Royals solidify 'pen at Meetings
Farnsworth projected to fill setup role; Waechter inked
LAS VEGAS -- The Royals came to the Winter Meetings focused on scanning the free-agent list for right-handed setup relievers.
And as the sessions ended on Thursday, the Royals seemed to have Kyle Farnsworth lined up to fill that need. They reached a two-year agreement with Farnsworth, pending his passing a physical examination.
They needed a replacement for Ramon Ramirez, swapped to Boston for center fielder Coco Crisp, and Leo Nunez, dealt to Florida for first baseman Mike Jacobs.
Farnsworth filled general manager Dayton Moore's quest for a power right-hander who can pitch the eighth inning as a prelude to closer Joakim Soria. Unless another right-handed setup man is signed, it appears that Farnsworth will share setup duties with left-hander Ron Mahay.
Another right-hander, Doug Waechter, was signed on Thursday, but he's seen as a middle-innings reliever. The Royals also signed left-hander Horacio Ramirez with plans to make him a starter.
There was a flurry about the Royals being in the hunt for shortstop Rafael Furcal, a high-ticket free agent, along with the Blue Jays, A's and Dodgers. The Royals, looking for a veteran to pair in the middle with Mike Aviles, are continuing to check into Furcal, but their chances were unclear as the Meetings ended.
Furcal's agent was quoted as saying the matter might not be settled until next week or later. The possibility that the Royals would sign the high-priced free agent from the Dodgers seemed remote. It would involve considerable payroll gymnastics, dropping some high salaries to bring Furcal in under the $70-million plateau created by ownership.
An obvious solution would be trading slugger Jose Guillen and his $12 million annual paycheck, but that seemed unlikely. There's not much of a market for Guillen and his salary.
At the onset of the conclave, second baseman Mark Grudzielanek declined the Royals' offer of salary arbitration and became a free agent, hoping to land with an established contender.
Deals done: Farnsworth was in line to be signed, but the only official signings during the meetings were Waechter and Ramirez. The Royals lost a pitcher, right-hander Jeff Fulchino, to the Astros on waivers. And they added one, reclaiming righty Jairo Cuevas on waivers from the Braves.
Rule 5 activity: After drafting pitcher Jose Lugo from the Twins, the Royals immediately sent him to the Mariners for cash. In the Triple-A phase, the Royals drafted pitchers Luis Ortega (Nationals) and Carlos Arias (Indians) and catcher John Suomi (Phillies). They lost two pitchers, Gilbert De La Vara (Astros) and Russ Haltiwanger (Cardinals).
Goals accomplished: The right-handed setup gap was filled by Farnsworth and the bullpen was beefed up with Waechter. A left-hander was deemed advisable to break up an all-right-handed rotation and Ramirez gets that shot.
Unfinished business: The Farnsworth signing needs to be finalized. Looking at middle infielders, including Furcal, continues.
GM's bottom line: "As always, we've got incredible people in scouting and the front office and player development and our meetings were outstanding."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.