The Royals signed Mike Minor to a two-year deal back in February of 2016. It was a relatively cheap deal, for $7.25 million in guaranteed money, because Minor was recovering from labrum surgery. He would end up missing the entire 2016 seasons, but returned in 2017 to make the Opening Day roster as a reliever.
Relief work may not have been what Royals fans envisioned when Minor was signed, but his performance would end up far exceeding what anyone expected. Minor was the ninth-best reliever in all of baseball in WAR, according to Fangraphs. He had the 18th lowest OPS+ against, holding opponents to a line of .204/.263/.321. Lefties hit just .163 against him.
The reliever market has exploded in the past few seasons, once the Royals showed a plucky team with a dominant pen can reach back-to-back World Series and win it all. Non-closers, who once had to settle for one- or two-year deals are now getting three- and even four-year contracts. Here are the middle relievers who signed contracts of three years or more in the past few seasons, and what they did in the year leading up to their deal.
Recent reliever 3+ year contracts
|Boone Logan||COL||12/16/2013||3 years||$16.5M||3.23||3.82||39.0||11.5||0.2|
|Zack Duke||CHW||11/18/2014||3 years||$15M||2.45||2.14||58.2||11.4||1.4|
|Andrew Miller||NYY||12/5/2014||4 years||$36M||2.02||1.51||62.1||14.9||2.3|
|Luke Gregerson||HOU||12/10/2014||3 years||$18.5M||2.12||3.24||72.1||7.3||0.8|
|Ryan Madson||WSN||12/6/2015||3 years||$22M||2.13||3.09||63.1||8.2||0.9|
|Darren O'Day||BAL||12/7/2015||4 years||$31M||1.52||2.49||65.1||11.3||1.8|
|Joakim Soria||KCR||12/7/2015||3 years||$25M||2.53||3.71||67.2||8.5||0.4|
|Shawn Kelley||WAS||12/10/2015||3 years||$15M||2.45||2.57||51.1||11.1||0.9|
|Tony Sipp||HOU||12/10/2015||3 years||$18M||1.99||2.93||54.1||10.3||1.0|
|Brett Cecil||STL||11/19/2016||4 years||$30.5M||3.93||3.64||36.2||11.1||0.4|
|Michael Dunn||COL||12/15/2016||3 years||$19M||3.40||3.88||42.1||8.1||0.3|
Wow, Joakim Soria really was an overpay. Minor compares pretty favorably with this group, especially considering he won’t turn 30 until next month. The labrum injury is a concern, especially since it is one of the tougher injuries to recover from in baseball, but Minor was injury-free last year and teams are so desperate for relief help they will likely take a chance on an injury risk. Adding another wrinkle is the fact that some teams may think Minor can still start, a role he may prefer.
The reliever market has some elite closers this year, including former Royals pitchers Wade Davis and Greg Holland, as well as Brandon Kintzler, Huston Street, Fernando Rodney, and Addison Reed. The middle reliever market is not particularly deep, featuring Bryan Shaw, Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Steve Cishek, Anthony Swarzak, Yusmeiro Petit, Drew Storen, and injury prone Brandon Morrow. Aside from Davis and Holland, Minor may be the most valuable reliever available.
The Royals could offer him the closer’s role in Kansas City, which may be the kind of high profile role he would prefer. Or they could even offer a starting role seeing as their rotation has a hole in it with the potential loss of Jason Vargas and little organizational depth. But if the Royals are on a rebuild, it probably doesn’t make sense to sign a player for as much money as Minor would warrant, and it is unclear the Royals even have the financial flexibility to do so.
My guess is Minor should get a three-year deal worth around $27 million with incentives that could significantly increase the deal if he makes a certain amount of starts. I agree with Shaun Newkirk that Minor would have been an interesting player to give a Qualifying Offer. He almost certainly would have turned it down in order to lock down more guaranteed money considering his injury past. And with the new compensation system, teams would not have shied away from signing him since the punishment is not nearly as severe now.
Mike Minor received a four-year, $30 million deal in our simulation a few weeks back. Here are the predictions on how much Minor will get in free agency from Dave Cameron at Fangraphs and the crowd-sourced predictions from Fangraphs, Jon Heyman at FanRag and his “expert”, and MLB Trade Rumors.
Mike Minor contract estimates
|MLB Trade Rumors||4/$28M|
How much do you think Mike Minor will get in free agency?