On Monday morning, 31 pitchers were scheduled to report to camp at the Royals’ facility in suburban Phoenix. Before the day was over, club officials would close in on another arm that could potentially impact the 2017 Royals.
On the eve of spring training, the Royals agreed to terms on a two-year contract with left-handed pitcher Travis Wood, pending a physical, a source familiar with the deal confirmed to The Star.
The deal, which will likely become official this week, was first reported by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. It is worth $12 million, according to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball. And when complete, it will offer the Royals another pitcher who could compete for a spot in the starting rotation or shore up a reshuffled bullpen.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore declined comment Monday, citing club policy on deals that are not yet official.
Wood, 30, is a swingman who spent the last five seasons with the Chicago Cubs, posting a 3.94 ERA in 220 appearances, including 98 starts. In 2016, he moved exclusively to the bullpen, recording a 2.95 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 61 innings across 77 relief appearances.
Wood helped the Chicago Cubs win their first World Series championship in 108 years, allowing two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in the postseason. He’s now part of the great migration from Chicago to Kansas City, joining former Cubs Jorge Soler, who will start in right field, and Jason Hammel, who will be in the rotation, on the Royals’ roster.
The news of the deal comes just five days after the Royals officially announced a two-year, $16 million contract for Hammel, a 6-foot-6 right-hander who will slot into the middle of the club’s starting staff. Wood’s future role is a little more uncertain, though ESPN reported Monday that the veteran lefty chose the Royals, in part, because they offered an opportunity to compete for a spot in the rotation.
Wood, who debuted with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010, has made 133 starts in his career, logging a 4.14 ERA in those appearances. His stuff has played slightly better as a reliever. He has put up a 2.83 ERA in 126 appearances out of the bullpen. And when pitching in relief, his strikeouts have jumped from 7.1 per nine innings to 9.1.
Standing just 5 feet 11 and weighing 175 pounds, Wood has relied primarily on a four-seam fastball that tops out around 90 mph and a cutter that sits in the mid 80s. But his versatility made him a coveted arm in a thin market for starting pitching.
In the span of just more than a week, the Royals have acquired Hammel and Wood, two moves born, in part, out of necessity after the tragic death of starting pitcher Yordano Ventura on Jan 22.
The Royals are set to begin the season with Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Vargas and Hammel in the starting rotation. The fifth spot could come down to right-hander Nathan Karns, Wood or left-hander Matt Strahm, who appears more likely headed to the bullpen, where he could profile as a shutdown reliever.
For the Royals, the $12 million investment in Wood also means the team payroll will almost certainly surpass the club-record total from 2016. The Royals were already likely to spend more than $140 million before the Wood signing.
The Royals also made a minor-league signing on Monday, acquiring former Cardinals reliever Seth Maness. Since the beginning of the year, they have spent $40 million on Hammel, Wood and free agent slugger Brandon Moss. All three contracts are for two seasons and significantly backloaded.