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Friday Notes - January 31, 2020

Dirty South is back, the pitching options are plentiful, the Astros are going veteran and maybe another starter?

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Kansas City Royals
Aug 13, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Scott Barlow (58) pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

I know not everyone here is a Chiefs fan as well as a Royals fan, but many of us are both and this week has been excruciatingly long. But we’re finally to the final Red Friday of the year, and what’s really interesting about this week is usually, I’m excited about the Super Bowl for the food and all that and to vaguely watch the game. Then I’m ready to kick it 100 percent into baseball gear. Heck, one year I published an article while they were announcing the Super Bowl MVP about how we were moving on to baseball season. That was a simpler time when the Royals weren’t coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons, though. Anyway, this playoff run for the Chiefs has been a really nice way to bridge the gap that we haven’t had bridged in a long, long time. I figure by the time I’m done thinking about the game on Sunday, pitchers and catchers will have reported and all will truly be right with the world again.

  • The biggest news of the week is the Royals signing of Greg Holland to a minor league deal. Which, if that’s the biggest news probably means it’s been pretty slow, which it has. Craig wrote about it yesterday and I can’t find anything I’d disagree with there. There’s a reason that he’s pitched on four teams in the last three seasons. There’s a reason that he put up a 0.84 ERA with the Nationals over 24 appearances to end 2018 and they didn’t work too hard to bring him back. Yeah, those numbers were really pretty, but he was probably much closer to the 2017 version of himself in that time than the 2013/2014 version that was truly dominant. But still, it’s Greg Holland. The last “H” of “HDH” and that’s kind of cool that he’s come back. I know that he’s happy to be back in the Royals organization, and while I have my doubts that this’ll work, it’ll be fun to see him back out on the mound, allowing us the chance to relive the glory days in a way that really doesn’t hurt any development toward the next glory days. And who knows? Maybe he’ll surprise us and come back out with increased velocity that allows everything to play up. Or maybe he won’t make the team out of spring. I do find it interesting that after all he’s been through, even getting cut mid-season and not catching on anywhere else that he had the best season of HDH last year, which really shows you how fleeting success can be in baseball. Regardless, I love the move to bring him in on a minor league deal. Maybe they do catch the same lightning in a bottle he showed in Washington. Steamer projects a 5.06 ERA and 31 strikeouts against 19 walks in 35 innings. Sadly, that seems about right. But again, it’s fun to see old friends, so maybe, just maybe, he can find something for another season.
  • But the Royals bullpen is pretty full up, so I do believe he’s going to have to earn his spot. There are a lot of candidates. We know that, barring a trade or injury, Ian Kennedy, Scott Barlow and Tim Hill have a job. I think it’s safe to assume that Trevor Rosenthal has the inside track to one and the newly signed Holland likely will be given the opportunity to lose his job. That’s five and leaves only three spots for some combination of <<takes deep breath>> Kevin McCarthy, Kyle Zimmer, Randy Rosario, Jesse Hahn, Stephen Woods, Jorge Lopez, Glenn Sparkman, Chance Adams, Eric Skoglund, Conner Greene, Arnaldo Hernandez, Daniel Tillo, Josh Staumont, Richard Lovelady, Jake Newberry, Gabe Speier, Heath Fillmyer (he’s back in the organization now), Braden Shipley and anyone else they sign between now and then. There are a few of those guys who could compete for the fifth starter job, though it does sort of seem like that’s Brady Singer’s to lose. And maybe there’ll actually be four roles open until they need that fifth starter, but if you look, that’s 23 players for eight or nine spots. Some like Staumont, Zimmer, Lovelady, Tillo and Zuber are exciting. Others like McCarthy, Newberry, Speier and Rosario are pretty boring, but have a chance to be decently effective. The good news in all this is that of the guys already on the 40-man, the only ones out of options who are in competition are Zimmer, Rosario and Hahn. That means we might see a lot of shuffling this year, but the sheer number of possibilities makes me believe (hope?) that they can put together a competent unit in 2020.
  • Gene Watson is the latest to interview for one of the Astros vacancies, and I think that would be a really interesting hire for them. He’s very well respected around the game and has been with the Royals since just after Dayton Moore was hired in 2006, so he’s been around this organization a long time. Prior to that, he was with the Marlins and represents and interesting look for what the Astros are looking for after hiring Dusty Baker. The three known candidates interviewed for their general manager opening all are cut from a very different cloth than the previous regime, and that’s clearly intentional. They have a very serious problem on their hands that they’ve obviously caused themselves and I actually commend them for looking at a different way to guide the team over the next couple seasons, which promise to be very tumultuous. What I find most interesting about the Astros job is based on the contract they gave Baker, one year with an option. Are they really setting him up to take over the team for a year, get them respectable again and then go out and go back to a different type? Would that be the same with their general manager hire? I guess we’ll find out, but I think they’re at least looking in the right areas for the time being.
  • Jeffrey Flanagan wrote the other day that the Royals are still considering some free agent starters, which shouldn’t be a surprise. We talked about that a few weeks ago with some of the veterans mentioned now off the board. MLB Trade Rumors mentioned four names in particular - Taijuan Walker, Danny Salazar, Matt Harvey and Aaron Sanchez. If you’re buying low, obviously all would be good to get on a minor league deal or a very low-cost big league deal. Sanchez may not pitch for awhile in 2020, though. Harvey, well, isn’t good. Salazar has his own issues and Walker has injury issues. I’d definitely go for Salazar or Walker as options, but I would also add Jason Vargas to the list as well as Jhoulys Chacin and Marco Estrada as players who seem like the Royals might like them. Vargas is an obvious candidate given how much they liked him when he was in Kansas City, but what you have to remember with any starter still available at this time is there’s a reason for it. You’re hoping for the same bounceback they’re hoping for with Holland like we talked about above. The fact is that while there are a ton of arms, as we outlined already, I really wouldn’t be surprised to see one more and keep the crop of youngsters in the minors to at least start the season and not only delay their service clock, but more importantly, give them a bit more seasoning to hopefully be ready to hit the ground running as soon as they get to the big leagues.