Kansas City Royals Should Pass on Yovani Gallardo
By Caleb Woody
The Kansas City Royals may have a need for a starting pitcher, signing Yovani Gallardo is not the answer.
The Kansas City Royals are rumored to be after another mid-tier pitching option. This year that option is Yovani Gallardo. With the recent signing of Dillon Gee, there are options for the starting staff. Ventura, Volquez, Young, Medlen, Duffy, and Gee. Rumors of Kyle Zimmer (finally) making his MLB debut have been floating around as well. So I don’t think it’s necessary to overpay for a pitcher past his prime showing signs of regression. Not yet, at least.
At one time, Gallardo appeared to be on the brink of stardom and success, that is not the case anymore. The 30 year old righty has regressed in several aspects over the last several seasons, and is probably going to cost far more than he is truly worth. The Toronto Blue Jays set the tone for mid-tier pitching value when they signed J.A. Happ to a 3 year contract worth 36 million dollars. Happ is 3 years older than Gallardo, and while their numbers from last season are pretty similar, Gallardo is expected to get at least a 4 year deal worth no less annually then 12 million.
There are several concerns regarding Gallardo, including the obvious decline in strikeouts. The strikeout numbers have been going down consistently for several years now. 2009: 9.89, 2010: 9.73, 2011: 8.99, 2012: 9.00, 2013: 7.17, 2014: 6.83, and 2015: 5.91. The walk rate is also concerning. The 3.32 posted in 2015 is right along with his career average.
It’s not a secret that his fastball has lost velocity. In 2010 and 2011, his fastball averaged 92.6 mph. Last season the average was 90.5. This is pretty normal regression for an aging pitcher who has thrown a ton of innings, but beyond the velocity drop, he doesn’t throw as many fastballs as he used to. He also doesn’t throw as many curveballs as he used to, but for good reason. This has been a pretty good swing and miss until the last few years. His career strikeout rate with the curve is 35.3%, however, in 2015, that rate dropped to 23.6.His career average for inducing swinging strikes on the pitch is 12.8%, yet last year that dropped to 8%. The swings and misses are down and the contact is up. Gallardo’s career contact rate on the curveball is 66.9%, last year it went up to 76.7%, the highest of his career. Gallardo started throwing more sliders, possibly in an attempt to supplement the lack of swings and misses, but failed to establish it as a real strikeout pitch.
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His ground ball rate has started to go up slightly. Career rate: 46.7%, 2014: 50.8, and 2015: 49.3. This is usually the trend we see when pitchers lose fastball velocity and begin to pitch more to contact. The overall contact rate was at just about 84% last year. League average in 2015 was 77.8. In his career he’s gotten contact 80.6% of the time, yet early on when the strikeout numbers were good, the rate was slightly lower (76.7 in 09 78.8 in 2010 and 78.6 in 2011).
Pitching to contact isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when the strikeouts aren’t there anymore and the career walk rate is 3.31/9, it just doesn’t seem like a good mix. High number of base runners usually equal high number of runs. The Royals are an incredible example of how valuable simply making contact can be.
The 2015 season is proof that this new style of pitching is not as effective. His FIP and xFIP were both up. Gallardo’s career average for FIP is 3.74; in 2015 it was 4.00. His xFIP career average is 3.65 and this year it was 4.31. Essentially, he has become league average; in fact, fWar has not valued Gallardo beyond 2.6 in any of the last four seasons. Gallardo’s arsenal has been weakened, and no longer has the “stuff” to be a 1 or 2 starter, even for Kansas City. As the inevitable decline continues, the financial commitment could become burdensome, hindering the Royals from flexibility and sustained success.
Gallardo could be somewhat valuable to the Royals simply just to eat innings, which is a problem the starting staff shared last season. But the peripherals just aren’t good enough for a big contract. He allows a ton of base runners (1.42 WHIP last season) and doesn’t strike anyone out anymore. For 5/75 or even 4/50 I just can’t justify signing him. Especially considering Kansas City is still in the hunt to resign Alex Gordon, and hopes to keep some of its younger players around for awhile. Edinson Volquez is a similar pitcher, but he only cost the Royals 20 million over two years.
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If the Royals can land him at that price, that might be ok, but the regression is obvious, and the price tag too high. I’m not saying there are a ton of better options available, just that Gallardo is not worth the gamble.