KC could spark comebacks for Gee, Wang

'We've seen it work in the past,' assistant GM/baseball ops Sharp says of taking chance

January 13th, 2016

KANSAS CITY -- Reports surfaced Wednesday reiterating the Royals' continued interest in free-agent pitchers Ian Kennedy and Yovani Gallardo, which simply demonstrates the club's willingness to cast a wide net in search of more pitching depth.

And that net often lands on pitching projects, such as last year's fliers on Ryan Madson, Joe Blanton and, to some degree, Chris Young.

Kennedy, 31, also would be somewhat of a project, as he is coming off a down season with the Padres in 2015, when he threw 168 1/3 innings while posting a 4.28 ERA in a pitcher's park.

But the Royals are firm believers in comeback stories, which is why they also are taking a chance on right-handers Dillon Gee and Chien-Ming Wang. Both were signed to Minor League contracts this offseason.

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"We've seen it work in the past," said Scott Sharp, assistant general manager/baseball operations. "You take a calculated risk, and sometimes you just hit on one or two."

Sharp, who has a strong background in scouting, was instrumental in the Gee signing. Jin Wong, assistant general manager/baseball administration, also has a solid scouting background and was the man behind the Wang signing.

"Dillon Gee is a guy not that far removed from success," Sharp said. "With the Mets, he battled a groin injury last year, and when he got healthy, he was kind of caught in the middle with Noah Syndergaard coming on, and then Dillon became the odd man out.

"But he wanted to pitch in front of our defense, and he was willing to sign a Minor League deal with the confidence that he could help us. There is a lot of intrinsic value with him. He's a guy whose numbers slightly regressed, and we have a chance here to see him come back. He will be a motivated guy."

Coming off a 2013 season in which he threw 199 innings and had a 3.62 ERA, Gee, 29, was the Mets' Opening Day starter in 2014. He had a string of 46 straight starts from 2013 to '14 in which he threw at least five innings. The Royals, in fact, tried to trade for him last spring.

"He's a guy who fits for us," Sharp said. "He's a ground-ball guy, and we've got excellent infield defense. We've always liked him.

"He could be a guy who helps in the bullpen. He has done a little bit of that. And, of course, he can help us as a starter, depending on how things develop. And he has options."

Wang, 35, is more of a long shot. He has bounced around the Minors the past two seasons, and his glory days -- he won 19 games in back-to-back seasons for the Yankees in 2006 and '07 -- are in the distant past.

"Just one of those deals where you hope to have lightning strike," Sharp said. "He's a guy who knows how to compete and knows how to pitch. Certainly he has underperformed, but you put him in front of a great defense, and you never know."

Wang also has a history with Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland [as does Kennedy]. Eiland was Wang's pitching coach with the Yankees in 2008-09.

"Absolutely, Dave is a factor when we sign these guys," Sharp said. "He's a great teacher and a big motivator. Guys buy into what he's saying."