short, fit the bill. He ended up appearing in 103 games, collecting 255 plate appearances, hitting .270/.291/.402 with an 85 OPS+. Despite a noted platoon split, his plate appearances were evenly distributed against left and right-handed pitching—128 PAs came against right-handers while 127 PAs were off southpaws.
Alberto didn’t appreciably fare better against those lefties, hitting .286/.317/.454 with both of his home runs. That was a 108 sOPS+ (OPS+ split relative to the league), which is fine, but he’s traditionally fared much better against southpaws.
Defensively, he logged most of his innings at third, with additional frames sprinkled in up the middle at second and short. He didn’t distinguish himself with the glove, but given the amount of time he spent on the field, didn’t hurt the team with the leather either.
Oh, and he can pitch!
Alberto has over five years of service time and was technically eligible for arbitration for the third time. I say technically because he was non-tendered by Baltimore at the December deadline last winter, making him a free agent. (Which is how he ended up in Kansas City.) The Royals have plenty of options on the infield for a backup role, and Alberto was estimated from MLB Trade Rumors to earn $2.1 million next year.
The Royals sent Scott Blewett outright to Omaha Storm Chasers
That’s the official transaction. Blewett, however, did not accept the assignment and, like Alberto, chose free agency.
Blewett, a former second-round pick, become sort of a mini-Edward Olivares as the season drew to a close, getting recalled from and optioned to Omaha no fewer than three times starting in late August. Despite all the I-29 mileage, he only appeared in three games, throwing a total of five major league innings in 2021.
Blewett opened the 2021 season ranked as the Royals’ 25th best prospect according to Baseball America, but was designated for assignment at the end of spring training to make room for Jake Brentz on the 40-man roster. He remained with the organization but didn’t see results in Triple-A action, throwing 69 innings with a 6.39 ERA with an 8.3 SO/9 and 4.0 BB/9. He bounced between the rotation and the bullpen and missed around a month of the season after he was put on the IL with right shoulder soreness in mid-July. The control issues continued in his brief cameo in Kansas City where he walked five in those five innings.
While it’s possible this is the end of Blewett’s time with the Royals organization, they could still bring him back on a minor league deal. That’s kind of his role at this point in his career: A depth arm, used in an emergency situation. As teams burn through pitchers, that’s not a bad spot to be, actually. Could get yourself another cup of coffee.
The above three moves are all procedural, impacting the fringes of the Kansas City roster. It’s all about creating space and planning ahead for that November 19 date when they will have to lock in their 40-man ahead of the following month’s (tentative) Rule 5 draft. As Santana and Holland hit the free-agent market, the Royals now have 35 players on that 40-man roster.
The team has plenty of players eligible for the Rule 5 draft they will need to protect. The obvious names include MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto, along with Austin Cox and Jonathan Bowlan on the pitching side. There are others, to be sure. Don't forget, the Royals always manage to spring a surprise or two when the time comes to set the roster. (Angel Zerpa, anyone?)
Winter is here. Hopefully, the CBA can get settled and we can experience a relatively normal off season.
Do you believe McBroom leaving to play in Asia means O'Hearn will be spared and kept on the 40 man roster? My hope is he is non tendered and ultimately released. I don't want to see Pratto or Vinnie blocked at AAA.