KC Royals: Making the case, 11 Yankees free agents

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

A left-handed starter and a utility player might be good choices for the KC Royals.

If the Royals would like to have another left-handed starter, and they probably do, James Paxton might just fit the bill. He’s a 32-year old eight-year big league veteran who strikes out a lot of hitters, doesn’t walk too many, and owns a nifty .633 winning percentage (57-33 with a career-high 15 wins in 2019) to go with a no-hitter.

Paxton throws a mid-to-high 90’s fastball and backs it up with an eclectic cutter, curve, sinker and changeup mix.

What may make Paxton affordable for the KC Royals is his physical status. He underwent back surgery last February and a flexor strain shut him down with a month left in the 2020 campaign. He went 1-1 with a 6.64 ERA in five games, a forgivable record considering his health. Paxton also had injury issues in 2018 and 2019, which may reduce his value on a market that the game’s overall financial situation may already depress.

Paxton was set to make $12.5 million in 2020 before proration; that, and his somewhat uncertain health, could allow KC to squeeze him into its budget for a couple of seasons.

The Royals have probably the most versatile player in the majors in Whit Merrifield, but they’d probably be thrilled to pick up a reliable utility man so Merrifield can concentrate on the outfield, where they clearly want him to play. Matt Duffy could provide that thrill—he’s played third base primarily, and has spent time at second, short, and first.

Duffy can also handle the bat (.282 five-year career average) and has a bit of pop (12 homers with the Giants in 2015). He played against the Royals as a rookie in the 2014 World Series and went 1-for-2.

He signed a free agent contract with the Yankees last June but didn’t get the call to New York. Like Paxton, he’s been slowed by injuries, but could be a bargain utility infielder if he’s healthy. The Royals should look him up.