Can the KC Royals find some pitching help among Pittsburgh’s free agents?
Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s continuing series analyzing the major league free agent market and projecting who might, or might not, fit the KC Royals’ needs. Today we look at Pittsburgh’s free agents.
Finding a seasoned, effective starter this winter is especially important for the KC Royals. Manager Mike Matheny’s first three choices for 2021 are easy: Brad Keller, Brady Singer and Kris Bubic; Danny Duffy is all but a lock but, because he’s entering the final year of his contract, could be moved before next season (it’s unlikely) or become trade bait if he has a good first half.
But regardless of what happens with Duffy, the club needs a veteran starter. Chances are good that one or two of KC’s sizzling hot prospects will make it to Kauffman Stadium next season, so a proven starter who knows the ropes and can tutor those hurlers is a commodity the Royals should be seeking.
It just so happens that the Pittsburgh Pirates’ three free agents are all pitchers. Should the Royals target any of them?
A few seasons ago, Derek Holland might have been a good choice for Kansas City. He was prime starter stock with Texas from 2011-2013, when he went 16-5, 12-7 and 10-9, and teams can always use a left-hander in their rotations. But those were his best seasons and the only times he won at least 10 games. He primarily served the Giants, Cubs and Pirates as a reliever over the past two seasons.
The Royals really have no reason to consider Holland. At 34, his years as a serviceable starter may well be over. The three-batter rule has decreased the utility of southpaw relievers and, in any event, there isn’t need, or room, for him in the Royals’ already competent and crowded bullpen.
Chris Archer is a two-time American League All-Star right-hander who appeared to be on the rise after posting 31 wins over his second, third and fourth seasons with Tampa Bay. But he lost a major league-leading 19 games for the Rays in 2016, went 10-12 in 2017, and was 3-5 with a 4.31 ERA when Tampa shipped him to Pittsburgh in a 2018 trade deadline deal. He was 3-3 for the Bucs the rest of the way and 3-9, 5.19 in 2019.
Early summer thoracic outlet surgery sidelined Archer all of this season and he became a free agent when the Pirates declined his $11 million option. The uncertainty his surgery creates, and the fact he’s declined since his best seasons with the Rays, should be enough to give Kansas City pause and to cross Archer of its list of potential rotation additions.
Finally, that Keone Kela, a 29-year old right-handed reliever who’s pitched in both the American and National Leagues, can’t count any starts among his 231 major league appearances means the Royals shouldn’t give him much consideration this winter.
It’s not that Kela isn’t good enough. He probably is, especially considering he’s never averaged less than 10 strikeouts per nine innings in the big leagues, has won almost twice as many games as he’s lost (21-11) and saved 24 games for the Rangers in 2018.
Kela just isn’t what the Royals ought to be looking for on this free agent market. He’s not a starter and they’re not short in the bullpen, especially when it comes to righties. It would be difficult to find, or justify, a place for him.
All three Pittsburgh free agents are pitchers. Unfortunately, none are hurlers the KC Royals should pursue.