The Royals have designated right-handers Wily Peralta and Kyle Zimmer for assignment, as The Athletic’s Rustin Dodd first reported on Monday morning. The moves were required as they added infielder Ryan Goins and reliever Blaine Boyer, both of whom made the club after coming in as non-roster invitees, to the 40-man roster.
Kansas City held about as open of a bullpen competition as a major-league team can reasonably have this spring after losing five of their top relievers from a year ago — Scott Alexander, Mike Minor, Joakim Soria, Peter Moylan, and Ryan Buchter — to trades or free agency over the winter. They proved last week that pecking order coming into the spring wasn’t going to be a factor in final decisions, optioning Kevin McCarthy — a favorite for a late-inning role — to Triple-A, and they did that again on Monday by parting ways with Peralta, who they signed to a major-league contract worth a guaranteed $1.525 million back in December.
While the 28-year-old Peralta has flashed mid-to-high-90s fastball velocity, he was more or less up to his old tricks this spring. Over six seasons with the Brewers, Peralta had posted a 4.48 ERA and 1.48 WHIP, including a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 1.83 WHIP over 19 big-league appearances last season. He’d been mostly a starter over the course of his career, so there was some hope that his impressive velocity could play better out of the bullpen, but in his first extended exposure as a reliever last season he ended up posting an 11.94 ERA while allowing opposing hitters to hit .368/.467/.592 against him over 17.1 innings.
It shouldn’t have been a major surprise, then, that he posted a 13.50 ERA and a 3.00 WHIP over eight innings this spring. Rather than continuing to experiment with Peralta in the bullpen, the Royals opted to keep two pitchers they selected in the Rule 5 Draft, Brad Keller and Burch Smith, along with out-of-options lefty Brian Flynn, rookie left-handers Eric Skoglund and Tim Hill, and four experienced veterans in Boyer, Justin Grimm, Brandon Maurer, and Kelvin Herrera. Projected fifth starter Nate Karns will start the season on the DL and will pitch out of the bullpen upon his return, so any of Keller, Smith, Flynn, or Skoglund could end up filling the fifth starter role.
Peralta can reject an assignment to Triple-A if he clears waivers, so it’s likely that the Royals will receive no value in return for the (relatively minor) investment they made in him.
Meanwhile, with a 40-man spot needing to be opened up, Kansas City also designated Zimmer — the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft — for assignment. Zimmer has dealt with a plethora of injuries over a six-year professional career, including ones that almost totally wiped out his 2014 and 2016 seasons. When he’s been healthy, he’s been quite effective, posting a 3.54 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 85 minor-league appearances (49 starts), though he struggled in his first exposure to Triple-A last year, throwing for a 5.79 ERA with a 1.56 WHIP in 20 appearances, including two starts. Zimmer pitched in just one Cactus League game this spring, allowing one earned run on a hit and two walks over two-thirds of an inning. It’s unlikely that Zimmer will be picked up on waivers, and since he hasn’t been outrighted to the minors before he’ll be required to accept an assignment to Triple-A if he does indeed clear. No matter what, though, it’s certainly not the most pleasant development for a pitcher who was once projected to be the Royals’ future ace.