'Good fit': Minor back in KC on 2-year deal

December 2nd, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have been searching for starting-pitching depth, and they believe they found it with left-hander , whose signing became official on Tuesday.

Minor’s deal is for two years at $18 million guaranteed, plus a $13 million club option for 2023, a source told MLB.com. The buyout is at $1 million. Minor will be paid $7 million in '21 and $10 million in '22.

In a corresponding roster move, the Royals designated right-handed pitcher Carlos Sanabria for assignment, whom they picked up off waivers Oct. 30 from the Astros.

Minor, 32, pitched for the Royals in 2017 after signing a two-year deal with Kansas City in '16. He spent most of that season rehabbing from left shoulder surgery, but he pitched in 10 games between Triple-A Omaha and Double-A Northwest Arkansas and posted a 5.74 ERA.

“We have a history with Mike, a history we felt really was important,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said in a Zoom call. “He has great trust in us, our medical people, our staff. With our need for [a] starting pitcher, it really lined up.

“We needed to add a veteran to our young rotation. He provides stability and innings. It’s a really good fit.”

Minor said in a Zoom call Wednesday that it was an easy decision to come back to Kansas City.

“The time I was there, going through the rehab process, I thought everyone treated me well,” Minor said. “I felt like I didn’t deserve that as much because I wasn’t pitching [that first season]. A lot of other people in other organizations might have thrown me to the side.

“But I thought Dayton was very honest with me at the time, as well as [assistant general manager] Jin [Wong]. It was a good group there. Good fans, good city, and I liked everything about it. It was kind of an easy decision. I had some other teams interested, but Kansas City came after me pretty hard, and I didn’t want to pass this up.”

Minor’s velocity with the Royals dipped slightly last year. His four-seamer averaged 92.5 mph in 2019, but it was down to 90.6 mph in '20.

Moore said that drop wasn’t a concern.

“His spin rates are really good on his fastball,” Moore said. “We’re not concerned about that [drop]. The important thing is you make pitches. We have great confidence in him. He is one of the better starting pitchers available this offseason. It’s just a natural fit.”

Minor’s explanation for the velo drop?

“It was a tough year for everybody,” he said. “I didn’t get off to a good start, and by the time I got into a rhythm the season was over ... A two-month season wasn’t long enough to evaluate.

“Last year, I didn’t feel that great. My body was tight. The ball wasn’t coming out, my [arm mechanics] weren’t whippy. ... But toward the end, I started working on things mechanically. My velo started going up, and then the season was over.”

Minor was a successful reliever for the Royals in 2017, appearing in 65 games while recording a 2.55 ERA. Minor even served in the closer role down the stretch that season, saving six straight games without allowing a run to finish the regular season.

But the left-hander viewed himself as a starter and signed a three-year deal with Texas prior to the 2018 season. In 32 starts in '19, Minor went 14-10 with a 3.59 ERA. He was traded this August to Oakland, where he made five appearances (four starts) with a 5.48 ERA.

The Royals have been searching for starting-pitching depth, and Moore said a bullpen role for Minor was not discussed during negotiations, though Moore acknowledged how effective Minor was in a late-inning role previously.

“Mike is committed to a big workload,” Moore said. “He threw over 200 innings in 2019 with 200 strikeouts, I believe. We just feel really good about how he blends in with the young starters we have on the horizon.”

The Royals' rotation entering Spring Training likely would consist of Brad Keller, Danny Duffy, Brady Singer, Minor and Kris Bubic.

“It’s a good mix of young pitchers and experienced,” Moore said.