Royals Claim Pedro Ciriaco

The Royals have claimed 27-year old infielder/utility-man Pedro Ciriaco off of waivers from the San Diego Padres.

With this claim, Ciriaco will be a part of his third organization this season.

Photo Credit:  Denis Poroy/Getty Images North America

Photo Credit: Denis Poroy/Getty Images North America

Originally from the Pirates system, Ciriaco made his mark in 2012 as a member of the Boston Red Sox. In 76 games, he hit .293 with 2 HR, 15 doubles, 19 RBI, and was 16-for-19 in stolen bases while getting significant playing time at third base, second base, and shortstop. He also spent seven games in the outfield.

After hitting just .216 in 28 games for the Red Sox this season, he was dealt to the Padres in June for a PTNBL or cash. While in San Diego, he didn’t fare much better – hitting .238 in 23 games. Thus, he was designated for assignment by the club.

Prior to making his big league debut, Ciriaco was regarded as a prospect who had quick feet and soft hands, but would need his bat to come around if he was going to one day factor into a major league lineup.

Here are his career numbers:

4 years (158 games): .279/.310/.388, 21 doubles, 6 triples, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 26-for-31 in stolen bases, K:BB ratio of 4.3:1.

Being that he is only 27 and offers plenty of defensive versatility, Ciriaco figures to get a decent look at being a utility player from the bench.

Royals Represented By Solid Duo

The Royals will be represented by two players at this year’s All-Star game at Citi Field in New York.

Left fielder Alex Gordon and catcher Salvador Perez were elected by their fellow players as All-Star reserves. This will be the first All-Star roster appearance for both Royals.

Gordon and Perez are in the midst of very solid and productive seasons, both at the plate and in the field.

Photo Credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images North America

Photo Credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images North America

Offensively, Alex Gordon is currently 3rd among qualifying AL left fielders in batting average (.293) , OBP (.359), and OPS (.794), 2nd in hits (95), 4th in RBI (47), and 1st in grand slams (2). On the other side of the ball, Gordo has been even better, ranking 1st among AL left fielders in games started (81), total innings (704.2), total chances (160), putouts (152), assists (8), errors (0), and fielding percentage (1.000%). He ranks 2nd among American League left fielders with a 2.5 WAR.

Salvador Perez has been just as dependable for Kansas City this season. He ranks 2nd among qualifying AL catchers in batting average (.302), and hits (79), 5th in RBI (36), 7th in doubles (15), and 6th in total bases (110). On defense, Salvy ranks 3rd in games played (71), games started (67), innings (584.2), 5th in total chances (531) and putouts (486), 1st in assists (40) and passed balls (0). He currently ranks 3rd among AL catchers with a WAR of 2.3.

While Gordon has been mentioned in All-Star talks for the past few seasons (he was up for the final player vote in 2011), this is new territory for Salvador Perez. While many scouts and executives around the league believed that Perez would be an All-Star caliber catcher at some point in his career, nobody figured it would be this soon; after all, this is his first full season at the major league level. But he has already proven to everyone around the league that he is one of the more complete catchers in all of baseball. And what is even crazier is that he has so  much more time and room to become even better.

The 2013 All-Star game will mark the first time the Royals have had two players make the American League roster since 2003 (Mike Sweeney & Mike MacDougal) and the first time the Royals have been represented by two position players in the Mid-Summer Classic since 2000 (Mike Sweeney & Jermaine Dye).

The 2013 All-Star game will take place on Tuesday, July 16th at 7 PM CT on FOX.

Royals Sign Top European Prospect

July 2nd marks the first day of 2013 that teams are able to submit contracts to international prospects. The Royals decided to start their day with a bang.

According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, the Royals and 16-year old Italian SS Marten Gasparini have come to terms on a deal for $1.3 million – shattering the previous record of $775K held by former top European prospect Max Kepler of Germany and the Minnesota Twins.

At 6', 175 lbs., Gasparini is commonly referred to by scouts as the best Europen prospect in history. (Photo Credit: MLB.com)

At 6′, 175 lbs., Gasparini is commonly referred to by scouts as the best Europen prospect in history. (Photo Credit: MLB.com)

Gasparini is considered to be the top prospect to ever come out of Europe. He is a switch-hitting shortstop renowned for his quick hands – both at the plate and in the field – and superb athleticism. While he possesses more gap-to-gap and line drive power than homerun power, his speed plays well enough on both sides of the ball to make up for it.

One of the few knocks against Gasparini is his lack of experience against premium competition and quality pitching. He has participated in international tournaments. He excelled in the 15U World Championship last summer in Mexico (.419/.514/.710, 1 double, 4 triples, 6 SB in 6 chances), but struggled in the 18U World Championship a few says later where he was the second-youngest player (note: he played CF for Team Italy in that tournament).

While he possesses great speed and soft hands, some scouts doubt his arm strength will allow him to stay at shortstop long-term; leading them to believe that center field may be his future defensive home. Other scouts note how well his defensive game has advanced in the past few seasons, leading them to believe that he has the ability to stay at short. Either way, he should end up at a premium position long term.

No doubt, Gasparini is as raw of a product as they come. But if he can excel against the advanced pro ball competition he’ll soon be facing, he has without a doubt the highest ceiling of any European prospect from this year’s class.

Go here to read Ben Badler of Baseball America’s outstanding piece on Marten Gasparini’s journey from a small town in northern Italy to the forefront of baseball’s international stage.

The Royals’ organizational talent at shortstop, which was fairly deep beforehand, has gotten even deeper. Gasparini will join the likes of fellow shortstop prospects Adalberto Mondesi, Orlando Calixte, Humberto Arteaga, and recent first round pick Hunter Dozier.

Hochevar Moving to the ‘Pen, Moscoso Moving On

Luke Hochevar is no longer being considered for the no. 5 slot in the Royals’ rotation.

In just three outings this spring totaling all of 8.0 innings, Hoch has surrendered 6 runs (all earned), 9 hits (including 2 HR), and had a WHIP of 1.88.

Luke Hochevar's future with the Royals will be in the bullpen.

Luke Hochevar’s future with the Royals will be in the bullpen.

Mercifully, Hochevar’s time in the Royals’ rotation appears to be over. Manager Ned Yost has decided move the long-time starter to the bullpen, leaving the fifth rotation spot up for grabs between Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza. Yost said that, while they’re long shots, Will Smith and Yordano Ventura are still in the mix for the job as well.

Given his history as a starter and his ability to throw a mid-90′s fastball that’s coupled with a decent sinker/slider combo, Luke could serve as both a long-man in the bullpen (if need be) or a late-inning guy – depending on the situation. As of right now, I would envision Luke’s role in the ‘pen as either a 6th or 7th inning guy. The fact that he’s only pitched out of the bullpen three times in his career makes me wary of the thought of him pitching late in meaningful games.

It was time for a change. Actually, it is well past the time for a change. The Royals have been trying to move Hochevar all winter long, talking the most with the Colorado Rockies (Hoch is from Denver, by the way). It has been reported that the asking price for Hochevar is “quite a bit”, which is understandable given that this organization seems to be enamored with a pitcher who has a career 5.39 ERA, -0.3 WAR, and is still going through salary arbitration (he’s scheduled to make $4.56 million in 2013). But, as Ned and GMDM have beaten into the ground, Hoch has the “stuff” to be a quality starting pitcher.

He really does, though.

We’ve all seen him dominate. We’ve all also see him have a perfect game going into the 5th, 6th, or 7th inning before imploding and costing the team the game.

It’s time to ask Luke for just one good inning.

This move is similar to what the Rays did with Wade Davis last season. They’re both big-bodied pitchers who are capable of dialing it up if asked to go one inning at a time. Davis thrived in the bullpen last season (54 appearances, 70.1 IP, 2.43 ERA, 11.1 K/9, 1.4 WAR) before being traded to Kansas City with the intention of sliding him back into the rotation. If the Royals can get anything even remotely close to that from Hoch, they’ll be ecstatic.

“I think it makes us a better team. I think it makes us a stronger team. It gives us a better chance to win every day. With three weeks left, I want to get him acclimated to that role.” - Ned Yost on moving Hochevar to the bullpen (Kansas City Star)

Luke appears to be taking the move in stride and is willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win.

“I’m willing to take the ball in any position that I can to help the club. That’s the bottom line. Whether it’s starting or in relief, whatever it is, my role is not important. What’s important is that when I take the ball, I’m helping the club.” - Hochevar on moving to the bullpen (Kansas City Star)

For now, it appears that the Royals are intent on keeping Luke in the organization. While he may very well be traded at some point, the Royals are no longer “showcasing” him as a starter.
Moscoso Let Go
The Royals have opted to relase right-hander Guillermo Moscoso. Yost stated that it was clear he was not going to make the team out of spring training, so this gives him an opportunity to join another team before the waiver wire becomes flooded with other players in the same boat. Moscoso is out of minor league options, so he would have had to be exposed to waivers prior to being sent down to the minors.
The Royals acquired the righty back in November on a waiver claim from the Rockies. He has the experience and ability to pitch in either the rotation or the bullpen.

Royals Acquire Elliot Johnson

Meet Mr. Player to be Named Later.

Elliot Johnson may be the Royals' "grittiest" player since Jason Kendall. Ned loves grit.

Elliot Johnson may be the Royals’ “grittiest” player since Jason Kendall. Ned loves grit.

With Elliot Johnson, the Royals and Rays have completed the December 9th trade that saw the Royals give up Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi (plus two others) for James Shields and Wade Davis.

Johnson, who will be 29 on opening day, is known more for his versatility on the field than his presence at the plate. Although he’s spent most of his time at shortstop (154 games), he’s logged time at second base (23), third base (7), left field (4), center field (2), right field (1), and first base (1).

A switch-hitter, Johnson took part in 123 games last season for Tampa Bay – managing a .242/.304/.350 slash with 10 doubles, 2 triples, 6 HR, and 33 RBI in 297 official ABs. He also managed to swipe 18 bases in 24 total chances.

In parts of three big league seasons (200 games), Johnson has managed a .223/.283/.338 line with 31 XBH (17 doubles, 4 triples, 10 HR) and 24 stolen bases. He has a career K:BB ratio of 3.79.

For his career, he is a much better batting left-handed (.252) than right-handed (.183), so a possible platoon with Chris Getz is out of the question.

Elliot would make a great utility-man for the Royals, as he has the ability to hold his own defensively at just about every position outside of pitcher and catcher. That, coupled with the the fact that he’s a switch-hitter who is a smart base runner, make him all the more valuable to a team short on impact role players.

To make room for Johnson on the 40-man roster, the team shifted starter Felipe Paulino to the 60-day DL. Paulino is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and will likely be out until after the All-Star break.

Royals Claim George Kottaras, DFA Tony Abreu

George Kottaras

George Kottaras

The Royals have announced that they have claimed catcher George Kottaras off of waivers from the Oakland A’s, who had designated him for assignment last week after the received catcher John Jaso from the Mariners as a part of the Michael Morse trade.

Kottaras, 29, played in 58 games last season for the Brewers before being dealt to Oakland in exchange for reliever Fautino De Los Santos. While with Oakland, he took part in 27 regular season games, as well as four playoff games.

He didn’t fare too well offensively last season, posting just a .211 batting average. But George does possess the ability to take a walk (.351 OBP in ’12) and has enough power to be a threat (36 doubles and 24 HR in 592 career AB).

In order to make room for Kottaras on the 40-man roster, the Royals opted to designate utility infielder Tony Abreu for assignment.

In 2012, Abreu hit .257/.284/.357 in 22 games; splitting time at second, third, short, and DH.

As it stands right now, Kottaras and Brett Hayes figure to be the primary options for backing up Salvador Perez, with Max Ramirez and Manny Pina figuring to get a few looks as well in spring training.

Royals Sign Miguel Tejada

The Royals made very odd and thought provoking news when it was announced that they had reached an agreement with free agent and former AL MVP Miguel Tejada.

Miguel Tejada

Miguel Tejada

The deal, of the minor league variety, is worth $1.1 million and comes with up to $400K in bonuses. Although he isn’t on the 40-man roster yet, he will be as soon as a spot opens up.

Tejada stated:

“I’m very pleased with this. The contract with the Royals is a done deal. I’m going to try to help this team and their younger players. I’m so happy because this is what I was aiming for, a chance to get back to the majors.”

Tejada spent last season with the Orioles Triple-A affiliate. In 36 games, he hit .259/.325/.296 with 5 doubles and 18 RBI and got a majority of his defensive reps at third base. His last experience at the major league level came back in 2011 with the Giants. He managed to play in 91 games that season, but looked nothing like a former MVP or six-time All-Star. He managed to hit a meager .239/.270/.326 and split most of his defensive time between third base and shortstop.

At 38 years old, Miguel Tejada is instantly the oldest player within this organization at any level.

Dayton Moore has been saying that he has been looking for a backup shortstop this offseason who is more glove friendly at the position than Irving Falu and Tony Abreu. Is Miguel Tejada, a 38 year old former shortstop converted to third base because he’s gotten too slow for the position, the answer?

Being a career .285/.336/.457 hitter with 304 HR, 463 doubles, and 1282 RBI, I can’t find enough reason to believe, even at 38, that Miguel Tejada can’t hit at the major league level. I’m sure he could even fill-in a few times a week at second and third base and be at least adequate. But when it comes to being a glove-first shortstop, which is what GMDM said he was looking for to backup Escobar, Tejada has never been and never will be. This move smells an awful lot like the move the team pulled off last winter when they decided to bring back Yuniesky Betancourt on a one-year deal to serve as the “utility” guy.

Not only did Yuni bomb in the field, he became a clubhouse cancer due to his lack of time in the starting lineup. His bat had just enough pop in it to keep him playing every few days, while his defense was nothing short of extremely awful. He only filled in at shortstop once and third base  for the Royals in 2012. He made an error.

Miguel Tejada is a great clubhouse guy with a lot of fun energey and brings a ton of experience to this team. He could even provide this team with some power off the bench. I’m not meaning to rag on this signing, as it could hold value. It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at the present time.

Royals Agree To Terms With Endy Chavez

For now at least, Endy Chavez’s career has come full circle.

Endy Chavez

Endy Chavez

The Royals and veteran outfielder Endy Chavez have agreed to terms on a one-year minor league deal that assuredly comes with an invite to spring training.

Chavez, who will be 35 by the time next spring rolls around, made his major league debut with the Royals back in 2001.

A career .269/.309/.367 hitter across 11 seasons, Chavez is known more for his play in the field rather than his ability at the plate. He’s compiled a career WAR of 4.1 while playing significant time at each spot in the outfield.

He spent 2012 with the Baltimore Orioles, compiling a .203/.236/.278 slash line with 8 extra-base hits (6 doubles, 2 HR) in 64 games. He was mostly used as a late-inning defensive replacement, logging 213 innings in left field, 146 in right field, and 6 innings in center.

Since he’s a left-handed hitter, Chavez could possibly serve as a platoon-type partner with Jeff Francoeur in right field.

The Royals have made a habit this offseason of signing veteran players who seem to be in the twilight of their respective careers, signing Xavier Nady, Willy Taveras, George Sherrill, Dan Wheeler, and now Endy Chavez.

Royals Add Another Veteran

Xavier nady

Xavier nady

The Royals continued their “old” ways today by signing veteran journeyman Xavier Nady to a minor league contract.

Nady, now 34, has a career triple-slash of .270/.324/.432 across his 11 seasons at the big league level. Before joining Kansas City, Nady had played for eight different organizations: San Diego, both of the teams in New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago Cubs, Arizona, Washington, and San Francisco. The X-Man has accumulated more than 150 games of experience at three different positions (RF: 446, 1B: 186, LF: 156).

In 59 games this season (40 with Washington; 19 with San Francisco), he hit only .184/.253/.316 with 7 doubles, 4 homeruns, and 13 RBI.

Much like current right fielder Jeff Francoeur, Nady has been exceptional against left-handed pitcher. For his career, Xavier has a .284/.352/.441 line in 905 official ABs against southpaws.

Although the team hasn’t announed it yet, Nady’s deal likely includes an invitation to spring training. Given his positional flexibility and ability to hit left-handed pitching, he could get a long look come March.

Royals Ink Three to Minor League Deals

The Royals have reached one-year minor league agreements with three veterans: Willy Taveras, George Sherrill, and Dan Wheeler.

All three have received spring training invites with their contracts.

Willy Taveras, 30, is a journeyman outfielder who will be joining the 9th organization of his career. He’s predominantly known for his speed, both out of the box and between bases. He’s totaled 195 stolen bases throught his seven big league seasons and owns a career stolen base percentage of 81.5%. Taveras isn’t a high on-base guy (career .274 AVG, .320 OBP) and has never hit for much power (71 doubles, 8 HR, .327 Slg% in 2412 AB). He’s more of the slap-for-singles type. He was out of baseball in 2012. He made his last big league appearance for the Nationals in 2010 before spending all of 2011 on the Rockie’s Triple-A affiliate.

George Sherrill, 35, missed nearly all of last season after an elbow issue led to Tommy John surgery (he appeared in two games for the Mariners). Prior to last season, the lefty reliever had a 3.00 ERA and 38 Ks in 36 IP (50 appearances). In his nine pro seasons, he’s ammassed a 3.77 ERA, 56 saves, and a 2:1 K:BB ratio. He’s likely memorable to most due to his signature flat-brimmed hats, earning him the nickname “Brim Reaper”. He’s become more of a lefty-specialist now, with lefties hitting just .256/.275/.333 against him.

Dan Wheeler, also 35, spent all of last season with the Indians. A right-handed reliever, he appeared in 12 games, pitched 12.1 innings, and gave up 12 runs for the Tribe last season before being outrighted to Triple-A Columbus where he spent the rest of the season. Throughout his 13 year career, Wheeler has appeared in in 64 or more games six times (2005-10) while compiling a 3.95 ERA and a 1.222 WHIP. His best season was probably back in 2005 with Houston where he made 71 appearances, finished 20 games (including 3 saves), and had a 2.21 ERA – good for a 2.1 WAR. He’s held right-handed hitters to a .216/.267/.366 line for his career.

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