After all the free agency hubbub involving Masahiro Tanaka and other big names, the Kansas City Royals are making some considerably more subtle moves to improve their team in 2014. As well as signing veteran starter Brad Penny, KC also acquired 35-year old Jon Rauch and 40-year old Guillermo Mota. So, what kind of impact can these aging arms have on the Royals’ chances to succeed this year? Although the addition of both veteran relievers is a plus for the franchise, their mark on this year’s team will be minimal.
While the benefits of signing Brad Penny revolved around veteran leadership and franchise depth, the reasons to sign Rauch were much more aesthetically obvious. At 6-foot-11, he stands as the tallest pitcher ever in MLB, not to mention the tallest person to ever hit a major-league home run. Following years of steady success as a MLB reliever, Rauch was DFA’d by the Miami Marlins last season after recording a 7.56 ERA in 15 appearances. Despite that less-than-graceful descent to the farm system, Rauch probably has a better chance of making the team than either Mota or Penny.
This year’s bullpen is without Will Smith, so that leaves at least one hole to fill with a reliable reliever. Rauch and Mota have experienced similar success throughout their careers – Rauch has played in 11 major-league seasons and recorded a 3.9 ERA while Mota posted a 3.94 ERA in 14 years of service. Considering their comparable track records, Mota’s few extra years of mileage should make Rauch the favorite to win a spot in the bullpen.
Although Rauch is the front-runner, it’s possible that Royals fans don’t see any of these guys on the roster beyond Spring Training. If that’s what happens, it’s all good news for the fans and the franchise. Whoever beats out these veteran arms will have more in the tank and more of a ceiling than anyone we’ve mentioned here today. It should still be taken as a positive sign that these noteworthy vets represent the Royals’ worst-case scenario.