AL rivals offer the Royals intriguing reclamation projects.
1. Baltimore Orioles: Shintaro Fujinami
The Sakai, Japan has had a rollercoaster 2023 season, but Shintaro Fujinami is settling in nicely when the Baltimore Orioles need it most. Since coming to Baltimore from the Oakland Athletics, Fujinami improved his K/BB ratio to 2.13 and dropped his ERA from 8.57 to 4.85. He is far from a perfect pitcher, but at least one trending in the right direction. The Royals would do well to see if he can continue that trend on a team-friendly deal.
2. Houston Astros: Phil Maton
If Phil Maton sounds familiar, it could be from his 70 appearances with the Cleveland Guardians. It could be from a key two-inning hold in the 2021 World Series, where he brought Houston back into the game. Or maybe you've never heard of him. The 30-year-old righty is having a solid year with a 3.74 fielding independent pitching (FIP) and .6 fWAR in 68 games for the Astros. Maton has the experience and production that should entice a Royals team looking to improve the bullpen.
3. Minnesota Twins: Donovan Solano
I have annoyed Jared Perkins and Kevin O'Brien for nearly a calendar year about how the Royals would benefit from having Donovan Solano. The Minnesota Twins signed the veteran for the 2023 season, and he casually put up an amazing year. He played 134 games at multiple positions, posted a 116 wRC+, and was worth 1.2 fWAR this year. If the Royals are looking for an aging utility option, they should pursue Solano this offseason.
4. Tampa Bay Rays: Chris Devenski
Chris Devenski was an entirely different pitcher after leaving the dysfunctional Los Angeles Angels organization for the Tampa Bay Rays. He had a positive .5 fWAR on the season and doesn't walk many batters, but struggles with giving up hits. His favorable .190 BABIP should add an asterisk to his performance, but he is a cheap reliever the Royals should kick the tires on.
5. Texas Rangers: Jake Odorizzi
Let Royals fans come full circle on a lottery ticket addition. Trading away Jake Odorizzi and other pieces to the Rays a decade ago netted Kansas City James Shields and kicked off the best modern years of Royals baseball. Odorizzi missed the 2023 season after undergoing surgery on his throwing shoulder. The 33-year-old veteran could have something to prove to land back with a contending team. The Royals could sign him as a swingman, then maybe flip him at the deadline.
6. Toronto Blue Jays: Jordan Hicks
Do you want the Royals to stop getting bargain bin relievers? Jordan Hicks could be the premier option. Hicks has a fastball in the 100th percentile, induces groundballs at an elite rate, and strikes out a ton of batters. That is what any team wants in their closer, hence why Hicks had 12 saves this season alone. He would be pricey, but he could be the bullpen anchor and splashy move the Royals need.