Why these 3 KC Royals face make-or-break seasons

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KC Royals pitcher Brad Keller should be on a short string this season.

Count righthanded pitcher Brad Keller among the seven players who avoided arbitration by signing one-year deals with the Royals late last week. He'll reportedly make $5.775 million this season, a salary now guaranteed thanks to the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement the clubs and players hammered out last year.

But that locked-in compensation doesn't, even for the single-season duration of his new contract, guarantee Keller's future with the team. And that doesn't bode well for a pitcher who's already on shaky ground.

Keller's status, once considered secure after he pitched well enough to win the club's Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year Award twice in his first three seasons with KC, is uncertain at best after he went 8-12 with a 5.39 ERA in 2021 and 6-14, 5.09 last year. He's posted disturbingly-high ERAs for two straight seasons, and tied for the Royals' most losses two years ago and led them in that stat last season. His inconsistency is more than frustrating, and he lost his spot in the rotation last August.

Keller's 2022 campaign was, in a word, terrible and, combined with a 2021 season that was almost as bad, renders his continuing claim to a roster spot tenuous. He can't afford another bad year, especially when he, like Adalberto Mondesi, can test free agency for the first time after this season.

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This season is a critical one for Adalberto Mondesi, Edward Olivares and Brad Keller.