Three Washington free agents are lefthanded relievers, but only one should interest the KC Royals.
The Royals are proud owners of a vastly improved bullpen, but one glaringly short on southpaws. Of the handful of lefties on its 40-man roster, only one —Richard Lovelady—is a reliever, and his status seems as uncertain as always; unless Danny Duffy heads to the pen, a much discussed but never made move, KC will have to look outside if it wants another bullpen lefty. The Royals didn’t bring back Mike Minor to re-experiment with him as a reliever (he spent his only career bullpen year with KC in 2017), and the rest of the internal options are righties.
Assuming Kansas City wants another lefthander (the three-batter rule hasn’t completely rendered bullpen lefties unnecessary), Sean Doolittle fits the bill. Although right knee and right oblique injuries cost him over 30 days of the short 2020 campaign, Doolittle had 25 saves and a 1.60 ERA in his 2018 All-Star season with the Nats, and led the National League with 55 games finished in 2019. His control is historically good (1.8 career BB9) and he averages more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
This season will be Doolittle’s 10th and, at age 34, he could probably give the Royals a couple of good years and provide closer insurance in case Greg Holland doesn’t duplicate his stellar 2020 comeback campaign.
Sam Freeman is another nine-year big league veteran who’ll be 34 in 2021. Control is certainly a concern—Freeman’s career BB9 is 5.2 and he walked seven in five innings last season. He pitched for KC manager Mike Matheny in St. Louis from 2012-14 and posted a respectable 3-2, 3.33 ERA but, despite that familiarity, the Royals should look elsewhere. Freeman’s control is too much of an issue.
The COVID-19 and injury lists kept Roenis Elias off the field in 2020. Elias is a six-year veteran who converted to relief work after his first two big league seasons; his unremarkable 22-24, 3.97 ERA career record shouldn’t catch Kansas City’s attention.