Royals news roundup: Phil Hughes a target for KC, Luis Mendoza headed to Japan

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A goodbye to Luis Mendoza, with a possible hello to Phil Hughes.

After you finish reading Josh Duggan's master thesis on how to run a fake team, you should check out some of the news involving the actual Kansas City Royals. Today's features include a free agency rumor, a player leaving for Japan and something named Clayton Mortensen.

Royals pursuing Hughes

The Royals are pursuing free agent starting pitcher Phil Hughes, first reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and confirmed by Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. I wrote a brief news hit on the story for SB Nation, but want expand the post with some KC-centric thoughts.

Hughes struggled with run-prevention in 2013, posting a 5.19 ERA, but his FIP and xFIP remain relatively unchanged. Unfortunately, his career FIP of 4.31 and 2013 FIP of 4.50 in are not exactly inspiring.

The right-hander is a flyball pitcher with roughly league-average strikeout and walk numbers. Unsurprisingly, he's struggled with homers in Yankee Stadium the past two years, with a HR/9 ratio north of 1.5.

Placing Hughes in Kauffman in front of a much better outfield defense could certainly help improve his numbers, but he hasn't shown much in the major-leagues to suggests his ceiling as a starter is much higher league-average. He is, however, still only 27 and a former top prospect. He will also not require the Royals to surrender a draft pick.

Kansas City pitching coach Dave Eiland did help groom Hughes, serving as the Yankees minor-league pitching coach when Hughes was in the minors. Eiland also held the Yankees pitching coach position from 2008-2010, so the pair should be very familiar. If the Royals do sign Hughes, I'm sure this connection will be talked up, but it's hard to know how much of an impact Eiland could have on him.

Hughes is an interesting gamble, but like all free agents signings with a small market team, needs to come at the right price. RR regular Scott McKinney signed Hughes to a 3-year, $24 million deal in the Shadow Offseason, a figure that would be tough to imagine the actual Royals paying for Hughes.

Mendoza headed to Japan

The Nippon Ham Fighters giveth, and the Nippon Ham Fighters taketh away; the Japanese professional baseball team has signed Luis Mendoza for the 2014 season, according to Dutton.

The Ham Fighters are responsible for providing the Royals with Trey Hillman, so the Royals have apparently decided to return the favor with Mendoza. In all seriousness, I hope Mendoza turns out better in the NPB than Hillman did as a manger in MLB.

Mendoza's departure is not a big loss for Kansas City. He struggled in 2013 after a serviceable campaign in 2012, when he actually finished 2nd among starters in fWAR. His above-average groundball rate allowed him to survive in the majors, but his career 13 percent K% and 8.8 percent BB% clearly reveal his failings as a pitcher.

Kansas City has plenty of depth in the bullpen, and if Mendoza was going to receive starts again in 2014, something would have gone terrible wrong. The Royals, however, are noticeably less attractive as a team without Mendoza's flowing locks of hair.

If you see someone quietly sobbing in the corner, please do your best to comfort Loose Seal. Ice cream sandwiches are appreciated.

Clayton Mortensen re-signs

I learned this afternoon that the Royals received Clayton Mortensen in the Quintin Berry trade, and that Mortensen re-signed with Kansas City on a minor-league contract.

Mortensen came up in the Cardinals organization, so he learned how to play the game the right way. He's also pitched for the Rockies, Athletics and Red Sox, owning a 4.68 ERA and 5.23 FIP over 167 1/3 innings.

The right-hander's best season came as a member of the Boston bullpen in 2012; he posted a 3.21 ERA with a 23.7 percent K% over 26 appearances. The 28-year-old has been limited by his career 10.1 percent BB%.

Mortensen could theoretically catch fire during Spring Training or in the minors next season, and if the Royals trade away a bunch of bullpen pieces or suffer a rash of injuries, he might make an appearance. Given the Royals bullpen depth and Mortensen's ineffectiveness at the major-league level, you will most likely not see him pitch unless you attend a Storm Chasers game.

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