KC Royals: Making the case, Diamondbacks free agents

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

At least one Arizona free agent pitcher might be what the KC Royals are looking for.

Mike Leake could check all the boxes for the seasoned starting pitcher the KC Royals need. He’s a veteran of 10 big league seasons, has started all but five of his 301 games, and reached double digits in wins seven times.

Leake boasts deeper major league experience than most hurler’s on this year’s open market: the closest to the minor leagues he’s come is a short stint he served in the Arizona Fall League in 2009 after Cincinnati made him the that year’s eighth overall pick in the amateur draft. The Reds brought him directly to Cincinnati in 2010, where he immediately became an important rotation piece by starting 22 times and posting an 8-4 record.

Since then, Leake’s done duty with the Reds, Giants, Cardinals, Mariners and Diamondbacks and has 105 career wins and a 4.05 ERA. His 6.1 SO9 means he doesn’t overpower hitters, but he doesn’t walk many, either—his 10-season BB9 is 2.0 and he hasn’t posted a 2.0 mark or higher since 2015 (2.3).

He’s also a workhouse, which the KC Royals need. He’s averaged just a shade less than 30 starts and more than 180 innings (over six per start) in his career. Leake has won 14 games once, 12 twice, 11 twice, and 10 twice, and nine three times. And his varied arsenal (four-seamer, cutter, slider, curve, changeup and sinker) might interest the Royals.

But Leake didn’t pitch at all in 2020—he was the first player to announce he would opt out of the pandemic-shortened season, so he’ll throw his first competitive pitch since 2019 when spring training rolls around. The Royals certainly won’t count the underlying reason against him, but a year away from the game is always a concern and could depress his market value, which would be advantageous to Kansas City.

But he’s a starter who’s been around and done well. The Royals should at least think about him.

Hector Rondon is another matter. Once the Cubs’ closer, the right-handed Rondon posted a startling 23-game 7.65 ERA and walked five batters per nine innings for the D-backs in 2020, a disconcerting performance his10.4 SO9 won’t sufficiently mitigate. And the Royals don’t need another righty in the bullpen.