Posted on February 6, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
The Kansas City Royals have agreed to sign starting pitcher Jason Hammel, helping them to fill the void in their rotation following the sudden and tragic passing of Yordano Ventura. Last week, Royals GM Dayton Moore acknowledged the need for the team to address its rotation before the season, teasing the possibility of utilizing the notoriously weak free agent market for starting pitchers this year. Moore has, in turn, acted quickly and signed one of the best starting pitchers on the market this winter.
The agreement with Hammel is not yet official, as it’s still pending a physical. But reports indicate the deal is for two years and $16 million, with a mutual option for a third year. It’s not quite the deal Hammel may have envisioned for himself at the start of the offseason, but he does end up with a two-year deal after he reportedly received only one-year offers for much of the winter.
Hammel is coming off a career-high 15 wins with the Chicago Cubs last season. Despite winning 15 games and posting a solid 3.83 ERA in 2016, the Cubs decided to decline Hammel’s option for 2017 to make room for younger pitchers like Mike Montgomery, although Chicago also signed Brett Anderson as a rotation candidate.
There was some level of concern about Hammel’s health after he struggled in September and was not included on Chicago’s postseason roster on their way to a world championship. However, when the Cubs declined his option, Chicago GM Theo Epstein described Hammel as “healthy and primed to have another effective season in 2017.” Hammels has made at least 27 starts in six of the last eight seasons, indicating a good history of durability for the 34-year old righty.
For the Royals, the addition of Hammel will help to solidify the backend of their rotation. Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy will lead Kansas City’s rotation this year, while lefty Jason Vargas is also penciled in as a prominent member after making his return from Tommy John surgery late last season. With Hammel added to that group, the Royals have just one open spot in their rotation heading into spring training, rather than the two they had after the sudden loss of Ventura.
The Royals are optimistic that righty Nathan Karns, who was acquired from the Mariners last month, will be healthy after missing the second half of last season and ready to earn a full-time spot in their rotation. Veteran Chris Young is also an option, as is prospect Kyle Zimmer, who has battled injuries throughout his minor league career but appears to be healthy heading into spring.
The addition of Hammel should also allow the Royals to use young pitchers like Matt Strahm and Miguel Almonte in their bullpen, which should help them to replace the loss of Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar. Young may also be able to contribute out of the bullpen while also providing rotation depth at the major league level.
In the wake of the tragic loss of Ventura, signing Hammel may have been the best baseball move the Royals could have made to replace the fallen Dominican star. Hammel is an established big league pitcher who was the best remaining option on the free agent market, and he should be able to give the Royals 25 to 30 starts this season. His presence on the roster will help to solidify Kansas City’s pitching staff heading into spring training, which is exactly what the Royals needed at this point in time.