KC Royals: 4 realistic targets for an innings-eating starter

The KC Royals are reportedly wanting notable improvements in the pitching staff. How can they achieve that via free agency?

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Mike Clevenger is a familiar foe, but could help the Royals rotation.

Mike Clevenger has been a pitcher for three teams since 2020, but he is well-traveled for his ability to be a reliable veteran at worst and a top-half starter at best. The Royals signing him is far from splashy, but it gives the team a contributor at least.

Clevinger, like Putko, spent several years with Cleveland and pitched last season for the Chicago White Sox. He declined a $12 million mutual option with Chicago, making him a free agent this offseason. It is good timing for Clevinger, who will be 33 on Opening Day. He is a prime candidate for a two- or three-year deal after a resurgent season in Chicago.

Clevinger made 24 starts for the White Sox, pitching 131 1/3 innings with a 3.77 ERA and 1.226 WHIP. He likely would have been moved at the trade deadline, if not for biceps inflammation landing him on the IL on June 16. The White Sox even placed Clevinger on waivers after he returned; that is how much they were in lose-now mode.

Clevinger pitched two complete games last season, one fewer than Lyles. His strikeout ability is not what it once was, but he limits walks and averages 5 2/3 innings per start. It is hard to believe he pitched in 200 1/3 innings back in 2018, but his 2023 total was his highest since then. Clevinger will likely want an annual salary comparable to his declined option. The Royals shouldn't make Clevinger their splashy move, but they could do far worse than add Clevinger as a mid-rotation pitcher.