Royals, Medlen agree to two-year, $8.5 million contract
After twice having Tommy John surgery, Kris Medlen was looking for a team to give him a chance.
The defending AL champions were willing to take the gamble.
Kansas City announced an $8.5 million, two-year contract Thursday with the former Atlanta right-hander, who missed all of last season and became a free agent when the Braves failed to offer a contract by the Dec. 2 deadline.
"My career is kind of based on not only being given opportunities but also putting myself in position to take advantage of those opportunities," said Medlen, who is on track to join the Royals mid-season. "Injury wise it hasn't helped, but I feel like this is another opportunity given to me."
Medlen will make $2 million next year and $5.5 million in 2016 and could earn up to $10 million in performance bonuses based on starts and innings. The deal includes a 2017 option with a $1 million buyout.
The 29-year-old went 14-12 with a 3.11 ERA in 2013, his only full season as a starter, and went 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in his last five starts.
Medlen, who hurt his elbow in spring training, also missed most of the 2011 season while he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
"We expect Kris to be more of a second-half guy," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "Kris is going to want to get out of the gate and go. We have a two-year commitment with him and the bottom line is yeah, we need him to help us win a World Series, but more importantly, we need to have him have another 10-plus years in the big leagues."
The 29-year-old Medlen went 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA in 2013, his only full season as a starter. He was at his best late in the season, going 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in his last five starts.
Medlen was expected to fill a spot in the Braves' rotation this past season, but he hurt his elbow in spring training and required surgery. He also had Tommy John surgery late in the 2010 season.
"It's tough enough going through it once," Medlen said. "It's terrible going through it twice."
Medlen's signing continues an offseason spending spree by the notoriously frugal Royals, who are defending an AL pennant for the first time in 29 years.
After declining a $12.5 million option on designated hitter Billy Butler and watching him sign with Oakland, the Royals quickly filled his void by signing Kendrys Morales to a $17 million, two-year deal. The Royals also have a pending $11 million, one-year deal with outfielder Alex Rios, who would replace Norichika Aoki as their primary right fielder.
Those two moves should provide a significant power boost to an offense that went through long slumps last season. The signing of Medlen combined with the potential arrival of Edinson Volquez could help to cover the loss of Shields, a workhorse in two seasons in Kansas City.
"I actually met Kris for the first time today," said Moore, who left the Braves' front office just as they were drafting Medlen. "I obviously was aware of him as a competitor, as a pitcher prior, but I was not part of that draft on draft day. But I followed his career, obviously he pitched against us twice and we've admired what he does and how he does it for a long time."
Royals trainer Nick Kenney said that Medlen already is on a throwing program, but the club would rather take a conservative approach and have him ready for the second half of the season than rush him back and risk another injury.
"It's going to be drawn out longer on purpose," said Kenney, who hopes to have Medlen ready to face live hitters by April. "We feel like there is a lot of upside there."
Medlen said he has no problem with the Royals' plans to coax him along. In fact, he said one of the biggest things he learned from his first Tommy John surgery was to take things slowly.
After all, there's no way to help the Royals return to the postseason if he gets hurt again.
"It's an obvious risk," Medlen said, "but I think I've put myself in a pretty good spot physically to perform for this team whenever they need me, whenever they decide that time is."
The Royals cleared roster space by designating infielder Johnny Giavotella for assignment.