The Royals have signed veteran right-hander Clay Buchholz to a minor-league deal with an invitation to big-league spring training, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports. The 33-year-old Buchholz will earn $1.5 million if he makes the Royals’ roster and has the opportunity to earn up to $250,000 in incentives. He has a May 1 opt-out if he hasn’t yet been added to Kansas City’s major-league roster.
Buchholz, an 11-year veteran, is a two-time All-Star and helped the Red Sox to a World Series victory in 2013. He’s battled injuries and inconsistency throughout his career, though, and has a rather pedestrian 4.01 ERA and 1.31 WHIP over 1,175 career innings. Buchholz was traded to the Phillies last offseason after 10 seasons in Boston but made just two starts for Philadelphia due to a torn flexor tendon in his pitching elbow that required surgery. Over those two outings, he allowed 10 earned runs on 16 hits while striking out five and walking three in 7.1 innings.
Though the Royals let Jason Vargas, arguably their most consistent starter in 2017, walk over the offseason, they’ve assembled a rather deep collection of starters. They return five starters who were significant contributors to their rotation last year: Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, Jakob Junis, and Nate Karns (who is coming off thoracic outlet syndrome surgery). In addition, they still have lefties Eric Skoglund, who likely profiles as a swingman this season after starting five games a year ago, and Brian Flynn, who has six career starts over four big-league seasons. Over the offseason, they also took Burch Smith and Brad Keller — both of whom have started in the minor leagues — in the Rule 5 Draft, signed former Brewers starter Wily Peralta to a major-league deal, and traded for swingman Jesse Hahn (who’s currently on the 60-day DL and may need Tommy John surgery). Smith, Keller, and Peralta are all expected to pitch out of the bullpen if they make the team, while Hahn likely would have done the same if he hadn’t gotten hurt.
Buchholz now joins 35-year-old Ricky Nolasco as an oft-injured veteran who has signed a minor-league deal with the Royals in hopes of ressurecting his career. There’s not an obvious spot for either pitcher on the roster — Duffy, Junis, and Karns are the Royals’ three most intriguing starters, and they figure to be ultra-patient with Kennedy and Hammel since they’re owed a combined $25 million this season — but if an injury occurs, perhaps Buchholz or Nolasco could step in and try to make an impression.
While it may not be his preferred course of action, it’s also worth noting that Buchholz could be deployed as a reliever in Kansas City; over 18 career relief appearances, 16 of which came in 2016, Buchholz has held hitters to a .191/.280/.287 slash line.