On Tuesday the Kansas City Royals signed three veterans to minor league contracts. Joining the organization are OF Willy Taveras, left-handed reliever George Sherrill and right-handed reliever Dan Wheeler. All three have been invited to partake in Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona.
With 29 seasons of major league experience between them, if you follow baseball on even a cursory level you’re probably already aware of who they are and perhaps even what they could potentially bring to the table. Regardless, I’m taking a look at each of them and how they could fit into the 2013 picture.
I tackled Willy Taveras last night which means next up is …
All in all he’s had a solid career, but it’s made all the more remarkable given the fact that he went undrafted out of Austin Peay State University. After college he pitched in the independent leagues. First in the Frontier League with Evansville (1999-2000) then with Sioux Falls (2001) and Winnipeg (2002-2003) in the Northern League. In 2003 with the Goldeyes, Sherrill struck 30 batter over 16 innings while allowing just eight hits, four walks and two runs. It was an effort that caught the attention of the Mariners scouts. On July 2nd Seattle purchased his contract and sent him to Double-A where he continued to generate impressive results. One year and two weeks after being plucked from Independent League baseball, George Sherrill made his major league debut.
Since then he’s racked up over seven years of major league service time and has made slightly more than $11.2 million while pitching in parts of nine major league seasons. He was a part of the package – along with Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and Kameron Mickolio – that brought Erik Bedard to Seattle prior to the start of the 2008 season. A year and a half later, Baltimore sent him to the Dodgers in exchange for Steve Johnson and Josh Bell. All told Sherrill has made 442 appearances with a 3.77 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 154 BB and 320 SO in 324.1 innings of work with the Mariners, Orioles, Dodgers and Braves.
At times he’s been fantastic including 2007 and 2009 when he finished with an ERA+ of 187 and 258 respectively. At others he’s been right around, or slightly above average, including 2004, 2006 and 2011. And of course as is the case with so many relievers, his career also includes a couple of below average years including 2005, 2008 and 2010 which was the low point. His 2010 campaign was a genuine clunker. It was a 36.1 IP, 6.69 ERA and 1.93 WHIP debacle that saw him walk nearly as many batters (24) as he struck out (25).
For 2012 however, Sherrill gets an incomplete. He made two appearances for the Mariners before his elbow gave way during a game with the Texas Rangers on April 9th. He had Tommy John surgery not long after and was lost for the season. In that regard he will have lots of brothers in arms (unintended pun) now that he’s a member of the Royals system.
As you can surmise from the fact that he’s thrown just 324.1 innings in 442 relief appearances, Sherrill has spent much of his major league career as a lefty specialist. He has, however, also spent parts of a couple seasons pitching as a closer and has 56 career saves to his credit – the majority of which came back in 2008 and 2009. The splits reveal a reliever that has traditionally been death to left-handed batters. He’s held them to a 0.186/.245/.285 slash line with 208 SO and just 43 BB in 616 PA. Right-handers as you can imagine (knowing his overall career numbers listed above) have had a much easier go of things off him with a 0.273/.380/.418 line and a near even 112-111 SO-to-BB rate in 780 plate appearances.
The Royals currently have just one left-handed reliever locked in place in their bullpen currently – Tim Collins – but they don’t have a true left-handed specialist. Collins is actually more effective against right-handed batters than lefties, though he’s plenty good regardless. Outside of Tiny Tim there would appear to be an opening if Yost and company want a second lefty to call on during the season. Donnie Joseph has yet to make his major league debut. Same goes for Justin Marks who opened some eyes in the AFL but needs some time in Triple-A, and it’s premature to move him to the bullpen anyway. Everett Teaford is not really a bullpen arm and struggles against LHB more than RHB. Francisley Bueno was phenomenal in limited action last year but he’s 31 and it’s hard to say if he can repeat his performance since 2012 was hist first big league action in four season. Bueno, like Teaford, also is more effective on righties than lefties.
Once he’s back on the mound and presumably healthy, George Sherrill has a shot to work his way into the Kansas City Royals bullpen as a LOOGY. The concern of course is that he never had real great control to begin with and that is one of the things that takes the longest to return for Tommy John”survivors.” Regardless, this appears to be a very shrewd signing on the part of the Kansas City Royals and Dayton Moore. There is zero risk since he’s on a minor league deal and doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster. There’s also a chance for good return on their minimal investment if he looks like he’s returned to form and starts throwing well.