A relief pitcher and a versatile infielder may be the best fits for the KC Royals.
As it stands today, the KC Royals have no established closer. Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland, their two 2020 closers, are free agents, as is 2019 closer Ian Kennedy, a pitcher the club would do well not to re-sign.
But one San Diego free agent might fill the void if the Royals can’t convince Rosenthal or Holland to return. Kirby Yates, a left-handed seven-year veteran who will join Holland as a 35-year old in March (Holland turned 35 Friday), entrenched himself in the Padres’ closer role in 2019 when he led the majors in saves with 41.
Although he went 0-5 that season, Yates posted a 1.19 ERA, 1.30 FIP, 15.0 SO9 and a stingy 0.890 WHIP, which was even better than his 0.921 WHIP in 2018. He has a mesmerizing slider and displayed good control in 2018 and ’19.
Yates, though, struggled in 2020. He pitched only six times, and his eight strikeouts in just 4.1 innings weren’t enough to overshadow the seven hits and four walks he allowed. Bone chips were discovered in his elbow and he underwent surgery in August.
If the Royals satisfy themselves that Yates’ 2020 problems are behind him, they should give him a call, but only if they seriously doubt their ability to bring back Rosenthal or Holland; because Rosenthal isn’t likely to return, Holland should be the priority. But Yates is definitely a possibility.
The Royals would benefit from a good utility-type player who could allow manager Mike Matheny to pencil Whit Merrifield into a single spot. Jurickson Profar could be helpful: he’s played every infield position and has time in the outfield. He may not win a Gold Glove at any infield position, but he hasn’t made a single error in 77 outfield appearances.
Profar isn’t a great hitter (.238/.318/.397 in seven years), but hit .278 in 56 games this season and clubbed 20 homers in both 2018 and 2019. He’s also a switch-hitter, which can always help. The Royals could use another versatile player; Profar could be it.