Royals sign RHP Clarke, bolstering bullpen

December 2nd, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have been scouring the market for relievers to add this winter, and on Wednesday evening, they made their first move to beef up the bullpen.

Right-handed reliever signed a one-year contract with the Royals, the club announced. The deal is worth $975,000, a source told, with a $200,000 Minor League assignment salary. The Royals’ roster is now at a full 40 players.

Clarke was not tendered a contract by the D-backs on Tuesday night, and the Royals jumped at the chance to sign the bounce-back candidate before the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on Wednesday night at 10:59 p.m. CT.

Clarke, 28, has a career 4.99 ERA across parts of three seasons in Arizona, the organization that drafted him in the third round in 2015 out of College of Charleston (S.C.). In 2021, Clarke posted a 4.98 ERA in 43 1/3 innings, with 39 strikeouts and 14 walks. His underlying numbers, though, indicate he was better than simply ERA can show: Clarke posted 3.54 FIP and lowered his home runs per nine innings to 0.8 this season from 1.7 in 2020 while throwing the same number of innings.

Clarke was also one of the D-backs' most consistent relievers before June, when he suffered a right teres major strain (a muscle in the shoulder/lat area). That injury set him back until the beginning of August, and when he returned, he struggled to find his rhythm. Clarke posted a 3.00 ERA across 12 innings in May and a 1.29 ERA in seven innings in June. He allowed three home runs over his first seven appearances (9 1/3 innings) of the season but then allowed just one homer over his last 36 outings (34 innings) from April 21-Sept. 5.

With a 6-foot-4 frame, Clarke’s fastball-slider mix plays up because of his extension. He throws a mid-90s heater, averaging 95 mph, and his slider is his out pitch. He also possesses a cutter and changeup that he can mix in during his longer relief outings.

Clarke fits two criteria the Royals have been looking for in the reliever market this offseason: He has the ability to throw multiple innings, and he has one option remaining, according to FanGraphs. This will allow the Royals to back up their young starters with a reliable bullpen in 2022 from a depth standpoint.

And that bullpen is wide open in terms of roles, so Clarke has a chance to pitch into a higher-leverage role and stick in Kansas City.

Clarke was teammates with Royals starter Brad Keller in the D-backs' organization from 2015-17, and Keller was already showing his excitement for a reunion on Wednesday night.