Like the general manager necessarily determined to improve his team's poor pitching that he is, Kansas City's J.J. Picollo landed his biggest fish of this baseball winter Tuesday. Coming to the KC Royals is veteran Seth Lugo, an accomplished big league hurler who can pitch out of the rotation or the bullpen and do either job well.
Reports of Picollo's newest free agent deal erupted during the afternoon and took Kansas City by storm. Lugo had been linked to KC, but because so few strong signs suggested he'd become a Royal, news of the club's most important acquisition of this offseason overtook baseball media for hours.
And all but completely stifled word of Picollo's other Tuesday move. Coming not long after the Lugo news, but nearly lost in its shuffle, was the word that Picollo had buttressed his bullpen — well-traveled reliever Chris Stratton, who's pitched for five teams during his eight-year big league career, is joining the Royals on a deal MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reports is worth a team-friendly $3.5 million for 2024 with a 2025 player option for 2025.
The arrangement is a coming full circle of sorts for Stratton, who the last-place Cardinals traded to Texas at this year's trade deadline; Stratton went 1-0 with a 3.41 ERA in 22 games for the Rangers, then pitched twice in he American League Championship Series and two more times in the World Series. Now, he's returning to another last-place club, but with a World Series ring in tow.
What will Chris Stratton bring to the KC Royals' table?
Good question, especially considering that Lugo cornered most of Kansas City's attention market Tuesday.
Stratton, 33 (he turns 34 in August), is a righthanded reliever who, besides working last season for the Cardinals and Rangers, has pitched for the Giants, Angels and Pirates. He's 37-24 with a 4.43 in 302 major league games (42 starts). He's won 10 games twice, first as primarily a starter for San Francisco in 2018, and then in 2022 in a season split between Pittsburgh and the Cardinals when he relieved in 59 of his 60 appearances.
He was a combined 2-1, 3.92 for St. Louis and Texas in 2023 with a 1.14 WHIP, 8.82 K/9, and decent control (2.72 BB/9).
Stratton owns a career 3.57 BB/9 and career 8.32 K/9 and brings a five-pitch repertoire — four-seamer, curve, slider, changeup, and an occasional slider — to the Royals.
Where will manager Matt Quatraro slot Stratton? Look for him in the middle innings, but not in save situations.