When free agent season opened the day after Atlanta beat Houston in last season’s World Series, 13 Los Angeles Angels went on the market. Four Angel pitchers the KC Royals might have considered to help solve their rotation and bullpen issues managed to find new deals before the MLB lockout shut down big league transactions.
Righthander Raisel Iglesias didn’t have to look far to sign the most lucrative contract of those four Angels—LA lured him back into the fold with a $58 million, four-season contract. But starters Alex Cobb and Dylan Bundy, and reliever Alex Claudio are gone, Cobb to the Giants, Bundy to Minnesota and Claudio to the Mets.
With those four hurlers off the market whenever it reopens, only three pitchers—relievers Steve Cishek, AJ Ramos and Junior Guerra—are among the nine Angel free agents remaining. (Also available are utility man Phil Gosselin, outfielders Dexter Fowler, Juan Lagares and Adam Eaton, and catchers Kurt Suzuki and former Royal Drew Butera, but Kansas City has pressing needs for none of them).
Should the Royals give any of the pitchers a call?
Two Angel free agent relievers shouldn’t draw interest from the KC Royals.
Kansas City need not pursue Ramos or Guerra.
Ramos is a nine-year big league veteran with 99 saves and a respectable 3.04 career ERA. Beginning in 2015 and continuing until they shipped him to the Mets in a 2017 trade deadline deal, Ramos saved 90 games for the Marlins, including 40 in 2016 when he made the National League All-Star team. But after suffering a labrum injury requiring surgery in 2018, he’s appeared in the majors only seven times.
Aside from seeing little recent action, control issues and his age should convince the Royals to cross Ramos off their list. He has a career 4.9 BB9, including rates of 4.9 in 2016, 5.2 in 2017, and 6.9 in his injury-shortened 2018 season, and he’ll be 36 before this season ends.
Control and age are also reasons Kansas City should pass on Guerra. Guerra, 37, walked 15 in 23.2 innings (5.7 BB9) two seasons ago and 46 in 65.1 frames (6.3 BB9) last year; he also threw nine wild pitches in 2021.
The remaining Angel free agent might be worth a look from the KC Royals.
Cishek is the best of the three Los Angeles relievers who’ll be on the market when the MLB lockout ends. An excellent 2.85 ERA highlights his 12-year journeyman (seven teams in all) big league career, and he owns 132 saves, including 94 with Miami in three seasons before Ramos became the Marlins’ closer. He also saved 25 games for Seattle in 2016.
He pitched 74 times for the Angels in 2021 and was 0-2 with a 3.42 ERA. But he also issued 41 walks in 68.1 innings, resulting in the worst BB9 (5.4) of his career.
Cishek is a workhorse—he’s pitched at least 70 games three times (80 in 2018 is his best), 60 or more four other times, and averages over 55 per season. And although he’ll be 36 in June, those 74 games he pitched last year suggest he might have a few gallons left in the tank than Ramos and Guerra.
Is Cishek worth consideration? If Kansas City is confident his control will improve, probably. He’ll be affordable: he won’t command much more than the $1 million single-season contract LA signed him to after the Astros released him last March. And the younger KC hurlers might benefit from his experience for a season.
Don’t be surprised if the Royals give the right-hander a call, or if they offer him a low-end or minor league deal for 2022, especially if they don’t re-sign Greg Holland or Ervin Santana.
Kansas City needs a bit of bullpen help. But only one Angel free agent reliever might fit the bill.