Why the KC Royals can't risk saying 'No' to James McArthur

The reliever is making his case.

Bob Levey/GettyImages
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James McArthur dazzled everyone during his late-season work with the Royals

It's hard to find much of anything for which to fault McArthur during last season's final month, a span of 12 games as well-reported collectively as his catastrophic first evening in the big leagues. Pitching against six different teams across 16.1 innings, he didn't give up a run, didn't walk a single one of the 53 batters he faced, held those hitters to just five hits for an .096 OBA, and struck out 19. He also saved four games and earned his first major league win.

That performance put McArthur squarely in the middle of every offseason conversation about the Royals' pitching staff. Speculation swirled that he would be the reliver to replace Scott Barlow, KC's closer dealt to San Diego at last year's trade deadline, but who's now with Cleveland.

His stellar September notwithstanding, and considering all the good big league pitchers KC acquired this winter, almost all of whom are more experienced than McArthur, we reluctantly didn't include him in our recent first Opening Day roster projection (a second is coming soon). But the Royals' pitching picture has since changed — shoulder soreness has sidelined Carlos Hernández indefinitely, Jake Brentz is having a dismal spring (0-1, nine earned runs, and 11 walks in 3.1 innings), newcomer Chris Stratton is struggling (six runs and six hits in four innings), and Christian Chamberlain won't make the club after tearing his UCL.

The Royals, then, could need reinforcements; as we suggested not long ago, McArthur is a good candidate for such duty. And what makes him even more appealing is his Cactus League work this year: he's struck out six and yielded only a run, a walk and three hits in four games.

So, should he have a spot on the Opening Day roster and, if so, how will he do this season?