The KC Royals didn’t splurge on the reopened free agent market Friday. They didn’t swing any seismic trades. Nor did they do anything else to dramatically improve their chances of winning the American League Central this season.
But with baseball’s transaction freeze finally unfrozen the Royals received a bit of a boost.
The potential help came from the San Francisco Giants, the team that broke the Royals’ hearts in the 2014 World Series. According to reports, including that of ESPN’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link), the Giants made their first big post-lockout move by signing White Sox starter Carlos Rodón to a two-year, $44 million free agent deal.
Rodón, who won nine games in each of his first two big league seasons (2015-2016) but didn’t pitch as well the four following seasons, broke out in 2021 with a 13-5 record and the lowest ERA (2.37) of his seven-season career. He threw a no-hitter against Cleveland and made the AL All-Star team. Only a late-season bout with shoulder fatigue kept him from being even better.
Now, Rodón is out of the Royals’ division, and the American League, which can only help them.
The departure of a talented rival means something to the KC Royals for 2022.
Carlos Rodón moving to the National League won’t work a sea change for Kansas City, but the prospect of having to face him only once this season—he and the Giants host the Royals for three games in June—means they won’t contend with him any more than that, a far cry from how many times he could have received Chicago manager Tony La Russa’s call in the 19 games the Royals and White Sox will play.
And although Rodón hasn’t dominated Kansas City (he’s 3-5, 3.95 against the Royals in 10 career starts), he has the ability to do so, making his departure for the NL somewhat advantageous. He shut the Royals down in early May last season with a scoreless six-inning, eight-strikeout, no-walk win, and he’s good enough that the club might have done well to pursue him for itself.
But avoiding him directly isn’t the only benefit the Royal’s may derive from Rodón leaving the Central Division. His 13 wins were important to Chicago, which won the Central by exactly 13 games over Cleveland; yes, the Sox probably would have taken the title without Rodón, but he made it easier for them and harder on the rest of the Central.
The absence of Rodón won’t propel the Royals to a division championship (especially considering the Sox still have decent starters and the Tigers seem committed to continuing their improvement) but it might increase, albeit incrementally, their odds of contending for the new third Wild Card spot. Or winning another game or two.
And even a slight chance of either is something the Royals, who haven’t enjoyed a winning season since their 2015 World Series championship campaign, can use. Every win means something. Every win helps.
Chicago’s loss of Carlos Rodón can only help Kansas City.