Royals Notes: Robinson Tejeda and the bullpen

Robinson Tejeda recently elected to pursue free agency rather than come back for another year with the Royals. Kevin Agee takes a look back at Tejeda's career with Kansas City and discusses which Royals relief pitchers could be trade bait this winter.

  • Last week, now-former Royals pitcher Robinson Tejeda became a free agent, presumably because he saw what everyone else did: a Royals bullpen that last year went seven-deep with quality arms. There wasn't any room for Tejeda on the team last year, and there probably won't be room next year.

    Tejeda was one of Dayton Moore's best free talent acquisitions. When the Royals claimed him off waivers midway through the 2008 season, Tejeda was coming off three tough seasons as a starting pitcher for the Texas Rangers. After posting a respectable 108 ERA+ in 2006, the wheels fell off in 2007, as the big right-hander got hammered to the tune of a 6.61 ERA in 19 starts. Things didn't get off to a great start in 2008 either, and after six innings, the Rangers cut bait.

    In swooped Moore and the Royals, who saw Tejeda as a classic example of a pitcher with a good fastball who just couldn't hack it as a starter. They gave him a role in the bullpen, and for parts of four seasons, he was a solid reliever who only cost the Royals about $3 million. In fact, with a 122 ERA+ during his time in Kansas City, he was arguably the Royals' second-best reliever behind Joakim Soria.

    Control problems continued to be Tejeda's biggest flaw, but he was able to pitch through them by way of being unhittable at times. He was especially good in 2009 when he allowed only 43 hits in 73.1 innings. He also struck out 87 and walked 50 that year. With 186 strikeouts and 98 walks in 181.1 innings with the Royals, you could say he ended up being what the Royals thought they had signed in Juan Cruz.

    Injury problems and an abundance of young relief pitching pushed the 29-year-old Tejeda out of the Royals plans going forward, but assuming he's healthy, he'll be a worthwhile pickup for a team looking to take a flier on an inexpensive arm for depth in the bullpen.

  • Not only do the Royals have a lot of depth in relief, they have a lot of youth there too. In fact, at 29, Tejeda was the elder statesman of the relief corp. (Outfielder Mitch Maier, also 29, threw one shutout inning at Boston.) Six relief pitchers made their Major League debuts this year and largely had a lot of success. However, the Royals shouldn't stand pat with that position of strength.

    The team has an opportunity to package one or two of those relievers with other pieces to obtain starting pitching help and/or an upgrade at an everyday position. If that opportunity presents itself, the Royals will pursue it, Moore said.

    "We like our bullpen and we feel like we can match up the last three innings of every game," Moore said in August. "That being said, would you make a trade with a bullpen pitcher if you can to get an everyday position player or a young starter? Yeah, you'd look to do that."

    However, the team on the other end of the deal would need a great deal of depth in its starting rotation to make such a move, Moore said, noting that relievers tend to see their production go up and down from year to year.

    So which relievers should the Royals look to move? Greg Holland may have the most trade value, but he's a candidate to be the team's pitcher of the year as well and looks like the best of the bunch. Louis Coleman struggled with the home run ball and fought his control at times, but also was second only to Holland in strikeout rate. Nathan Adcock is likely to pitch next year for Triple-A Omaha.

    That leaves right-handers Aaron Crow and Blake Wood, and lefty Tim Collins. Despite a respectable 3.75 ERA, Wood frustrated Royals fans with his tendency to allow a lot of baserunners. The same goes for Collins, who was worked hard by manager Ned Yost.

    Crow may be trade bait (Getty Images).

    Wood and Collins probably don't have as much trade value as Crow, who the Royals can sell as a rookie All-Star who came up through college and the minor leagues as a starting pitcher. There were whispers about the team turning Crow back into a starter for next year, but his mechanics may preclude the team from doing that.

    As a result, Crow is the team's best trade chip for this winter: A young, healthy pitcher with a plus fastball and a plus curve who could be made into a starter in the future. The Royals phones may not burn up if they put Crow on the market, but if added in a deal that includes prospects such as Wil Myers and Cheslor Cuthbert, Moore would be that much closer to acquiring help for the rotation.

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