3 pitching targets on Seattle Mariners for KC Royals

Seattle is looking to add Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and the addition could give the Mariners a starting pitcher surplus. Could the Royals capitalize and improve their rotation?
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
4 of 4

If the Royals could make it happen, they should want George Kirby.

As the Royals entered the 2023 off-season, the notion of needing to improve starting pitching was clear. For this author, the first thought was: how could we acquire George Kirby?

Kirby is a 25-year-old 6'4" right-hander who fits the Royals needs to a T. In Kirby's second full season with the Mariners, he dominated opponents by controlling the strike zone. Kirby painted the plate like Greg Maddux, minimizing walks (.90 BB/9) and keeping home runs (1.04 HR/9) in check. These are both key factors for Kansas City. Kirby did this with an impressive arsenal of pitches, including a pair of crowd-pleasing 96-mph fastballs: a four-seamer and a sinker. Both pitches result in a high number of fly ball outs that would play for years in Kauffman Stadium.

But Kirby isn't a flamethrower-type pitcher. He is the real deal. Kirby has done well to absorb and develop in the Mariners system, listening and developing a pitch arsenal that not only varies in velocity but also in movement. He has demonstrated every bit of the mental aptitude the Royals have long sought from their starting pitchers. Although he's managed to produce high strike counts, he has demonstrated he understands the importance of going deep into ball games by pitching for bad contact. Kirby is a retro pitcher like Jack Morris, Greg Maddux, or Zach Greinke.

Kirby's sweeping slider (86 mph) is probably his best pitch, having significant depth across the zone and producing a high number of ground ball outs. Kirby throws an 85-MPH curve that batters just take; it is simply too hard of a pitch to track. Batters also tend to lay off his 87-MPH sinking change-up, which also results in a high ground-ball rate. Like Greinke, Kirby has a sense of humor. This season, he began toying with a 75-mph knuckleball, a disgusting pitch that looks like it was pulled straight from the Eephus playbook of Greinke.

It's unclear what it would take to obtain Kirby from the Mariners. If the Royals could obtain him, they should strongly consider meeting Seattle's demands.