Pitchers and catchers report in about a week. The off-season is almost over. But the Royals still have a need for more pitching. Dayton Moore has said he wants to add another pitcher. If the Royals get priced out on Jason Hammel, it’s possible they might want to look at another north-sider, Travis Wood.
Travis Wood has spent his entire career in the NL Central for Cincinnati and Chicago, most of that as a starter. His best season was 2013 when he was an All-Star and went 9-12 with a 3.11 ERA. In 2015 he was a swing man, and he had some very good success in that role, striking out more than ten batters every nine innings and respectable 3.84 ERA to go with a 3.40 FIP. Last year he was a reliever full-time and while the left-hander lowered his ERA to 2.95. He was even better in the post-season, going 2-0 with 4 holds while striking out 14 in on 12.2 innings and held opposing hitters to a .593 OPS.
The smallish lefty - he’s only 5’11” and 175 pounds - is younger than fellow Chicago potential free agent target Jason Hammel and doesn’t come with the injury scare from last season. However, his peripherals all seem to suggest that he might be due for even more precipitous decline. Unlike Hammel’s solid season, Wood saw his strikeout rate and BABIP against plummet even as his walk rate and home run rate jumped noticeably. It is also worth noting that while some teams may look at him as an option both as a starter and a reliever, his best success in the pen was as a lefty-specialist - a role that doesn’t typically exist in a Ned Yost bullpen; Yost preferring to assign innings rather than a number of hitters.
MLB Trade Rumors predicted Wood would get a three-year deal worth $21 million (and go to the Marlins) back at the start of the off-season. However, that price seems likely to have dropped as the off-season has dragged on more and more. Wood claims to have at least one team interested in trying him out as a starter, again - a role which he greatly prefers. He’s obviously had success there before, but can he be relied upon to repeat it after spending the last two years pitching primarily in relief and with rapidly eroding peripherals?
The Royals clearly need more pitching, both in the rotation and in the bullpen, Travis Wood may be an answer to one of those slots, but it doesn’t seem very likely. Still, their options are limited both by the lack of quality in this year’s free agent class and their own budget. If the Royals think they can solve his walk and strike out problems he might be worth taking a flyer on. If they want do so, they’ll have to think fast, though. Some people are suggesting he might sign very soon.