The Royals needed starting pitching help, which seems like a broken record. That goes for multiple other teams, so it seems Kansas City gets priced out of the market quickly. They need to up their budget this year and get some clear help in the rotation's upper half.
Cole Ragans has been sensational since coming to Kansas City and could be the team's Opening Day starter next year. But, outside of him, the rotation consists of underwhelming options or question marks. Greinke will likely not return, everyone knows Lyle's results, plus the Royals should explore trading Brady Singer this offseason. That leaves guys like Alec Marsh and Angel Zerpa in line for starts. They are both young and have intriguing tools, but they are negatives in Kansas City's rotation.
There are plenty of good-news prospects in the Royals minor leagues. Players like Ben Kudrna, Frank Mozzicato, and Chandler Champlain could all contribute to the rotation in 2024 or 2025, but they should not be relied upon to start the season. The Royals have glaring holes as to who their second or third arm in the rotation will be, and the farm system cannot provide that help yet.
Like every offseason, there are some very good arms available on the open market. Shohei Ohtani will likely fetch the largest contract in MLB history, while Marcus Stroman and Julio Urias will be big fish for contenders. Could Kansas City use one of those three or any other top-tier pitchers? Only a sadist would say no. But the Royals pursuit of any top pitchers is unlikely. That doesn't mean they can't help the rotation greatly.
Pitchers like Jordan Montgomery and Seth Lugo may not be headline targets, but they still improve the Royals' rotation greatly. Both are in line for multiyear deals that should be well within the Royals' price range. Plus, there are pitchers out there who need to rehab their image and could join Kansas City on a team-friendly deal. Lucas Giolito and German Marquez come to mind as pitchers with injury woes or uncharacteristically poor performances that decrease a pitcher's value.
Realistic free agency options: Frankie Montas, Jordan Montgomery, German Marquez