Kansas City Royals: Making the case, Toronto Blue Jays free agents
By Ryan Sikes
Continuing our series of free agents that the Kansas City Royals should potentially pursue, the Toronto Blue Jays are up next.
While both the Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals provided an exciting ALCS during the 2015 postseason, both teams are now in the midst of their rebuilds. Once led by veterans like David Price and Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays are going through a youth movement highlighted by 20-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who finished with 15 bombs, 69 RBI and a 0.772 OPS in 123 games this season.
Bo Bichette is another young guy that is extremely exciting to watch. The 21-year-old had 11 home runs, 21 RBI, and a 0.930 OPS in just 43 games this season. Certainly, their 67-95 record in 2019 is not ideal but the arrow is trending upwards for the Blue Jays who are loaded with pitching prospects and they’ll need all the help they can get. Aaron Sanchez was a massive disappointment for the team this season with a 6.07 ERA in 23 starts.
Trent Thornton was arguably their best starter this year, posting a 4.84 ERA in 29 starts for the team. The 26-year-old tossed 154.1 innings and struck out 149 but also walked 61 and gave up 24 bombs. As noted, Nate Pearson looks like he’ll be ready to make his big league debut next season as he posted a 2.30 ERA in 25 starts across three levels of minor league affiliates.
The Blue Jays don’t have many free agents this offseason but the Royals could potentially snag one of them and plug into their roster. Let’s take a look.
Justin Smoak, 1B
Smoak posted a down season in 121 games for the Blue Jays with a 0.208/0.342/0.406 line to go along with 22 home runs and 61 RBI. However, a closer look at his number might indicate that he was extremely unlucky this year as he posted a 0.223 BABIP which is down from his previous three seasons of 0.295/0.285/0.297.
He had a career-high walk rate of 15.8 percent and reduced his strikeout percentage to 21.2 percent, down from 26.3 percent in 2018. The Royals don’t have a set option at the first base position as both Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom will be looking to solidify things in 2020. Smoak will be 33 in December and looks like a strong bounce-back candidate for next season. He made $8 million in 2019 but would likely have to take a pay cut if the Royals brought him on.
Buchholz was once one of the most highly-touted prospects for the Boston Red Sox but injuries derailed his potential and they cut ties with him during the 2016 offseason. The Royals actually signed him to a minor-league deal in March 2018 but was released on May 1. Last season, Buchholz posted a 6.56 ERA in 12 starts for the Blue Jays but it could be time for him to finally move to the bullpen.
Look no further than Ian Kennedy to see what kind of success an injury-prone pitcher can have tossing fewer pitches and innings. Buchholz hasn’t appeared in relief in 2016 but the Royals should take a flyer on him on a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training as a bullpen arm.
John Axford, P
Axford is 37-years-old and suffered numerous arm injuries this past season. Royals should steer clear of him.