2 Chicago free agent pitchers could boost the KC Royals

(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images) /

That the KC Royals need pitching help is an unfortunate given. The starting rotation had the fourth worst American League ERA last season and the bullpen posted the league’s fifth worst.

Imagine, if you will, the Royals finding in one place two established veterans to boost both staffs. That’s just what they could do if they seriously consider a pair of White Sox free agents. Starter Carlos Rodón and reliever Ryan Tepera are both on the market, eligible to sign new deals with new teams when the MLB lockout ends.

The two hurlers are the best of the Chicago free agent bunch—reliever Jace Fry’s 5.04 career ERA suggests he gives up a few too many runs for a reliever, and the Royals already tried outfielders Brian Goodwin and Billy Hamilton without much success.

Rodón and Tepera, though, are worth exploring.

Carlos Rodón could be a relatively inexpensive buy for the KC Royals.

On the strength of his 2021 record alone, Carlos Rodón warrants Kansas City’s attention. He won 13 games (five more than any KC starter), lost only five, had a stingy 2.37 ERA, and made his first All-Star team. He also struck out over 12 batters per nine innings and displayed good control (2.4 BB9).

And Rodón just missed a perfect game. He retired the first 25 batters he faced in his second start of the campaign before hitting Cleveland’s Roberto Peréz with one out in the ninth. Recovering quickly, he struck out Yu Chang on four pitches and got Jordan Luplow on a full-count grounder to third to preserve his no-hitter and a shutout.

He’s now a credible 42-38, 3.79 in seven seasons with the Sox, but there is a downside—Rodón own an extensive injury history.

The lefthander missed three weeks of the 2016 season with a sprained wrist, then spent over two months on the 2017 Injured List with left biceps bursitis before left shoulder inflammation sidelined him for good early in September. Left shoulder rehab kept him out of big league action until June 2018.

The worst, however, was yet to come. Rodón underwent Tommy John Surgery the following May and didn’t pitch again until 2020, and then only four times. He came back strong last season, but still missed two weeks in August with left shoulder fatigue.

Because most of his injuries involve his left elbow and shoulder, Rodón’s market may not be as strong as he’d like when the lockout ends and the transaction freeze lifts. He won’t command the kind of mega-deals clubs dished out before they locked out the players; he earned $3 million last season so, all things considered, a contract in the $6-8 million AAV range isn’t out of the question. Even Kansas City can afford that, and the club is known to take chances on pitchers with health concerns.

Will the Royals check in with Rodón? It never hurts to ask.

Ryan Tepera is a veteran reliever who might help the KC Royals’ bullpen.

As the midsummer trade deadline drew near last July, Ryan Tepera was enjoying a decent season with the Cubs. He stood 0-1 with an excellent 2.91 ERA after holding Arizona scoreless in two-thirds of an inning July 25.

That was the last game he pitched on the North Side—four days later, he was on the South Side, traded by the Cubs to the White Sox for minor league pitcher Bailey Horn. The Sox were supplementing an already good bullpen for the stretch run and postseason (they’d acquire Craig Kimbrel from the Cubs the very next day) and believed Tepera would fit.

And he did. Tepera posted a 2.50 ERA in the 22 games Manager Tony La Russa used him during the regular season, and Houston nicked him for only one run (1.93 ERA) in his three ALDS appearances.

Tepera is a free agent the Royals should call. They can use a lefty in the bullpen, especially a seven-year major league veteran who can help mentor the club’s young pitchers and is still strong at age 34. He’s appeared in four postseason series and pitched against the Royals for Toronto in the 2015 ALCS. His career record is 12-14, 3.48 in 302 games.

Tepera relies primarily on a slider and backs it up with a sinker, four-seamer and changeup, plus a curve he rarely throws.

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As they look for pitching help, the Royals should kick the tires on Carlos Rodón and Ryan Tepera.