The KC Royals seem to be a team on the rise. They won 74 games last season to avoid a 100-loss campaign for the first time since Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain last played for the club in 2017.
But the Royals won’t improve much more without improving their starting rotation and supplementing their bullpen. Although the quality and depth of the field may not be as good as in past years, pitchers are still plentiful on the recently reopened free agent market.
Four Pittsburgh free agents, for example, are in play; one is a former Royal. Whether any of them can help Kansas City is, however, an open question.
Should the KC Royals consider signing one of their former right-handers?
With chances of winning one last time with the core players who helped them to the 2014 American League pennant and the 2015 World Series title slipping away, the Royals made a 2017 trade deadline deal designed to strengthen their pitching for the stretch run. Off to San Diego went Matt Strahm, Travis Wood and Esteury Ruiz; to Kansas City came Brandon Maurer, Trevor Cahill and Ryan Buchter.
The deal still deserves mention as one of the worst in team history—although Buchter turned out to be a serviceable addition, Maurer was a bust and Cahill disappointed with an 8.22 ERA in 10 games.
Now, Cahill is on the market. Does he warrant KC’s attention?
No. His best pitching, four consecutive seasons (2009-2012) in which he won at least 10 games, including 18 with Oakland in 2010, are too far in the past. He hasn’t won more than eight games since 2012, is averaging less than four per season since then, and has a pedestrian 86-99 career record.
Cahill is 10-11 with a 3.82 ERA out of the bullpen and 76-88, 4.32 as a starter. Neither record should put him high, or even in the middle, of the Royals’ shopping list.
And his health may be uncertain—the fractured right foot and ligament damage he suffered in a July 2021 fall sidelined him for the rest of the season. He finished 1-5 with a 6.57 ERA in nine games.
Kansas City should pass on Cahill.
Can a career Pittsburgh left-hander give the KC Royals any help in 2022?
Like Trevor Cahill, Steven Brault is a veteran hurler capable of working in the rotation or out of the bullpen. But as is also the case with Cahill, he’s coming off an injury that sidelined him for much of the 2021 season.
Brault, who’ll be 30 in April, began last year on the 60-day Injured List with a left lat strain and didn’t see action until August. He pitched unimpressively—0-3 with a 5.86 ERA in seven starts—when he returned, and the nagging lat issue forced him back to the IL in mid-September. He became a free agent after the season.
A Pirate for his entire six-year major league career, the southpaw owns a 12-18, 4.77 ERA record. And his splits—6-15, 4.58 in 52 starts and 6-3, 5.22 in 55 relief appearances—prove he gives up too many runs regardless of role.
Brault supplements a four-seam fastball, which he throws in the low 90’s, with a slider, sinker, curve and changeup.
Should the Royals kick Brault’s tires? Probably not.
The Royals might consider another Buc free agent who can start or relieve.
He’s spent most of his career as a starter, but right-hander Shelby Miller is no stranger to the bullpen. Almost a fifth of his appearances (31 of 163) have been in relief, but his 6.32 ERA as a reliever suggests he’s not well-suited for the pen.
Miller also hasn’t enjoyed great success out of the rotation: in 132 starts, he’s 37-56, 4.08. And although his 33 starts for Atlanta in 2015 tied for the National League lead, he also had a big league worst 17 losses.
Miller is, however, well-known to Kansas City manager Mike Matheny. He had his best two seasons under Matheny in St. Louis, going 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA in 2013 and 10-9, 3.74 in 2014 for the then-Cardinal skipper.
But with a 38-57 nine-season record (he opted out of 2020’s pandemic-shortened campaign), Miller probably isn’t what the Royals are looking for.
A lefty Pittsburgh free agent might warrant a look from the KC Royals.
The cream of the thin Pittsburgh free agent pitching crop may be Chasen Shreve, who at 31 is an eight-year big league veteran reliever with a respectable 20-11 record and 3.63 ERA. He was 6-2, 3.09 in 59 appearances for the 2015 Yankees.
Shreve pitched 57 times for the Pirates last year and was 3-3, 3.20. But he walked 28 batters in 56.1 innings; his career 4.5 BB9 should give Kansas City pause.
Shreve also spent time with the Yankees, Cardinals and Mets, and owns a 2.92 ERA in 11 games against the Royals.
Should Kansas City take a look at Shreve and his four-seam fastball, splitter, and slider? Perhaps. It couldn’t hurt.
Only one Pittsburgh free agent hurler should merit interest from the Royals. Whether they call Chasen Shreve remains to be seen.