Convincing a top-flight reliever to return to the KC Royals would indeed be a bombshell acquisition.
The signing last winter of Trevor Rosenthal probably generated more skepticism than excitement. Rosenthal, after all, was a pitcher in search of lost success, a once fearsome closer for the St. Louis Cardinals whose decline followed his best big league season, included a year lost to Tommy John surgery, and continued with a horrible 2019 season.
Rosenthal’s handful of seasons as the Cardinals’ closer are well-chronicled. He saved 121 games, including 45 in 2014 and a team record 48 in 2015.
Hard times followed. His ERA more than doubled to 4.46, his saves dropped to 14, and he averaged more than six walks every nine innings in 2016. The Cards lost confidence in him as a closer in 2017, a season ended by a torn UCL and Tommy John surgery, and he missed all of 2018 recovering. He split 2019 between Washington and Detroit and accumulated an ugly 13.50 ERA.
Undaunted, the KC Royals chose Rosenthal to be another of their many salvage operations when they inked him to a minor league deal last offseason. The effort succeeded—Rosenthal immediately displaced Ian Kennedy as closer and saved seven games and struck out 21 in just 13.2 innings before a trade deadline deal took him to contending San Diego.
Proving he was truly back, Rosenthal pitched 10 times for the Padres, didn’t give up a run, saved four games, and fanned 17 and walked only one in 10 innings.
Although Greg Holland served as an adequate replacement for Rosenthal, don’t think the Royals wouldn’t like to get Rosenthal back. But a reunion would be a big surprise—Rosenthal seems smitten with the Padres, as he suggested via Twitter with this:
…followed by this, with a Padres’ cap adorning his profile pic:
But there’s more substantive evidence that reeling Rosenthal back to the Royal fold will be nearly impossible. The Padres, with whom he’s so obviously comfortable, are much, much closer to a World Series than KC, he probably wants to help them complete unfinished business (the Dodgers swept them in the NLDS), a job with San Diego job is secure, and his surprisingly successful comeback means he’ll be far more expensive than he was in 2020. Just the finances alone probably take him out of the Kansas City picture.
But one never knows and nothing is impossible. Dayton Moore might lure Rosenthal back during this week’s Winter Meetings, but his return would be a bombshell.