Another avenue the KC Royals have tried to acquire cheap talent is from the Rule 5 draft. In 2018 they hit on a player who has turned in two decent seasons.
I do not know how many people expected Brad Keller to make the team out of spring training in 2018 but if he was not kept on the big league roster the entire year he had to be offered back to his former team. He easily was the best pitcher on the pitching staff instead of just hanging on to the team.
A mix of relief and starting appearances led to a 3.08 ERA and 3.5 WAR. In 2019 Keller was anointed with starting opening day. Although a full-time starting role last year did not result in nearly as pretty stats he still was a workhorse putting in 28 starts, a respectable 4.19 ERA and still produced a WAR of 2.5.
Keller still has three years of arbitration left before he hits free agency in 2024. What that means, for now, is that the Royals are able to pay him just above the league minimum at $583,500. This is obviously a tremendous steal considering other players with far worse stats are making millions.
As we see with the Merrifield and Soler deals, the KC Royals are putting value in locking up their young players before they enter full-blown free agency. The one year deal with Soler is hopefully a building block to lock him before he can be wooed away by a team with deeper pockets. Others to look at raising their salaries soon would-be stars like Adalberto Mondesi, Hunter Dozier and any other young stars who start to make an impact in the big leagues.