About this time last year, we analyzed Baltimore's free agents and concluded the KC Royals might take a look at Jordan Lyles, who anchored the Orioles' rotation as they surprised everyone by narrowly missing a 2022 Wild Card berth.
Check out Lyles the Royals did ... and signed him. Unfortunately, he led the majors in losses as a new Royal.
A year later, Baltimore without Lyles surprised again, reaching the American League Division Series before eventual World Series champion Texas swept them out of it; the Royals, meanwhile, lost 106 times.
Failing to advance to the ALCS will only increase Baltimore's hunger for the World Series, a place they haven't been since they won it in 1983. Whether they make it back to the Fall Classic next season remains to be seen, but because even the loss of all seven of their free agents won't be back-breaking, the O's should find themselves in the postseason again.
The Royals, on the other hand, won't reach the playoffs. They won't achieve the kind of improvement their rotation and bullpen require that soon.
They might, though, find some pitching help among those seven Baltimore free agents.
How about a reunion with a popular former Royal?
Ex-KC hurler Jorge López needs a place he and his sometimes-electrifying stuff can call home. Baltimore took him away from the Royals on a 2020 waiver claim, the Orioles sent him to Minnesota via a 2022 trade deadline deal, the Twins dealt him to Miami this summer, and he returned to Baltimore via waivers in September.
The Birds' down-the-stretch aspirations for López didn't bear much fruit; although he struck out 14 and walked only two in 12 innings, he gave up seven runs, a performance actually better than he'd given the Marlins, for whom he surrendered 13 runs and issued nine walks in the same number of innings. And before that, opposing batters tagged him for 22 runs in 35.1 frames with the Twins.
So, why might the Royals be interested in López, who's primarily been a reliever the past two seasons? Because just a year ago, in 2022, he saved 23 games, had a 67-game 2.54 ERA, and his stuff still mesmerizes hitters when he's on.
But Kansas City will probably pass on López, and not without sufficient reason. He has yet to, and may never, shake the frustrating inconsistency that taints his career. His command and control can be good, but too often isn't, and not knowing which López will appear on any given baseball night is a risk these Royals aren't likely to take.
On to a starter...