KC Royals: Making the case, Phillies free agents

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals
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There are plenty of relievers among the Philadelphia free agents for the KC Royals to consider…but do they need any more bullpen pieces?

With the return of Greg Holland for 2021, and the improvement it made in 2020, the Royals’ bullpen doesn’t require much attention. And even if the pen were a problem, there isn’t much to choose from among the Phillies’ free agents.

That’s especially true when it comes to lefthanders, which are in short supply in Kansas City. Veteran southpaw Francisco Liriano has started most of his 14-year career, but relieved almost exclusively in 2017 and ’19 and went 5-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 69 games for the Pirates in 2019. He didn’t pitch in 2020—he opted out after the Phillies released him in mid-July.

Liriano, who missed the 2007 campaign after Tommy John surgery, no-hit the White Sox as a Twin in 2011, and went 46-39 in five years for the Pirates.  At 37, though, he isn’t a great fit for an increasingly young Kansas City club.

While excessive losses aren’t good for any pitcher, they’re especially bad for relievers. And its excessive losses that separate Liriano from Jose Alvarez and Adam Morgan, the other Philadelphia bullpen lefthanders. Alvarez is 15-22 over eight years and Morgan is 13-27 in six. His 4.84 career ERA is also a red flag.

Righthanders might be a different story. Twelve-year big league veteran David Robertson is the best of the group with a 53-33, 2.90 record and has a career 11.9 SO9, but he’ll be 36 in 2021. Bud Norris started for the first six of his 10 seasons and has 47 saves, and the fact he pitched in St. Louis for KC manager Mike Matheny makes him an intriguing possibility to rejoin his former skipper. But he hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2018, and pitched only two innings for the then independent Sugar Land Skeeters in 2020.

Robertson could be a nice one-year supplement to the Royal pen, but two seasons away from the major leagues and his almost complete lack of action last season render Norris too risky.

And if the KC Royals want to stick primarily with relative youth in the bullpen, most of the rest of the righties won’t do. Tommy Hunter, who’s had a good career with six different teams, is 35; Blake Parker and Anthony Swarzak turn 36 in next season; and David Phelps is 34.

And although Brandon Workman is a serviceable 25-20 with 25 saves in six seasons and Heath Hembree is 16-5 in eight, adding more righties to a bullpen already teeming with them shouldn’t be a Kansas City priority.