'Blue's my favorite color': Garrett joins Royals as Minor dealt to Reds

March 17th, 2022

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As walked out of his new clubhouse and onto the field to warm up for his first side session as a member of the Royals, he made sure to remark on his new threads.

“Blue’s my favorite color,” Garrett said. “Love it.”

Garrett swapped his red jersey for a blue one Wednesday when the Royals acquired the lefty reliever from Cincinnati in exchange for left-handed starter Mike Minor and cash considerations. The trade was part of a busy day for the Royals, who later signed veteran right-hander Zack Greinke to a one-year, $13 million deal.

After Garrett heard he was traded early Wednesday morning, he went to the Reds’ complex in Goodyear, Ariz., to say goodbye to the organization that picked him in the 22nd round of the 2011 Draft.

Then he made the 25-minute drive north to say hello to his new one.

“I’ve heard nothing but great things from former players and coaches,” Garrett said about the Royals. “They said this is a great organization to be a part of. I’m just looking forward to that. I got a lot I can bring to the team.”

Trade details
Royals get: LHP Amir Garrett
Reds get: LHP Mike Minor, cash considerations

The Garrett trade gives the Royals a power lefty to add to their high-leverage reliever mix, as Garrett was a key part of the Reds’ bullpen for the past five seasons. He slumped in 2021 with a 6.04 ERA across 63 appearances, but he was one of the premier National League setup men in '19 and ’20, with a 3.03 ERA and 104 strikeouts across 74 1/3 innings in those two seasons.

“We had intentions from the very beginning of the offseason to address our bullpen,” Royals general manager J.J. Picollo said. “Amir’s a guy that we had our eyes on in October. It just took a while to get it taken care of. He’s a power left-hander, a guy who has a lot of experience. He’s going to help us build our pitching staff out from the back end.”

Garrett has two years of control and is arbitration-eligible this year, projected to make $2.5 million, per Cot’s Contracts. Minor, 34, returned to the Royals on a two-year deal after the 2020 season and posted a 5.05 ERA in 158 2/3 innings last season. He was a starter who could log innings, especially after the shortened ’20 season as the club tried to protect its young starters’ workloads. Greinke and Brad Keller will help shoulder that load as the Royals look for Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, Daniel Lynch, Jackson Kowar, Carlos Hernández and Jon Heasley to take significant steps forward.

Minor is owed $10 million this year with a $13 million club option for 2023 with a $1 million buyout. Offloading the majority of Minor’s contract allowed the Royals the payroll flexibility to sign Greinke, a deal that was official by the time Garrett took the field in his new uniform.

“They got some dogs in here,” Garrett said, looking around the clubhouse. “I’m excited to pitch to Salvy [Salvador Perez]. They signed Greinke today, which is big-time. I’m glad I can be a part of that. I can bring a lot to the table.”

What Garrett brings is a high-octane arm with a wipeout slider, as well as a fiery personality on the mound and in the clubhouse. The 29-year-old’s out pitch was one of the most effective pitches in the NL when he was a setup man for the Reds.

“I feel like a lot of people forgot what I was capable of doing,” Garrett said. “How dominant I was. I hit a brick wall last year, and that’s OK, because now there’s an even bigger opportunity for me now. … I’m back and I’m better.”

If he returns to form, Garrett will compete for the Royals’ closer role with right-handers Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont and lefty Jake Brentz.

And Garrett and Brentz will be manager Mike Matheny’s go-to relievers for high-leverage lefty at-bats.

“I know our lefties weren’t excited about seeing Amir Garrett,” Matheny said. “I know there were a lot of lefties who weren’t excited about seeing Jake Brentz on the mound. How do we capitalize on those? There are some major left-handed at-bats that we’re going to face this year, and to have those as options … two guys with plus-plus stuff that are going to be a force to be reckoned with, whether it’s a right-handed or left-handed at-bat."

Matheny was managing the Cardinals when Garrett debuted as a starter and has seen up close how dominant he can be.

“Loved what I saw from the first time,” Matheny said. “I know there are some things that he’d like to do better. … But the stuff, there’s no question. It’s big stuff. He first came up as a starter, like a lot of these guys, and you could see, it was right. It was dominant. So, ‘OK, how can we help you be right more often?’ I know that’s his goal.

“Sometimes getting a new jersey on and an opportunity in a new city -- he could hear our excitement, and we could hear his. I know he’s ready.”

And Garrett is ready to settle in as a Royal. He acknowledged it was an emotional day leaving the Reds, but when he heard how amped Matheny was on the phone welcoming him to the team, the positives of the move began to emerge.

“It was exciting. I was emotional, and they were like, ‘Amir! We’re happy to have you,’” Garrett said. “I felt like I was wanted. Really bad. And that’s always a great sign when your skipper is upbeat like that. I’m excited to be here.”