Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Friday that the Kansas City Royals were being "aggressive" in their offseason search for rotation pieces. Given the names that have been reported to be on their wishlist in the days since, this may actually be true.
During Winter Meetings, GM JJ Picollo announced that the Royals had a bit of breathing room in their budget, with $30 million authorized to spend on free agents. Although this isn't enough for some of the biggest names still available on the free agent pitching market, like Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, it could be enough to sign a few mid-tier starters. Some, like Kenta Maeda and Kyle Gibson, have already been signed, but many others have yet to land on a deal.
Royals Rumors: KC's connections to these free agent pitchers might surprise you
On Sunday, Jon Heyman reported the Royals' interest in free agents Marcus Stroman, coming off of an incredible start and a dud of an ending to his 2023 season, and Lucas Giolito, who had sort of the opposite kind of year. MLB Trade Rumors predicts Stroman and Giolito will both sign two year, $44 million contracts, setting one but not both of them comfortably in the Royals' self-imposed range. On the other hand, Spotrac estimates Stroman's yearly market value around $15.5 million, and Giolito's around $12 million. It's unclear how many of these mid-tier starters the Royals would be looking to sign, but it could be possible to get both within their self-imposed budget given the right circumstances.
Another name in the Royals' mix is Seth Lugo, who has been receiving widespread interest across the league but has yet to land on a new home for next season. Lugo, 34, had an admirable first season as a starter after years of making his career as a reliever, but the possible rub here is his age. MLB Trade Rumors predicts $42 million over three years, while Spotrac puts his yearly worth at $10 million, making him slight more affordable and perhaps easier to mix-and-match with either Stroman or Giolito, or whichever free agents in this $10-15 million range the Royals decide to pursue.
Even more recently thrown into the mix for the Royals are Michael Wacha and Jack Flaherty, who Mark Feinsand connected Kansas City to today. Wacha could cost anywhere between $12-18 million, depending on who you read; Flaherty would be cheaper at $11-13 million. Flaherty, and for that matter Giolito, would be a bounce back candidate for the Royals, as both have struggled mightily in the years since they received Cy Young votes (2019 for Flaherty, 2020 and 2021 for Giolito).
Kansas City's rotation currently features Cole Ragans, coming off of a fantastic 12 games for the Royals after a trade from the Rangers, Brady Singer, who appeared consistently for KC but struggled throughout the year, and Jordan Lyles, who's in a very similar boat to Singer.
It's likely that the Royals are looking for a good mid-tier, veteran option to put at the top of their rotation, a pitcher who is able to eat innings and has a history of excellence. Stroman, Giolito, Lugo, Wacha, and Flaherty certainly fit the bill, and if the Royals are being as aggressive as reported, a signing of one or more of them could be in the cards.