KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The Royals crossed another item off their offseason checklist on Wednesday, signing left-handed reliever Jose Mijares to a one-year deal worth $925,000.
The announcement came one day after the club spent $2 million to re-acquire veteran infielder Yuniesky Betancourt to fill a utility role. And with the 40-man roster now full, it could potentially be the last significant addition of the offseason.
The Royals, along with their other offseason needs, had been searching for another left-handed solution in their bullpen, and Mijares, who spent the last four seasons with the Minnesota Twins, will likely serve as a situation lefty.
"You have to have multiple options and a lot of depth with your bullpen," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "Because if you're going to win games, the bullpen is gonna get worked a lot.... We feel like (manager) Ned (Yost) has the necessary weapons to match up the last third of a game."
Mijares, 27, comes to Kansas City with a solid track record against left-handed hitters during four seasons with the Twins. He's allowed left-handers to bat just .212 with five homers during his career.
But after solid seasons in 2009 and 2010, Mijares took a step back in 2011, finishing with a 4.59 ERA and the same amount of walks (30) as strikeouts in 49 innings of work.
Mijares, 27, had a 1.29 ERA in eight appearances (seven innings) while pitching for Aragua in the Venezuelan winter league. And Moore said the Royals had scouts on hand for nearly every appearance.
"He's been throwing the ball with consistency and velocity and attacking guys," Moore said. "And over the last three years, he's been a very consistent performer when matching up against left-handed hitters."
Now Mijares will be added to a deep bullpen that includes a cadre of young power arms, as well as newly acquired setup man Jonathan Broxton.
For now, Broxton and right-handers Greg Holland and Louis Coleman are likely options to set up for closer Joakim Soria. Right-hander Aaron Crow could return to a relief role if he doesn't win a job in the starting rotation. Right-hander Blake Wood and left-handers Tim Collins and Everett Teaford all logged significant innings in 2011. And rookie right-hander Kelvin Herrera made his debut last September.
The Royals, of course, will also need to identify a long reliever, and that pitcher won't necessarily come from aforementioned group. In short, expect plenty of competition in spring training.
One immediate example: With Mijares in the fold, it could mean that a pitcher such as Collins — the bullpen's primary left-hander in 2011 — could have a shorter leash if he continues to battle command issues.
"We're not trying to put pressure on them," Moore said, "We're just trying to create as much depth as we can. We're always going to expect good things to happen, but we gotta also, from my viewpoint, anticipate worst-case scenario. And as I've said, if you're going to win games consistently, night in and night out, you have to use your bullpen."
Moore also said that the addition of Betancourt — and his ability to play multiple infield positions — could allow the club to carry eight relievers at times. But the Royals, Moore cautioned, have plenty of time to define roles and make decisions.
"That's a decision we won't make until the last week of spring training," Moore said, "just based on where we are, how guys perform, (and) their overall health."