The Royals have signed reliever Nick Wittgren to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, according to New York Post reporter Jon Heyman. The 31-year-old right-hander is a seven-year veteran with Miami, Cleveland, and St. Louis with a career 3.96 ERA in 287 games. Last year he made 29 appearances with the Cardinals with a 5.90 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 29 innings.
Wittgren began with the Marlins after being drafted in 2012 out of Purdue. By 2016 he was in the big leagues, posting a solid 3.14 ERA in 48 relief appearances his rookie season. He was traded to Cleveland in 2019 and enjoyed his best season that year with a 2.81 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 57 2⁄3 innings, although with a 4.17 FIP. His ERA went up a bit the next year to 3.42 but he enjoyed a career-best 10.4 strikeouts-per-nine innings in the abbreviated season. His ERA spiked up 5.05 in 2021 and Cleveland outrighted him at the end of the season.
Wittgren throws a fastball that sits at 91 mph, a sinker, a cutter, a slider, and a change up. He has posted average walk rates, and while he had some good strikeout rates in Cleveland, those numbers took a big drop last year in St. Louis.
Another interesting trend we are seeing from a lot of these #Royals relievers recently signed: Wittgren employed a cutter (21% usage last year). Remember, they were dead last in FC usage in Cal Eldred's tenure— Kev ⚾️ (@RoyalReportKev) December 24, 2022
Like Mike Mayers, who the Royals signed yesterday, Wittgren is a reliever who has had some success at the big league level, who the Royals were able to sign to a non-guaranteed minor league deal. Scott Barlow, Taylor Clarke, Dylan Coleman, Amir Garrett, and Josh Staumont will likely be in the bullpen, but there should be plenty of innings up for grabs.