The Royals announced they have come to terms with reliever Taylor Clarke on a contract for 2024, avoiding arbitration. According to MLB.com reporter Anne Rogers, the deal is worth $1.25 million. Clarke was eligible for arbitration for the third time this off-season, and was projected to earn $2.2 million.
Clarke has pitched for the Royals for the last two seasons after being non-tendered by Arizona following the 2021 season. He had a 4.04 ERA with an outstanding 1.5 walks-per-nine-innings rate in 2022 and got off to a solid start in 2023 with a 2.70 ERA through mid-June over 30 innings. He was throwing a re-tooled breaking ball with much more frequency and finding success by limiting his fastball usage. But he gave up 32 runs over his final 29 innings to finish with an ugly 5.95 ERA with a spike in walk rate to 3.7 per-nine-innings.
Clarke battled some right elbow inflammation which may have contributed to his poor second half. His fastball was hammered last year, with opponents hitting .354 with a .600 slugging percentage off of it, while they hit just .242 off of his slider with a 32.3 percent whiff rate.
The 30-year-old Clarke is coming off a poor season, but perhaps a greater reliance on breaking balls can get a better performance from him in 2024. The Royals won’t be paying him much, so if he gets off to a poor start, they can cut ties. The Royals still have six players eligible for arbitration - Kris Bubic, Carlos Hernández, Edward Olivares, Brady Singer, Josh Staumont, and Josh Taylor. The deadline to tender those players a contract is Friday. They may have to cut ties with one or more of those players to add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft ahead of tomorrow’s deadline.