Dayton Moore has downplayed his ability to pursue free agents this winter and has said he may have to be creative to improve the club for 2017. He has had very few trades the last few years, instead keeping the nucleus of the team together while adding free agents to compliment the team. But this year, he may look for trades to add talent to keep the team under budget while improving the club.
With starting pitching still a need, Dayton Moore may want to look to Cincinnati to improve the rotation. The Reds are still rebuilding and may be interested in prospects, or even a young third baseman like Cheslor Cuthbert or Hunter Dozier in return for an arm. One pitcher who could interest the Royals is right-hander Dan Straily.
Straily was originally drafted by the Athletics and finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting with them in 2013 when he went 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 27 starts. Straily struggled to begin 2014, getting demoted in May and shipped to the Cubs that summer with Addison Russell in the Jeff Samardzija deal. Straily was rocked in the Cubs bullpen, and that winter they shipped him to Houston with Luis Valbuena for Dexter Fowler.
Straily began to bounce around baseball, plagued by poor results and a significant velocity drop. He spent most of 2015 in the minors, and at the end of spring training last year, his value was so low he was swapped for former Royals catcher Erik Kratz. Three days later he was placed on waivers by the Padres and claimed by the Reds.
He made the Reds rotation as they were rebuilding a gutted team, and put it all together for a fine season, posting a 3.76 ERA, although with a 4.88 FIP. He was able to miss some bats with a strikeout rate of 7.62 per-nine-innings, although he has trouble with command, walking 3.43 per-nine-innings.
Straily may have been a bit lucky with a .239 BABIP and 81.2% left-on-base rate. His velocity is back up thanks to work with Driveline Baseball, but his fastball barely breaks 90. However he has worked on getting rise out of his fastball, similar to the approach by Royals pitcher Ian Kennedy. Straily has used analytics to bring up his release point, giving hitters a different look at his pitches.
Straily uses PITCHf/x to track his vertical movement, and pointed out that his best outing by that stat came in Los Angeles this year, and that it was the first time in a while that he’d pushed back to where he was when he debuted with Oakland. "That’s that deceptive angle that a guy that throws 90 on his true four-seam needs," he added.
He also had one of the most effective sliders in baseball last year after tinkering with it. He was one of the most extreme flyball pitchers in baseball last year, with a rate of 48%, and that did lead to the ninth-highest home run rate in baseball. You would think that he would have been hurt pitching at Great American Ballpark, a bandbox of a park, but his home numbers were considerably better, even in the home run department.
Straily will not be arbitration eligible until after the 2017 season, making his salary very affordable for the Royals. He won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2020 season. He is not young - he is already 27 - but some of his refinements and adjustments may have carried him to a new plateau of performance. Straily does have some red flags and may be one-year wonder that could crash back to earth next year. But if the Royals want a cheap pitcher without giving up too much, it will have to be a hidden gem with some risk. Besides, the last graduate of Marshall University the Royals acquired from the Reds turned out pretty well.