Minor Intrigue

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Remember back when the Kansas City Royals signed Ian Kennedy to fill out their rotation? Word leaked out during that time that the Royals were still on the hunt for another starter, most likely just for depth purposes. Everything stayed quiet on the Royals front, that was until Friday, a day after pitchers and catchers reported to Royals Spring Training camp:

I was instantly elated and felt this was another stellar move from GM Dayton Moore. So who is Mike Minor and how can he help the Royals moving forward? I’m glad you asked.

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Minor is a former first round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves who will be entering his age 28 season for Kansas City. Minor sat out the 2015 season due to shoulder surgery, as he went in to fix the labrum  in his left shoulder back in May. Over his five year major league career, Minor has produced a slightly below league average ERA+(93) and a career FIP of 3.90 while accumulating over 652 innings. Minor doesn’t have blow you away stuff, as he uses four pitches in his arsenal (fastball around 90 mph, slider, knuckle-curve and change-up) but over his career has produced good strikeout and walk rates. There is a lot of hope within the Royals organization that the team’s medical staff will be able to help Minor, as he is about nine months removed from surgery at this point:

“We’re trusting (trainer) Nick Kenney and our medical team,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said, “along with Mike’s work ethic and dedication to get back to perform successfully at the major leagues. (It) led us to a conclusion to give him a two-year deal.”

It is looking like we will see Minor back in the big leagues sometime around late May, early June:

“We don’t anticipate him being ready for the first six weeks to two months (of the regular season),” Moore said.

So the signing seemed to be done to have Minor help out the team later in the year, and in a lot of ways, be more helpful in 2017. If the signing seems familiar, it should.

 

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It seems familiar cause it is very similar to the deal former teammate Kris Medlen signed with Kansas City about a year ago. Medlen was coming off of a major surgery(Tommy John) and the signing was for him to help later in the season(last year) with more emphasis on the following season. Much like Medlen, Minor could fill various roles for Kansas City, either out of the bullpen as another left-handed arm or in the rotation if needed. Overall, Minor’s role on the team in 2016 is one of doing whatever is needed, although his strength would mainly be in the rotation:

“Hopefully, we’d have him in a position to give us some depth the second half — probably before that,” Moore said. “But realistically, around that period of time.”

This also shows the team is allowing him to not rush to action and rehab at his own pace:

“We wouldn’t put limitations on him,” Moore said. “The important thing is to move at a rate that ensures his long-term health. And that’s why it was important to get him on a two-year deal; not just one year, because not always, but usually you see them better the following year.”

 

The contract gives Minor the luxury of knowing he is set for 2017 and anything he is able to contribute this year is purely an added bonus. This is also the kind of signing the Royals have to make.
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Don’t let the world championship, nor the big contract signings of Alex Gordon and Ian Kennedy fool you; the Royals are still a small market baseball team. That means that the Royals have to look at guys coming off bad seasons and/or injuries to help fill out their team. The Royals will never be allowed to have an unlimited payroll(or at least the likelihood is very, very low) so scrounging for guys like Minor is pretty much the modus operandi for Dayton Moore and his front office staff. That being said, there is some risk involved in this signing.
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The risk is quite obvious; what if Minor isn’t able to bounce back from surgery or continues to show lingering issues? That is the risk any team takes when signing a player coming back from a major injury and the Royals are just like the other 29 teams in baseball, as they know there is always that chance. The one positive aspect of this is the Royals training staff has shown a propensity the last 3-4 years of keeping players healthy and not rushing a player back out on the field before they are ready. I tend to think if the Royals really felt Minor might not be able to bounce back, they wouldn’t have signed him to a two year deal in the first place. This kind of risk will always be there, but I tend to believe if the Royals had any trepidation, we wouldn’t be discussing this signing right now.
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If one would look at the Royals rotation, especially looking onward into 2017, there are more questions than answers. With that said, having Mike Minor in the fold for the foreseeable future can only be viewed as a plus for the organization. I’m not for sure we should expect much from him in 2016, in fact it could be very comparable to what Medlen contributed last year. What you can probably expect is to pencil his name into the rotation for the 2017 season. Things could still go sideways, but at this moment it looks like the Royals front office found themselves another solid arm for their starting forces. Moore has had issues developing starting pitching throughout his run in Kansas City’s front office, but finding pitching in the bargain bin has become a specialty of his.
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