In another baseball winter, one not preceding the addition of two of the club’s top prospects to an infield already packed with talent, the KC Royals might find someone tempting among Washington’s current free agents.
But Bobby Witt Jr. will join the Royals in 2022, if not Opening Day then soon thereafter and, depending on how the club wants to deploy Nicky Lopez, Adalberto Mondesi, and Whit Merrifield, will play third or short. Later, Nick Pratto will almost certainly displace Carlos Santana at first.
Knowing those moves are coming means the Royals won’t pursue Washington’s top free agent when the MLB lockout ends—Starlin Castro, a good hitter with power and a five-time All-Star, can play well anywhere on the left side, but Kansas City has no vacancies there. The same glut of infield talent eliminates Jordy Mercer, who can play short or second, and Hernán Pérez, who can play second or third. Veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman says he wants to play another year, but with Santana on board and Pratto waiting in the wings, the Royals don’t need a first sacker.
Kansas City’s immediate needs lie elsewhere. The starting rotation needs stability, long and middle relief spots are open in the bullpen and right field remains a puzzle.
Can any of Washington’s remaining free agents—three relievers and an outfielder—be of assistance?
A trio of relief pitchers doesn’t offer much promise for the KC Royals.
The group of Washington free agents features three bullpen pieces—Ryne Harper, Kyle McGowin and Wander Suero—but none should get any Kansas City money.
Harper hasn’t always been a National. Atlanta chose him in the 37th round of the 2011 draft, then traded him to Seattle in 2015. He became a free agent after the 2017 season, signed with Minnesota, and finally made it to the majors in 2019, the season that remains his best to this day. He appeared in 61 games and went 4-2 with a 3.81 ERA.
The Twins traded Harper to the Nats that winter. He gave up too many runs in his two Washington seasons, leaving with a 5.46 ERA and 5.61 RA9. He’s 5-4, 4.67 in 118 big league games.
McGowin has appeared in four seasons with the Nationals after breaking in during the 2018 campaign. He pitched only 21 times from 2018-2020, but made it into 27 games last season. His career 5.98 ERA proves he, like Harper, surrenders too many runs, especially for a reliever.
Suero also made his major league debut in 2018 and went 4-1, 3.59 in 40 games. He led Washington in appearances with 78 in 2019 and didn’t allow any base runners in his three World Series games that fall. (Unlike Suero, Harper and McGowin lack postseason experience).
Suero’s ERA ballooned to 6.33 in 2021 and Washington non-tendered him after the season.
Could a veteran Gold Glove outfielder help the KC Royals in right field?
On paper, Gerardo Parra might be a candidate for the Kansas City outfield. He’s won two Gold Gloves, can play all three positions, has occasional power (three seasons with double-digit home runs), and has been a serviceable hitter (.275 career average over 12 seasons).
But Parra hit just .237 last season, has become an average defender and turns 35 in May, all of which combine to mean he’s unlikely to draw interest from the Royals. Kansas City needs a longer term solution than Parra can probably provide.
The Royals won’t find what they need among Washington’s free agents.