Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s continuing series analyzing how the free agent market could impact the KC Royals. Our writers are scrutinizing each club’s free agents and projecting who might, or might not, fit Kansas City’s needs. Today we focus on Houston’s free agents.
The Houston Astros win a lot. Beginning in 2017, they won at least 100 games three times, took three American League pennants and captured a World Series.
Next season, however, may not be so kind to Houston. When the lockout-induced lid on all major league transactions began early last month, three of the Astros’ seven free agents—Brooks Raley, Yimi Garcia and Kendall Graveman—were gone to other clubs. Only Justin Verlander has returned to the fold, although his deal wasn’t official until after the transaction freeze kicked in. The team also signed Philadelphia free agent pitcher Héctor Norris.
That leaves three Astro free agents in limbo. And only one who makes any sense for Kansas City.
The KC Royals should spend no time pursuing two Houston free agents.
Easy to cross off Kansas City’s list, if he was even ever on it (an extremely doubtful proposition at best), is star Astro shortstop Carlos Correa. The Gold Glover and two-time All-Star will command a huge contract, one probably within financial range of only the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets, and a few other of the wealthiest franchises. The Royals don’t travel in such free agent bidding circles.
More than that, though, is Kansas City’s shortstop situation. Who’ll play there for the Royals next season isn’t entirely clear—the position will go to Nicky Lopez, Adalberto Mondesi or Bobby Witt Jr. And although Correa’s bat is better than Lopez’s or Mondesi’s, and probably better than Witt’s will be when he first arrives in the majors, the Royals won’t be making the shortstop picture any more complicated than it already is. And even if the club is interested, Correa probably isn’t. He’s used to winning and playing in the postseason, and won’t want to wait long for either.
Kansas City’s crowded infield situation also means it has no need for 10-year veteran Marwin Gonzalez, who’s essentially a utility man now. He played every infield position and in left and right fields last season, but the Royals have plenty of infielders and outfielders.
Zack Greinke is the only Houston free agent who makes sense for the Royals.
Zack Greinke has been pitching in the big leagues since breaking in with Kansas City in 2004. At a point in life when most professional athletes turn to other pursuits, Greinke doesn’t appear to be contemplating retirement. And if 2021 is any indication, he shouldn’t be.
Yes, his final three regular season starts weren’t pretty—he went 0-2 and was walloped for 18 earned runs in 13 innings—but he rebounded in the postseason, giving up only two runs in six innings and pitching four masterful frames (no runs, three strikeouts, no walks) in Game 4 of the World Series.
And despite his disappointing regular season finish, Greinke still went 11-6 and walked less than two batters per nine innings. That he’s still good after all these years (18 in the big leagues to be exact) is indisputable.
Greinke won his Cy Young Award with the 2009 Royals; he’s been an All-Star six times, captured six Gold Gloves, and even won two Silver Sluggers.
Greinke, who turned 38 in October, is a fierce competitor and a crafty veteran who can pitch anywhere in the rotation and help tutor Kansas City’s young pitchers.
But can the Royals afford him? Good question, especially considering the mega-money pitchers were getting during the pre-lockout signing frenzy, which could set a high salary bar for Kansas City to clear if it wants to bring Greinke back, and he wants to return.
No one knows, of course, if the starting pitching market will be as hot after the lockout as it was before. Even if it is, the Royals would be wrong not to at least gauge Greinke’s interest.
Houston has three free agents left. Only Zack Greinke should interest Kansas City.