Not even their recent seven-game winning streak, the longest the KC Royals have put together since 2017, can hide any of this distressing season's ugliness. The club is 41 games under .500 after losing two of three games in Philadelphia over the weekend and has little, if any, chance of overtaking fourth-place Chicago to avoid finishing last in the American League Central.
These Royals aren't good, or anywhere close to it. They'll probably win 50 games, but might not. The pitching isn't consistently satisfactory, nor is the hitting. And because the present big league roster won't produce any measurable improvement next season. general manager J.J. Picollo must be ready to make significant changes when baseball's winter arrives.
Here are four players (besides Taylor Clarke and Matt Duffy, identified recently by Kings of Kauffman's Jacob Milham as players who should have been traded last week but weren't) who shouldn't return.
The KC Royals shouldn't bring back starting pitcher Jordan Lyles next year
Saying Jordan Lyles is having a bad first year in Kansas City states the obvious. Signed as a free agent last December, he didn't win a game until June 24 and has won only twice since. And he triumphed in those two appearances despite giving up eight runs in 10.2 innings. His 3-12 record really is as bad as it looks—he's tied with teammate Zack Greinke and Colorado's Kyle Freeland for the most losses in the majors this year. His 6.24 ERA exceeds his career 5.20 by more than a run.
Lyles' numbers don't warrant another season with the Royals, but the two-year contract under which he's set to make $8.5 million next year does unless the club can move it. To do so and make room for younger hurlers, the Royals need to find a willing trade partner, in which case they may have to pay at least part of Lyles' 2024 salary, or let him go and potentially eat it all.
Following either course is something the Royals should do.