NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Rule 5 Draft pipeline will, barring a late personnel move, be closed this year to the Royals because they have no vacancies on their 40-man roster.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The draft begins at 9 this morning and marks the closing event of the annual Winter Meetings. It proved a profitable enterprise for the Royals in recent years; netting closer Joakim Soria from San Diego in 2006, and pitcher Nate Adcock from Pittsburgh in 2010.
“It would probably be hard (to clear space) at this point,” general manager Dayton Moore conceded Wednesday, “but that could change. We just don’t know yet.”
The Royals have the eighth overall pick — if they choose to clear space. Otherwise, the morning will be spent totaling losses since they have several players who loom as possible selections, including pitchers Jon Keck and Robinson Yambati.
“We can’t control that,” Moore said. “You just move on.”
Generally, players are eligible for selection if not protected on a club’s 40-man roster after four or five pro seasons — four if the player was 19 or older when he signed his first contract; five if he was younger than 19.
Houston has the first pick in the draft, followed by the Chicago Cubs, Colorado, Minnesota, Cleveland, Miami and Boston before the Royals’ slotted pick.
Soria on Royals
Soria’s two-year deal for $8 million with the Texas Rangers became official late Tuesday after he passed his physical examination.
He initially hoped to remain with the Royals after becoming a free agent when the club exercised a $750,000 buyout on an $8 million option for next season.
“They talked to me,” Soria said, “and the offer was not even close to what I was looking for. We decided to go to free agency. By the way, I know the Royals have got a great young bullpen. I believe that. They have great young guys.
“I think if the needs of the team were different, they would have brought me back.”
Even so, the departure was bittersweet.
“I really thank the Kansas City Royals fans,” said Soria, an All-Star selection in 2008 and 2010 for the Royals. “Kansas City was my home for six years. I was proud and glad to be a Royal.”
Soria, 28, missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on April 3. He said he hopes to return to full-time duty by late May, although previous medical estimates targeted July.
“I’m pretty far in my rehab,” he said. “I’m throwing 105 feet. I feel pretty good. We’ve got confidence that I’m going to be back on time. …We’ll see how it goes.”
The tentative plan is for Salvy Perez to catch 140 games next season, but manager Ned Yost admitted that might not be possible.
“I hope it’s not 159 or 160,” Yost said. “I hope I can give him a break here and there. I love that kid. I have a hard time not playing him. I love to write his name in the lineup because he’s that special.
“I’ve never had a catcher with the talent and ability that this young man has — nor the makeup or the leadership on the field that this young man has. Ideally, I’d like to get him into 140 games. But I think reality is it’s going to be more like 150 if he stays healthy.
Paul Hagen of MLB.com and the late Tom Cheek, a longtime Toronto broadcaster, will be honored for their lifetime achievements next July during Hall of Fame Induction Weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Hagen was selected by his peers in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America as this year’s recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for “meritorious contributions to baseball writing” in recognition of a 40-year writing career that included 26 years in Philadelphia.
Former Star editor Joe McGuff was the 1984 Spink winner.
Cheek was chosen by as the Ford C. Frick Award recipient for “excellence in broadcasting” after serving as the Blue Jays’ radio voice from the club’s inception in 1977 through June 2, 2004. He underwent surgery later that month for a brain tumor and died in 2005.
Royals broadcaster Denny Matthews was the 2007 Frick winner.
• The White Sox reached a three-year deal with utility infielder Jeff Keppinger for $12 million. Chicago outbid the Yankees.
• The Angels signed right-hander Joe Blanton to a two-year deal for $15 million and reliever Sean Burnett for $8 million over two years with a club option for 2015.
• The Cardinals reached a three-year deal with lefty reliever Randy Choate for $7.5 million.
• The Rockies retained lefty Jeff Francis, who pitched in 2011 for the Royals, on a one-year deal.
• The Orioles retained outfielder Nate McLouth by agreeing to a one-year deal for $2 million with $500,000 in performance bonuses. The likely eliminates Baltimore as a trade possibility for the Royals regarding outfielder Jeff Francoeur.
• The Diamondbacks agreed to a one-year deal with third baseman Eric Chavez for $3 million. They also signed catcher Wil Nieves to a one-year deal for $800,000.
• The Mariners reached a one-year deal with outfielder Jason Bay believed to be valued at less than $1 million.
• The Tigers sent catcher Ramon Cabrera to the Pirates for lefty Andrew Oliver.
• The Braves picked up their option on manager Fredi Gonzalez for the 2014 season.