On Friday, the Royals took a big step toward solidifying what the team would look like to open the 2017 season when they traded Jarrod Dyson to the Mariners for starting pitcher Nate Karns. Feelings about the players remaining on the roster aside, that does alleviate some of the roster jam that the team had with six outfielders who the team felt were good enough to receive a big league roster spot. It seems the outfield is now fairly set with Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Jorge Soler, Paulo Orlando and Billy Burns.
With that outfield, the position player side of the roster looks like it could be good to go. However, if you look at the make-up of the roster, you’ll see a bench that likely includes Drew Butera, Christian Colon, Paulo Orlando and Billy Burns. That’s three right-handed bats with Burns a switch hitter, but he’s a better hitter from the right side. I think the Royals have a big need for a bench player who can hit left-handed. Earlier in the offseason, I was thinking they needed a right-handed bat in the middle of the order, but I think they theoretically accomplished that with Soler.
So there are two places the Royals could look to find that left-handed bat, and they could do both and be just fine. The first is the obvious DH spot where they could use the role to give players half-days off and run with Cheslor Cuthbert, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea to find out what Pedro Alvarez, Adam Lind or Brandon Moss might want. None of these guys are much more than strong-side platoon bats, but they all provide additional power that the team could use.
The other name, and this is the one that I think makes the most sense to this roster, is Stephen Drew. He hits left-handed, has some pop, and can actually fill in at shortstop, which is something the Royals have lacked over the last few seasons. Last year, he hit .266/.339/.524 with the Nationals. He’s not in any way consistent, but he’d be a nice fit on this team. Yes, they’d have to find something to do with Colon, which likely means they’d get very little for the World Series hero, but what can you do? I think Drew might actually make the most sense of any remaining free agent for the Royals.
To me, the trade for Karns also symbolizes the fact that the rotation appears to be set. I know the Royals have said that Karns would compete for a spot in the rotation and could fit in the bullpen as well (which I agree with), but I have a hard time believing that he won’t be in the rotation when the current competition for the final starter is between Chris Young and Mike Minor. To me, a rotation of Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas and Karns has some decent potential on paper. The odds aren’t in their favor to be the best rotation in the league, but they can certainly do some damage.
I think one of the biggest impacts of the move is it allows Matt Strahm to at least begin the season in the bullpen. He’s definitely not a sure thing, but what we saw from him over the final two months of the season tells me that the Royals have a real weapon there to pair with Kelvin Herrera at the back of the bullpen. I’ve made my thoughts clear on where I think Strahm should be, and this seems like it allows that to happen. Now, the “sure” things in the bullpen are Herrera, Strahm, Joakim Soria and probably Brian Flynn along with the possibility of Young and Minor.
It’s clear the Royals still need something in the bullpen. They’ve made a slew of minor league signings that could impact that. The most promising one to me is Chris Withrow, who had Tommy John surgery a couple years ago and made it back last year with the Braves. Before the injury, he struck out 71 batters in 56 innings and gave up just 30 hits. That’s some legitimately fantastic stuff in order to get those numbers. If he can continue to progress in his return, he could be the third big weapon out of that bullpen. He’s also a minor league signing, so you can’t just expect that, but at least it’s a real possibility. Bobby Parnell, Brandon League, Al Alburquerque and, ugh, Jonathan Sanchez are some of the other guys who could make an impact for the big club.
I’d still be on the market for a reliever. I thought the Royals might be able to trade Dyson for one who could make an impact, and I guess you could argue they did, but they still need more. The names are the names we’ve talked about forever. Greg Holland and Luke Hochevar probably headline the list. If I had to bet, I’d say one of them comes back, but I guess we’ll have to find out. We’ve talked about the other names as well, but Neftali Feliz, J.P. Howell and Sergio Romo are some names that stand out to me as possibilities.
We’re now just over five weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting and the Royals roster is beginning to look a little clearer. There are still a few more moves left to make to help round this team out to potentially give them the chance to compete for the postseason and the Central division.