This year’s lockout delayed much of free agency, but we have been moving at a rapid pace since the MLB and MLBPA came to a deal to start the season. Free agency started quietly for the Kansas City Royals but has recently picked up. They recently signed some exciting players to minor league deals in Brad Peacock and Daniel Megden as well as brought in Amir Garrett from the Cincinnati Reds for Mike Minor. Peacock has an excellent track history of success but has been dealing with injuries of late. It will be interesting to see if he can return healthy and bounce back to his old form. If so, the Royals could have a massively good innings eater in the bullpen.
The offseason has also led to a lot of former Royals signing elsewhere. Seeing so many familiar names go to other places had me feeling nostalgic. I thought it would be great to cover all of the former Royals who signed with other teams and what we might expect from them with their new organization.
Zack Greinke, RHP – Kansas City Royals
WELL HELLO THERE OLD FRIEND! There is no better way to kick this article off than talking about the re-signing of Zack Greinke to a one-year, $13 million deal. Trading Mike Minor cleared up $8.5 million, making this a very low-cost sign. Words can’t describe the excitement for most Kansas City Royals fans to see Greinke back in the royal blue uniform. The Royals needed a veteran presence in the rotation, and Greinke gives them just that. Of course, we all know that Greinke isn’t the pitcher he used to be when he was first with Kansas City, but he has developed himself into a guy who is a crafty pitcher with pinpoint command who can get outs and eat up innings. He needs to cut down on the home runs, but being in the K will help. You can’t help but love this move as a Royals fan. Welcome back, Zack!
Jakob Junis, RHP – San Francisco Giants
This might be the most intriguing offseason move for a former Royal. The Giants signed Junis to a $1.75 million major league contract. I have always loved Junis since he debuted in Kansas City. He always had very intriguing stuff that made you feel like he could stick as a starter at the Major League level, especially when watching his slider make people look silly. Junis had a promising five-year career with the Kansas City Royals accumulating 29 wins with a 4.82 ERA. The Royals seemed to struggle with maximizing Junis’ potential. The Giants have had a knack lately of unlocking and capitalizing on under-the-radar pitchers lately with Anthony DeSclafini, Alex Wood, and Kevin Gausman. Maybe they can do the same with Junis. The rotation is pretty complete in San Francisco with the addition of Carlos Rodon, but Junis could get a shot if an injury were to happen.
Ian Kennedy, RHP – Arizona Diamondbacks
A major old friend alert here. Kennedy signed a one-year deal for $4.75 million with the Arizona Diamondbacks. We all remember the offseason Dayton spent some serious $$$ and signed Ian Kennedy in 2016 to a 5 year, $70 million deal.. Kennedy had a tremendous first year where he went 11-11 with a 3.68 ERA, but struggled as a starter for the following years. He was able to reinvent himself as a reliever, eventually serving as the Royals closer in 2019, where he picked up 30 saves. With their recent signing of Mark Melancon, he probably won’t close in Arizona but should provide them an excellent late-inning reliever for a reasonably cheap rate.
Mike Montgomery, LHP – New York Mets
The Mets signed former Royals’ top prospect Mike Montgomery to a minor league deal. As you may recall, Montgomery originally left the Royals with Wil Myers in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays to get James Shields and Wade Davis. After pitching for a few seasons with the Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs, Montgomery made his way back to Kansas City when the Royals traded Martin Maldonado to the Cubs. Montgomery has had a relatively decent big league career and most recently pitched in Korea for the Samsung Lions, where he compiled a 5.37 ERA in eleven starts. He should function as both starting and bullpen depth for the Mets with their rotation full of big arms that all dealt with injuries last year.
Hanser Alberto, IF – Los Angeles Dodgers
This offseason, Alberto signed a one-year major league deal to be a utility man for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He provided some excellent depth for the Kansas City Royals last year, having the ability to play almost anywhere in the infield. The Dodgers were missing bench depth in 2021, and Alberto should provide them a reliable asset off the bench. The glove versatility is one of his greatest assets, but his ability to maintain a low strikeout rate and make contact provides the Dodgers with a good bat off the bench.
Brad Boxberger, RHP – Milwaukee Brewers
Brad Boxberger’s time in Kansas City was short and uneventful. Boxberger showed some dominance in 2015 with the Tampa Bay Rays and then dealt with many injuries, ultimately signing as a free agent with the Royals in 2019 when they aimed to enhance their bullpen. Unfortunately, he sported a 5.60 ERA in just a few innings with Kansas City. Boxberger returned to Milwaukee after a terrific year with them in 2021 on a one-year, $2.25 million deal. If he can continue the success of 2021, he should provide the Brewers with much-needed bullpen depth.
Matt Strahm, LHP – Boston Red Sox
During the 2016 season, Matt Strahm became one of the arms I was most excited to see make his debut. He hit the ground running in his first year pitching to the tune of a 1.23 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched. The Royals then traded Strahm to the San Diego Padres for three pitchers: Ryan Buchter, Trevor Cahill and Brandon Maurer. He pitched in both the bullpen and starting rotation with the Padres, but found most of his success as a late-inning reliever. Strahm recently signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Boston Red Sox and he should provide that bullpen some much needed depth. He’s dealt with some injuries so will look to bounce back and be the lethal force he once was in 2022.
Jeison Guzman, IF – Arizona Diamondbacks
This year, Guzman was one of the most interesting minor league free agents for the Kansas City Royals. He recently signed a minor league deal with the Diamondbacks, where he will most likely start the season with the Reno Aces, their Triple-A affiliate. Guzman split time between High-A and Double-A for the Royals in 2021, and he struggled to get his footing with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. He added some strength and carried above-average speed, which made him intriguing. Inconsistencies in his hit tool led to a lot of question marks. At only 23, he will look to make some improvements there in 2022.
Meibrys Viloria – C – Texas Rangers
Viloria signed with the Texas Rangers on a minor league deal. He served as catching depth for the Kansas City Royals shuffling between Triple-A and the big leagues from 2018 through 2020. He spent his most significant chunk of time in the big leagues in 2019 when Salvador Perez missed the season due to Tommy John surgery. He was always good behind the plate and had a remarkable ability to throw runners out. With the amount of depth the Royals have at catching in the minors, it only made sense that they would move on from Viloria. I assume his role won’t change much in Texas, but he is a guy we should see in the Majors at some point.
Erick Mejia, IF – Seattle Mariners
I was always intrigued by Mejia when the Royals acquired him from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-team trade that sent Scott Alexander and Joakim Soria out of town. The Mariners signed Mejia on a minor league deal, and he should get a non-roster invite to spring training. Mejia has always shown great versatility to play all over the field. However, his time in the big leagues was limited as he only played 17 games in 2019 and 2020.
Rudy Martin, OF – Washington Nationals
Martin was able to land a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals. He was another interesting prospect to leave for minor league free agency this year. A bit older at 26 years old, Martin had a really good year hitting .267 with 11 home runs, 51 RBI, and 21 stolen bases between Double and Triple-A. The strikeout rate hindered Martin a bit, but he was usually able to offset that with a decent walk rate and ability to get on base. He likely starts in Triple-A for the Nationals, but given the need for outfielders in Washington, he could make his debut in 2022.
Jake Kalish, LHP – Los Angeles Angels
Kalish was another minor league free agent for the Royals and recently signed a deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Kalish spent all of 2021 in Triple-A, where he sported a 6.94 ERA with 106 strikeouts in 96 innings pitched. Early on in his minor league career, Kalish dominated hitters. He’s got some stuff that makes you believe he could make his way to a debut in the major leagues. Chances are he heads back to Triple-A for the Angels and provides them some emergency depth.
Chris Owings, IF – Baltimore Orioles
Another fun old friend here. Chris Owings last played with the Kansas City Royals in 2019, where he struggled during his time here. He slashed .133/.193/.222 in 40 games with the Royals. He showed some signs of life in a small sample size of games with the Colorado Rockies in 2021. Enough to get him a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles. You start to wonder if the Orioles should change their name to the Baltimore Royals with all of the former Kansas City products now in an Orioles uniform: Jorge Lopez, Kelvin Gutierrez, Chris Ellis, Connor Greene, and Chris Owings.
Ryan Goins, 2B – Atlanta Braves
For some reason, it seems like forever ago that Ryan Goins sported a Kansas City Royals uniform. He mainly served as a defensive replacement for the Royals in 2018. Always a defensive wizard, he was so much fun to watch on the field. He hasn’t played in the big leagues in 2020 but should serve as some minor league depth for the Braves in 2022.