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Royals re-sign Ryan O’Hearn to one-year contract, add three players to 40-man roster

Jake Brentz is among those designated for assignment

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Royals have re-signed first baseman Ryan O’Hearn to a one-year contract worth $1.4 million, including incentives, according to Kansas City Star reporter Lynn Worthy. O’Hearn, who earned $1.3 million last year and was eligible for arbitration, hit .239/.290/.321 with one home run in 145 plate appearances.

O’Hearn could benefit from proposed rule changes next year that would ban radical defensive shifts. He also did produce effectively as a pinch-hitter last year, hitting .367/.406/.567 in 36 pinch-hit appearances last year. But with Nick Pratto and Vinnie Pasquantino vying for playing time at first base, it is hard to see how O’Hearn will fit well into this roster, and with a career line of .219/.293/.390 in 1,071 plate appearances, it is hard to see why the Royals are hanging onto the 29-year-old.

The Royals also made a number of 40-man roster moves in anticipation of today’s deadline to add players ahead of the Rule 5 draft, selecting catcher Freddy Fermin, outfielder Diego Hernandez, and pitcher Alec Marsh. To make room on the roster, they designated outfielder Brent Rooker, and pitchers Jake Brentz and Nate Webb for assignment.

Fermin is a 27-year-old who hit .270/.365/.480 with 15 home runs for Triple-A Omaha and made his MLB debut this year, going 0-for-7 with the Royals. A right-handed hitter, he has hit well in the upper minors and is tearing it up in the Venezuelan Winter League. The Royals have been seeking a third catcher to back up Salvador Perez and MJ Melendez for when they play other positions.

Diego Hernandez is a 21-year-old outfielder who hit .284/.347/.408 with nine home runs and 40 steals across High-A and Double-A. Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic, the left-handed hitter flashed solid power for a young player, with terrific speed in centerfield. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #20 prospect in the organization and writes “should the offensive improvements hold, Hernandez, who walks at a decent clip, could be a leadoff candidate on top of a lockdown center fielder.”

Alec Marsh is a former second-round pick out of Arizona State who posted a 6.88 ERA but with 156 strikeouts in 124 13 innings across Double-A and Triple-A. The 24-year-old right-hander was coming off an injury in 2021, was a participant in the Futures Game this summer and is ranked #19 in the organization by MLB Pipeline.

Jake Brentz showed promise with the Royals, but had trouble throwing strikes and had Tommy John surgery this summer. The 28-year-old pitched just 5 13 innings this year after posting a 3.66 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 64 innings in 2021.

Brent Rooker was acquired from the Padres this summer for catcher Cam Gallagher. The 28-year-old outfielder hit 28 home runs in Triple-A this year, but went homerless in 29 plate appearances with the Royals, hitting .160/.276/.200.

Nathan Webb is a Kansas City native who pitched in the Arizona Fall League this year after posting a 9.99 ERA in 33 1/3 innings in the minors this year. The 25-year-old right-hander had major control issues this year.

The Royals have until 5 CT to add players to the 40-man roster. Among those still unprotected that would be eligible are outfielders Brewer Hicklen and John Rave, and pitchers Austin Cox, TJ Sikkema, Drew Parrish, and Anthony Veneziano.