December 2009

Sizable salary increases for Bannister, Davies

Even though they had losing records and had to shut down early because of shoulder fatigue, pitchers Brian Bannister and Kyle Davies got sizable salary increases from the Royals.

Bannister, 7-12, agreed to $2.3 million for 2010 after making $1,737,500 last season. Davies, 8-9, took $1.8 million and went up from $1.3 million.

They agreed to terms on Saturday, avoiding the possibility of salary arbitration, along with pitcher Roman Colon who settled for $665,000 after making $435,000 last year. That’s if he makes the Major League roster, of course; his Minor League salary would be $240,000.

— Dick Kaegel

Royals sign catcher Jason Kendall to two-year deal

The Royals’ legwork during the Winter Meetings paid off on Friday when they signed free-agent catcher Jason Kendall to a two-year contract.

Kendall, 35, is expected to take over as the Royals’ primary catcher following the departure of Miguel Olivo into the free-agent pool.

A 14-year Major Leaguer, the right-handed batter has a career average of .290 in 1,967 games. He’s not a power hitter – 75 homers – but has an on-base percentage of .369. Earlier in his career, he often batted in the leadoff spot, unusual for a catcher, and has 177 stolen bases.

The Royals went into the meetings at Indianapolis last Monday checking the market for a catcher, a center fielder, a left-handed starter and bullpen help but the signing of Kendall is the first tangible result.

They also were linked to catchers Ivan Rodriguez, who signed a two-year deal with the Washington Nationals, along with Jose Molina and Rod Barajas.

–Dick Kaegel

Royals release DH Mike Jacobs, pitcher John Bale

The Royals got the last day of the Winter Meetings off to a fast start, releasing designated hitter Mike Jacobs and relief pitcher John Bale early Thursday morning.

The moves reduced the roster to 38 players, leaving open two spots prior to the Rule 5 draft.

Both players proved to be disappointments last season.

Jacobs, obtained from the Marlins in a trade for reliever Leo Nunez, hit 19 home runs with 61 RBIs and a .228 average after a .247/32/93 line in 2008 in the National League.

He got off to a good start in his first 36 games, batting .270 with nine homers and 23 RBIs but fell off rapidly. He began the season as the starting first baseman but quickly lost that job to Billy Butler and went into a DH role.

Bale, in his third season with the Royals, began the season on the disabled list after undergoing thyroid surgery. Reinstated on May 23, he pitched in a career-high 43 games but posted a 5.72 ERA in 28 1/3 innings with a 0-1 record and one save.

A left-handed signed by the Royals as a free agent out of Japan for the 2007 season, his stay was interrupted by injuries including shoulder and back strains and a broken hand. He was tried as a starter in 2008 but that experiment ended after he lost all three outings.

–Dick Kaegel

Repaired Crisp caught in the middle

Coco Crisp sounds as if he’d really like to come back to the Royals next season but, as a free agent, he’s kind of caught in the middle. Surgery on both shoulders last summer makes him a gamble for teams to sign before they can judge his recovery and that might not be possible until January or whenever he can resume full baseball activities. For his part, Crisp says he’s feeling good and expects to be back to normal – maybe even better with his repairs – this season.

Crisp was impressive last spring, changing his approach at the plate to coax more walks and being aggressive on the bases. He looked like an ideal leadoff man and was roaming center field wide and free. A good guy with a terrific family, he was a calm veteran presence in the clubhouse.

Royals GM Dayton Moore was impressed with him but, due to the uncertainty of Crisp’s condition, feels compelled to look at other alternatives such as free agent Scott Podsednik and the Orioles’ Felix Pie. Of course, the Royals already have Mitch Maier in house with considerable potential and Josh Anderson as a backup. Another alternative would be to move David DeJesus back to center field from left and try newcomer Josh Fields in left.

The bottom line consideration, as usual, would be what money Crisp would want to come back. During a long phone conversation, we asked if he’d come up with a price.

“Yeah, yeah, a hundred million dollars per year, obviously,” he said merrily. “That’d be OK with me.”

Coco always comes with a smile.

–Dick Kaegel