KC Royals Rumors: Club linked to interesting AL Central reliever

Should Kansas City think about Michael Kopech?
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

As they prepare to continue their tough 12-game battle with first-place teams tonight at Dodger Stadium, the KC Royals have to like what they've seen so far this season from White Sox reliever Michael Kopech. And with good reason — he's been quite generous when he's pitched against them.

Take the one inning he worked April 5 at Kauffman Stadium. Although he struck out three after beginning the eighth inning with the score tied 1-1, he gave up an RBI single to MJ Melendez that put the Royals ahead for good.

Then there's the April 17 contest in Chicago when, given a save opportunity in the eighth, he allowed a two-run, two-out homer to Salvador Perez that gave Kansas City the lead and, ultimately, another win.

He wasn't as good to the Royals April 15 when he held them scoreless for an inning.

Now, it seems Kansas City may be interested in making Kopech a Royal.

Report links Michael Kopech to the KC Royals

Bruce Levine, a Chicago baseball analyst who covers the White Sox (and also the Cubs) for Chicago's WSCR-AM 670 The Score, wrote Friday that some major league teams, including the Royals, are scouting Kopech; because Levine reports those clubs are doing "due diligence" on the righty reliever, it's reasonable to assume they're watching him not as part of advance work, but instead because they're thinking about acquiring him.

And despite his unremarkable five-season 17-31, 4.91 ERA record, any interest the Royals may have in Kopech is understandable.

Their bullpen is shaky and inconsistent; its 4.32 ERA is thesecond-worst in the American League Central and sixth-worst in the league. Although Kopech is 2-6, 4.91 in 29 games this season, he ranks high in some key pitching categories — per Baseball Savant, Kopech's fastball velocity, which averages almost 99 mph, is in the 98th percentile; his xBA is in the 90th percentile; his 32.3 K% is in the 93rd; and his 85% whiff rate ranks in the 85th.

Not bad numbers if you can get them.

But do the Royals want them? Perhaps. Originally a starter, Kopech dabbled in relief in 2021 and last year, and is making the transition to full-time reliever this season. His 4.91 ERA is cause for some concern, which means Kansas City must consider him with due caution.

But those numbers from Savant suggest there's promise in Kopech and his right arm. What's more, he'd give the club another year of controllability past this one — he won't be eligible to test free agency until after next season.

The big league trade deadline is July 30. We should know before too long whether KC general manager J.J. Picollo elects to pursue Kopech, some other reliever or relievers, or decides to seek bullpen help from Triple-A Omaha (Walter Pennington, anyone?) to boost the Royals' fortunes.

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