After coming dangerously close to blowing a nice five-run ninth-inning lead at Kauffman Stadium Tuesday night, the KC Royals have a chance to clinch at least a split of their four-game series with Detroit tonight.
More may be at stake, however, when the two clubs square off at 7:10 p.m. With baseball's midsummer trade deadline now less than two weeks away, the Royals could be showcasing the lefthander who's scheduled to start against the Tigers.
If they're considering trading Ryan Yarbrough, that is.
Does trading southpaw Ryan Yarbrough make sense for the KC Royals?
More than one reason justifies trying to move Yarbrough by the Aug. 1 deal deadline, not the least of which is that, with the combination of young major leaguers and prospects vying for spots in Kansas City's starting rotation, he may not fit within the club's long-term plans.
And he hasn't wowed anyone since going 16-6 with a 3.91 ERA in his 2018 rookie season with Tampa Bay, and then 11-6, 4.13 for the Rays the following season. In fact, he's a concerning 15-23 with
two 5.00-plus ERA campaigns—5.11 in 2021 and 5.29 this year—in the ensuing four seasons.
On the other hand, the idea of keeping Yarbrough isn't without at least some merit. Deployed out of the bullpen for the first seven of his 11 appearances this year, he's performed fairly well in three of his four starts: only in his May 2 outing against Baltimore, when the Orioles knocked him around for five runs in 3,2 innings, did he struggle, and he's 2-1 with a 1.72 ERA in his other three starts.
And that includes the quality start he posted in his July 9 return from injuries suffered when a line drive struck him in the head May 7—Yarbrough struck out five, walked only one, and held Cleveland to just one run over six innings.
Whether the Royals are thinking about trading Yarbrough is a question soon to be answered. Weighing against putting him on the trade block is the fact Kansas City has him under team control for another year after his one-year $3 million deal expires after this season; too, his current inexpensive contract means he probably won't get a huge, cost-prohibitive raise via arbitration even if he continues to pitch well in 2023.
But the Royals also have those younger arms to accommodate and shouldn't block any of them with Yarbrough unless he figures prominently in their future. That alone gives meaning to tonight's start against the Tigers: if he shuts them down, he bolsters both arguments to keep him and to trade him; but if Detroit batters him, it adds only to the "deal him" side of the equation.