In the final installment of players the Royals could go after, I look to the bullpen. While things have really stabilized with the emergence of Mike Minor, the loss of Matt Strahm for the year is a big blow. Neftali Feliz has looked solid at times, but there’s also a reason he was designated for assignment from a team currently in first place. I think the Royals could target some middle relief help to help them bridge the gap from the starter to the late innings.
And listed below are the relievers who I believe the Royals will target over the next few weeks. These aren’t all necessarily listed alphabetically, but they’re not in order of preference either.
I’m going to list these four pitchers together because they’re all interesting for different reasons.
David Hernandez – He’s been outstanding this season with 10 SO/9 and just 2.4 BB/9. He has a 2.73 ERA and the peripherals to support it and then some.
Bud Norris – Norris has been reborn as a late inning reliever with a 95 mph fastball and a cutter that has caused lots of problems. He has a 2.23 ERA and a 2.65 DRA, showing that he has a good chance to sustain his success.
Blake Parker – The 32-year old has a 2.12 ERA, 2.49 DRA and 2.12 FIP. He’s with his fourth team and seems to have gotten it figured out this season with a fantastic strikeout to walk ratio and not many hits allowed.
Yusmeiro Petit – He’s not the guy you’re picking up to be a dominant late inning pitcher, but he can give versatility with 50.2 innings in 33 games and a 2.84 ERA (though a 4.53 DRA).
A’s Late Inning Arms
Sean Doolittle – The Royals were rumored to be interested in Doolittle last season, and while he’s not always healthy, he is good when he pitches. He has a 3.54 ERA, but a 2.03 DRA this year with tons of strikeouts and basically no walks (29 to 2 ratio).
Ryan Madson – The former Royal would be a nice addition to the bullpen with a 2.17 ERA this year and 2.99 DRA. His strikeouts dropped last year, but they’re back up this year and his control is still solid. The Royals know him well, so maybe that could work.
Doolittle is owed a bit more than $1 million this year and at least $4.85 million through next season while Madson has another $3.5 million or so this year and $7.5 million next year on his deal. Doolittle’s money could be figured out, but Madson might be too pricey.
Former Big Names
Steve Cishek – Once upon a time, Cishek was a really good closer for the Marlins. As relievers often do, he flamed out a bit, but has been okay the last couple years with Seattle. He’s currently sporting a 3.86 ERA and 5.21 DRA, so he probably won’t cost much, but there’s a bit of upside for a stretch run.
Dustin McGowan – I remember when McGowan was supposed to be the next big thing for the Blue Jays. Well, don’t look now, but he’s turned into a decent reliever. He had a 2.82 ERA last year and has a 2.91 ERA this year. His DRA has jumped from 2.96 to 3.61, but he gets a lot of grounders and has been generally solid. Also he’s very inexpensive. That’s a good thing.
Jason Motte – I’d really rather the Royals didn’t, but Motte had a really good strikeout rate as recently as last season. He’s out there, but I don’t see a reason for them to acquire him.
Joe Smith – Smith hit the DL with a shoulder issue, but it sounds like he’s about to start a rehab assignment, so he could be ready soon. The most generic name in baseball has been darn good this year with a 2.25 ERA, 2.97 ERA and 13.4 SO/9. He’s not the ground ball machine he once was, but he’d be a nice fit in this bullpen in middle relief.
Drew Storen – Storen hasn’t been the closer for the Reds, but he’s done a decent job with a 2.80 ERA. Although he has a 4.75 DRA and 4.16 FIP with the culprit being that he isn’t throwing strikes nearly as well as he has in the past. The Royals likely will want him for less than the Reds want to trade him for, so I don’t see it happening, but I’d like to see Eiland get a chance to work with Storen.
The Group with No Real Category
Pat Neshek – The Royals have been connected to Neshek in some rumors, and he’s having a great season. He’s posted a 1.27 ERA with a 2.26 FIP. DRA isn’t quite as kind to him as he’s posted a 4.15 mark, but more than a strikeout per inning and less than two walks per nine will get my attention. He’s always been tough to hit. He’d be a nice addition.
Juan Nicascio – He’s been in the bullpen full-time this season and the results have been fantastic. He’s striking out more than a batter per inning and hasn’t allowed a home run yet this year. His DRA is 3.50, so there’s probably some regression, but his starting experience could make him a guy who can give multiple innings even though the Pirates haven’t used him that way this year.
David Phelps – Phelps has been interesting for awhile now. He was great last year, but while he hasn’t been as dominant, he’s had a solid enough year with a 3.68 ERA and 3.21 ERA through 41 appearances. He’s striking out hitters and his walks are reasonable given the number of whiffs he gets. He has one more year of arbitration following this one, so the Royals would be on the hook for a bit more than $2 million this season and somewhere around $6.5 million next year in all likelihood.
Addison Reed – Someone will overpay for Reed if the Mets make him available, so the Royals might be out on him before they get in. He’s posted a nice 2.53 ERA with good strikeout and walk numbers, but he’s been more hittable than he was last season and he’s been hit harder with the home run than he had been in a couple years. I don’t think he’s a bad reliever, but he’s probably not worth the price.
Anthony Swarzak – I remember when Swarzak was a starter with the Twins. I used to love it when the Royals got to face him. Now, he’s been a very good reliever with a 2.41 ERA and 3.35 DRA. He’s getting strikeouts, limiting walks and can give some length in a bullpen. I’d be worried that he’s a bit of a flash in the pan, though his DRA out of the bullpen has been mostly very good since 2013, so this isn’t necessarily that new.
Kirby Yates – Yates has never been an especially good reliever, so there’s reason to be skeptical, but it’s hard to ignore 13.3 SO/9, or the 2.48 ERA, or the 3.24 FIP, or even the 3.85 DRA. The last number isn’t great, but a guy who can get that many strikeouts can be a big contributor. Strikeouts aren’t new for him, but his improved control is, which might be what’s made the difference for him.
Relievers always make it tough to judge the trade market because there are so many on each team that there are so many possibilities, but these are the ones who jumped out to me as possibilities for the Royals. If you asked me to choose, I’d have interest in David Hernandez, Pat Neshek, Juan Nicasio, Blake Parker, Joe Smith and Anthony Swarzak as guys who could help the Royals bullpen the rest of this season.