Royals, Nick Wittgren Agree To Minor League Deal

The Royals are signing reliever Nick Wittgren to a minor league contract, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter link). He’ll receive an invitation to MLB Spring Training.

Wittgren has pitched at the MLB level in each of the last seven seasons. The Purdue product spent three years apiece in Miami and Cleveland between 2016-21, typically posting solid results while soaking up low-leverage innings. Wittgren put up an ERA of 3.14 or lower in three of his first four campaigns, showing strong control and typically missing bats at a slightly above-average clip. Home runs became an increasing issue during his time in Cleveland, though, and he surrendered nearly two longballs per nine innings en route to a 5.05 ERA in 2021.

The Guardians outrighted him off their 40-man roster at the end of the 2021 season. He spent most of the winter in free agency but caught on with the Cardinals during Spring Training on a big league contract. That deal guaranteed him $1.2MM and a season-opening bullpen spot.

Unfortunately for St. Louis, Wittgren’s struggles during his final year in Cleveland were only magnified with the Cardinals. He was tagged for a 5.90 ERA across 29 outings. Wittgren got the longball in check but saw his ability to miss bats vanish. He struck out only 12.7% of opponents for St. Louis, seven percentage points lower than his previous personal-low mark. In early July, the Cardinals released him. He sat out the remainder of the 2022 campaign and will try to work his way back to the majors with their in-state rivals next spring.

Wittgren doesn’t throw especially hard, averaging only 91.4 MPH on his fastball this past season. He doesn’t have the kind of power arsenal that usually plays in high-leverage work, but he’s walked fewer than 7% of batters faced as a big leaguer. Kansas City hasn’t made any major league additions to their bullpen so far this offseason. Their relievers ranked 27th in the majors with a 4.66 ERA this year.

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