Change is coming for this veteran KC Royals pitcher

Jordan Lyles is moving into a new role for Kansas City.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Two winters ago, the KC Royals embarked once again on their annual offseason quest for affordable talent. And once again, the few moves they made failed to produce any game-changers.

Especially noteworthy among those moves, but for all the wrong reasons, was the signing of veteran starting pitcher Jordan Lyles, a deal we opined they might consider not long before they inked him to the two-year, $17 million deal that expires after this season ends. Things just haven't worked out —
all too aggravating to Royals fans are the unfortunate facts that Lyles had the highest ERA of any qualified big league pitcher and lost more games than any other in 2023.

But despite his awful 6-17, 6.28 ERA first season in Kansas City, this winter's acquisitions of Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha, and last year's emergence of Cole Ragans, Lyles remained an almost certain lock for the 2024 rotation when spring training began last month. But that was before a back issue slowed him and Alec Marsh performed well enough to land the final spot in the Royals' rotation, which many previously assumed would be Lyles'.

That means change for Lyles — after spending most of his 13-year career in the rotations of eight different teams, he's headed for the bullpen, a place from which he has a 5-6, 5.01 record in 93 career appearances (he's 67-101, 5.27 as a starter). Whether he remains there depends on the performances and health of Kansas City's current starters, and his own results.

How does FanGraphs predict Jordan Lyles will pitch this season?

FanGraphs (Depth Charts) projects Lyles will start only eight of 50 appearances, go 4-7 with a 5.33 ERA, and save no games.

How will Jordan Lyles actually perform for the KC Royals?

FanGraphs' predictions seem to imply that while manager Matt Quatraro won't hesitate to use Lyles frequently, the righthander won't see many high-leverage situations. And considering his tendency to give up too many runs, that's probable.

Also likely is that Lyles won't make it back to the rotation with any regularity, especially if Wacha, Ragans, Lugo, Marsh, and Brady Singer all pitch at least serviceably. But even if one or more of them don't, it's difficult to see Lyles pitching so well in relief that the Royals will move him out of the pen and into the rotation. And if the bullpen turns out to be a good fit for him, look for general manager J.J. Picollo to try moving him at the trade deadline.

Expect Lyles, then, to relieve far more than he starts this season, and to put up a small number of relief wins and losses. He won't get his ERA under 4.00. And don't be surprised if the Royals find a midsummer taker for him or, if things go badly, eat the rest of the short time remaining on his contract and let him go.

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