KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Right-handed pitcher Felipe Paulino agreed Thursday night to a salary cut of $150,000 in order to remain next season with Royals while he recovers from Tommy John surgery to replace an elbow ligament.
The one-year deal for $1.75 million enabled the Royals to resolve one of their three pending arbitration cases prior to Friday’s 11 p.m. deadline for offering contracts to all unsigned players under their control.
“I’m happy, very happy, to stay in Kansas City,” Paulino said. “I really appreciate that Kansas City gave me an opportunity. The Royals believed in me, and that meant a lot. I have to be true to myself.”
Paulino, 29, began playing catch earlier this week, which marked his first throwing activity since undergoing surgery in July. He expects to rejoin the Royals’ rotation after the All-Star break.
“I’m injured right now,” he said, “but I can’t wait for the second half of next year. I know I have to be careful, but I threw today (Thursday) for the second time, and everything felt great. Hopefully, I’ll get stronger every day now.”
The Royals still face possible arbitration cases with right-hander Luke Hochevar and second baseman Chris Getz. While club officials appear willing to offer arbitration to Hochevar, they want to secure a deal with Getz prior to the deadline.
“We’re working,” general manager Dayton Moore said, “but there’s nothing to report at this point. We’ll see.”
Hesitation regarding Paulino and Getz stems from persistent injury issues that dogged both players in recent years.
Paulino, 29, was 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA last season in seven starts and, despite his injury, was in line for a raise to $2.7 million according to industry estimates.
“I wanted to be in Kansas City,” he said, “because I think we can make something special happen next season. You can see a couple of moves that we made here. I’m hoping we play well in the first half, and then I can help in the second half.”
The deal offers the possibility for Paulino to boost his salary to $2 million through performance bonuses.
“We wanted him back,” Moore said. “Felipe along with (physical therapist) Jeff Blum and (head trainer) Nick Kenney have done a tremendous job with his rehab. Nick and Jeff feel great about where he is.
“We’re counting on Felipe to be ready in July, and we control him for 2014 (before he reaches free agency). It’s a very low risk for us, and the upside, potentially, is very good.”
Getz, 29, played just 64 games last season when a series of injuries — bruised ribs, lower leg strain and a fractured thumb — forced him to the disabled list on three occasions. He also spent time on the DL in 2009 and 2010 because of oblique strains.
Those durability concerns have club officials debating whether they want to risk an arbitration hearing, even though Getz, after batting .275, appears in line for a relatively modest raise from $967,500 to a projected $1.2 million.
“We like Getzie a lot,” Moore said. “He fits our team. We need a guy like him. He’s a leader on the field, and he makes (shortstop Alcides) Escobar better. Again, we’ll see.”
The Royals, meanwhile, continue to pursue another impact addition to their rotation. The latest report, by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, points to interest in New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, the National League Cy Young Award winner.
“It’s important to get another starter,” Moore said, “if you can get the right guy.”
Discussions regarding Dickey appear to be at the preliminary stage, much like recent talks with Tampa Bay on right-hander James Shields and Boston on lefty Jon Lester.
The Royals also continue to sift through free-agent possibilities.
They recently offered a two-year deal for $26 million to Ryan Dempster but dropped out when the bidding escalated. They also offered $4.5 million for one year to Scott Feldman before he accepted a $6 million deal from the Chicago Cubs.
The more immediate concern is the tender deadline.
All unsigned players under club control must be offered contracts prior to 11 p.m. to prevent them from becoming free agents. The deadline is rarely an issue with players not yet eligible for arbitration.
By offering a contract to an arbitration-eligible player, the club accepts the possibility of arbitration, but it can subsequently limit its financial liability by releasing the player in spring training if he does not have a guaranteed contract.
A contract settled through arbitration is not guaranteed and, generally, clubs don’t guarantee negotiated one-year deals for non-free agents.
Depending on the timing of the player’s release in spring training, he is entitled to roughly one-fourth or one-sixth of the contract’s value as termination pay.
That ability to limit liability could be a factor in the club’s negotiations with Hochevar who, by industry estimates, is in line for a raise from $3.51 million to $4.4 million despite going 8-16 with a 5.73 ERA in 32 starts.
That commitment could change if the Royals succeed in efforts to acquire another starting pitcher. Even then, one club official said, the Royals might seek to try to trade veteran left-hander Bruce Chen instead of Hochevar.
Waiver waiting — It’s also decision day for three players designated last week for assignment: left-handed pitcher Ryan Verdugo, catcher Adam Moore and outfielder Derrick Robinson.
When the waiver-claim period expires at noon Friday, each of the three will either be heading elsewhere as a part of a new club’s 40-man roster or, presumably, to the Royals’ farm system on an outright assignment.
None of the three have the right to refuse an outright assignment — as catcher Brayan Pena and pitcher Chris Volstad did earlier this week in choosing to become free agents after clearing waivers.
Guthrie’s union post — Veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who recently agreed to a three-year deal for $25 million, will serve for the next two years as one of two Association Player Representatives for the Major League Baseball Players Association.
It is the highest elected position within the union.
Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson was also elected to serve with Guthrie earlier this week at the union’s annual meeting in New York.