Will the KC Royals add a free agent starting pitcher?

KC Royals (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KC Royals (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

While the KC Royals offseason has been fairly quiet so far, there is talk circulating that the team could be looking to add some depth to the rotation.

With the season drawing closer every day, the KC Royals look to be just about done with their roster additions. With the signing of veteran outfielder Alex Gordon, many fans likely thought it was time to accept there would be no more free agents and look towards the season.

According to Jeffrey Flanagan, that may not be the case. Flanagan reported that the Royals are still searching for some rotation depth and that the team is searching their options for veteran starters. 

Along with this, there has been a lot of talk about the possibility of the Royals prospect Brady Singer winning the fifth rotation spot. While this is a very real possibility, it’s looking more and more like Singer will start the year in the minors, giving the Royals more time in the future with the young pitching arm.

The team could continue to work with what they have on the roster already, but with little to no changes from last year, it’s a stretch to think that there will be a great deal of improvement. While there are plenty of pitchers the Royals could place in the fifth rotation spot, it may be in their best interest to find a free agent.

While it’s getting late in the offseason and pickings might be slim, the Royals could still possibly find someone to help them along in their rebuild, at least until they are ready to call up the young arms from the minors.

MLB Trade Rumors offered a few names, suggesting Taijuan Walker, Danny Salazar, Matt Harvey, or Aaron Sanchez. These are all pitchers that could possibly add something to the Royals rotation, and they are all under or right around 30, which is where the team needs to be looking.

Harvey struggled in 2019, holding an ERA of 7.09 over 59.2 innings pitched with Los Angeles. His strikeout rate was lower than in previous years, but his walk rate seemed to skyrocket. While the Royals like a reclamation project, Harvey might not be the best option for a team already struggling with walks.

Salazar and Walker are in similar boats, both attempting to return from injuries and seeing very few innings in 2019.

Salazar saw 4.0 innings in the majors in 2019, holding an ERA of 4.50. Most notably for him may be his change in strikeouts and walks. Salazar was a strikeout pitcher before his injury, but in the few major league innings he saw, his walk rate was higher than his strikeouts. He faired much better in the minors which may speak to him just needing a little more time to get adjusted.

Walker saw even fewer innings at just 1.0 in the majors for 2019. It was a good inning though. He gave up no runs and just one hit, striking out 1 along the way. There are a lot of unknowns surrounding him as he also saw no minor league time to judge off of in 2019, but his past experience shows he can be a consistent arm and at 27 years old, the Royals may want to take a longer look.

Sanchez saw the most major league time out of any the suggested pitchers, totaling 131.1 innings between Toronto and Houston. A big concern with Sanchez though, like all the others, is walks. He held an ERA of 5.89 between both teams, and while he held a strikeout rate of 7.9 per 9, he walked 4.7 per 9.

While all of these options have their weaknesses, they are right up the Royals alley. They all have something to prove, have potential to bounce-back, and will likely come at a low price.

At this point, there is no telling what the team will do before the season begins. They may want to take their chances and see how pitchers perform in spring training before making any major decisions. Either way, it looks as though fans may get to see some of the teams’ young pitching prospects sooner rather than later.

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The Royals farm system seems to be loaded with pitching talent and it’s just about time for those arms to start surfacing in Kansas City. While it’s likely none of them will start the year in KC, giving the team more time with them in the future, it would not be a stretch to assume at least singer will make his debut shortly after the beginning of the season, even if the Royals decide to add a veteran free agent.