KC Royals: 4 players the club shouldn’t pursue for 2021

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals
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A pitcher who returned to the organization last season is another the club should refrain from.

By the time 2019’s mid-season trade deadline grew near, the KC Royals were desperate for reliable starting pitchers. At the All-Star break, Homer Bailey’s 7-6 record led the rotation, but the club traded him a few days later. Jakob Junis was 4-8, Brad Keller 4-9, Danny Duffy 3-5, and Glenn Sparkman, splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen, was 2-5 and would finish the season 4-10 as a starter.

Bailey’s departure left a hole in the rotation, and bringing back Mike Montgomery to the club that originally signed him was the best the Royals could do at the deadline. Montgomery, whose primary claim to fame is closing the Cubs’ 2016 World Series clincher, was 1-2 with a 5.67 ERA and hadn’t started a game all season when Chicago shipped him to Kansas City for Martin Maldonado.

Montgomery stepped in Bailey’s shoes but didn’t fill them. He lost his first three decisions, won two in a row, then lost four straight to finish 2-7 with a 4.64 ERA (5.23 FIP). In an unfortunate testament to the club’s lack of rotation depth, the performance made him a proverbial lock for a 2020 starting job.

Montgomery, however, started and pitched only once this year. He lasted just two innings in the fourth game, giving up five runs and five hits before a lat injury forced him out. He’s on the 60-day Injured List.

Although the 31-year old left-hander is on a one-year contract, he’s arbitration eligible and under team control through next season. The KC Royals would be wise to non-tender him.

While some might consider cutting Montgomery after a season lost to injury cold, unseemly and unfair, this is a franchise that’s been there, done that. Despite the vital role Greg Holland played as KC’s closer in its 2014 pennant year, and most of the ’15 World Series season until a UCL injury became too much to bear and he underwent Tommy John surgery, the Royals non-tendered him after 2015.

But the hard truth is that injury or no injury, Montgomery isn’t a top-line starting pitcher. Never a winner of more than five games as a starter, he’s 17-24 out of a rotation in six seasons. Montgomery is, at best, a back-end piece and, at worst, a mop-up man.

The Royals can do better. Duffy, Keller, Junis, Brady Singer and Kris Bubic will, absent a significant offseason acquisition, constitute the KC Royals’ five-man 2021 rota, and deservedly so. That means the bullpen for Montgomery, but it’s an improved and crowded pen that really doesn’t require his services. The club would do well to open his spot.