As pitchers and catchers reported to Surprise, the Royals added another surprise by signing Mike Minor to a two year deal with a third year mutual option (always a mutual option, my friends, always). Minor is guaranteed $2 million this year, $4 million next year and a $1.25 million buyout after the 2017 season if the Royals and he decide not to mutually agree to pay him $10 million for the 2018 season.
Having not pitched in 2015 and, frankly, not being very good in 2014, Minor is not even expected to be ready to pitch this year until late May or early June. Let’s not kid ourselves, we all know how pitching you way back from injury works: count yourself lucky if Mike Minor is ready to face major league hitters any time before July 1st. Count yourself doubly lucky if a Royal clad Minor resembles the very competent major league starter he was in 2012 or the quite good starter that pitched for Atlanta in 2013. All of that though is really not the point of this signing.
Once the last Royal pitch is thrown in 2016 – hopefully on national TV in a World Series game – Kansas City will have to decide if they want to pick up their side of the $10 million dollar mutual options on Edinson Volquez ($3 million buyout) and Kris Medlen ($1 million buyout). And we all know how mutual options work, if the Royals want to pick up their side of either one it is because the pitchers in question had outstanding seasons and will likely have no desire to exercise their side of the option. If the players and keep in mind what even average starting pitching goes for these days, want to pick up their options it is likely the Royals will have zero desire to reciprocate.
Truthfully, those might be the last two options the Royals make a run at after the 2016 season. Remember, Wade Davis has a team option, Kendrys Morales a mutual as does Luke Hochevar, and let’s not forget the team options held for Escobar and Perez. To quote Kevin Costner in Bull Durham, ‘we’re dealing with a lot of sh*T here.’
Kansas City will stay have Yordano Ventura, Ian Kennedy and Chris Young under contract for 2017. Also there (via arbitration) will be Danny Duffy, who will be a factor in the 2017 rotation question no matter his role in this coming season. Back will come Jason Vargas to join the above mentioned Minor and, of course, we’ll all be expecting Kyle Zimmer to make some type of impact ‘around mid-season’ for the fourth straight year.
So, the Royals have essentially positioned themselves to swap Minor and Vargas for Volquez and Medlen, keep the other five and once again go into the spring with seven pitchers fighting for five spots (and that does not factor in Dillon Gee, who is a factor…sort of, anyway). Inventory. Remember that word from years’ past?
Remember when ‘inventory’ meant signing Horacio Ramirez, trading for Vin Mazzaro and assuming Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza were locks for a rotation spot? Back when Will Smith (who, to his credit, is fashioning himself a decent relief career) and Felipe Paulino were your ‘extra guys’? Times have changed.
Listen, I loved the Medlen signing and think he may surprise us by a lot this year, but I am less sold on Mike Minor and, as you can tell, I might just faint if Kyle Zimmer actually does stay healthy long enough to throw a major league pitch that matters. All said, that the Royals’ starting pitching depth might be Duffy at six, Gee at seven, Minor at eight and Zimmer at nine is really quite impressive given this organization’s not too distant past.
Without question, there are legitimate questions with regard to the top of the rotation (nine ‘number four’ starters is just too much of not enough) and you cannot point to one starter in the group that is without concerns, but there is also not one starter in this group (maybe Gee is one) that is without the potential to be a good major league starting pitcher. If nine back of the rotation guys is bad, then four middle rotation guys and a hot hand at the five spot with this bullpen is certainly good enough.
Dayton Moore has inventory, actual major league inventory mind you, for this year AND for next year. That’s a start and that is exactly what the Mike Minor signing was all about.