The Royals performed some roster maintenance on Friday, signing right-handed pitcher Mike Morin to a one-year contract while opting to let outfielder Terrance Gore become a free agent before re-signing him on a minor-league deal.
The moves came before Friday’s deadline to tender contracts to salary arbitration eligible players.
The Royals also tendered contracts to pitchers Kelvin Herrera, Nathan Karns and Brandon Maurer. But first, they maneuvered to retain Gore, 26, while clearing a roster spot.
A playoff weapon in 2014 and 2015, Gore offers elite speed and base-stealing ability late in games. The rest of his skill set, however, has never matched his speed. He was also out of options entering 2018 after spending parts of the last four seasons on the 40-man roster.
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The Royals would have been forced to keep Gore on the 25-man roster all season or put him through waivers in order to send him to the minor leagues. Instead, the club opted to not tender him a major-league contract, allowing him to become a free agent on Friday afternoon before signing him to a minor-league deal later in the day. The move will offer flexibility heading into spring training.
A 20th-round pick in 2011 out of Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Fla., Gore made his major-league debut in 2014 and recorded 21 stolen bases in 25 opportunities across four seasons. He appeared in 49 games and finished 0 for 11 with one walk in 14 plate appearances. He also finished with four stolen bases and two runs scored in the postseason.
Morin, meanwhile, signed a split contract after being claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels last September. A graduate of Shawnee Mission South, he’ll head to spring training with his hometown team and make a pro-rated portion of a $750,000 contract if on the 25-man roster and $250,000 when in the minors.
The move avoided arbitration for the 26-year-old reliever.
Morin posted a 7.20 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 20 innings last season while splitting time between the Angels and Royals. He still offers potential. His best season came as a rookie in 2014 when he logged a 2.90 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 59 innings. He'll likely enter camp competing for a job in the bullpen.
Friday’s deadline offered the latest important date of the offseason. Players reach salary arbitration after accumulating three years of major-league service time or “super-two” status. Once that happens, clubs can tender those players contracts and head to the arbitration process. Players reach full free agency after six years of service time. In arbitration, the two sides exchange salary figures in January. They can settle at any time before a potential arbitration hearing in February.
The Royals’ 40-man roster now has 37 players and three open slots.