Ian Kennedy is reportedly set to return from the disabled list on Saturday, having recovered from his groin injury. The move solidifies the rotation, which has been having to make due with Chris Young filling in. Although the Royals won both of Young’s starts, they required offensive comebacks, with Young unable to complete four innings in either start. He gave up nine runs in 6 2/3 innings, with three home runs allowed. In his last 15 starts, Young has now given up 29 home runs, more home runs than Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole has given up in 62 starts over the last three seasons combined. His ERA now stands at 7.27 for the year with 27 hits allowed in 17 2/3 innings.
Chris Young should not be a starting option anymore, but with the 25-man roster full, the question now becomes - should Chris Young even be on the roster anymore? The Royals are currently carrying 13 pitchers and a short bench, so Kennedy will almost certainly take the place of a current pitcher on the roster.
Reliever Seth Maness has option years remaining, and has given up two runs in three innings, so he might be the most likely option to get sent down. However, he has been an effective reliever over the last four seasons with the Cardinals, posting a 3.19 ERA. Al Alburquerque does not have options, and has shown pretty good strikeout rates with six whiffs in four innings. Peter Moylan has a gaudy 9.20 ERA due to some blowups, but has been generally effective, tossing scoreless outings in 16 of his 20 appearances.
You can see a need for each of those pitchers. But what is the role for Chris Young at this point?
There have been 195 pitchers that have thrown at least 90 innings between the 2016 and 2017 season. Chris Young is dead last in ERA at 6.37. He has the highest FIP at 6.58. He has the worst home run rate at 2.72 per-nine-innings. He has the worst WAR, according to Fangraphs, at -1.5.
In the last two seasons, Chris Young has been, by nearly every important metric, the worst pitcher in baseball. And the Royals seem to know this, putting him generally in games that are either lost causes or blowouts where they are way ahead. His last 13 relief appearances have all come in losses. In his 28 relief outings from 2016-2017, twice he has entered the game in a tie situation, once been entrusted with a two-run lead, and the rest of his outings were either with the Royals up four or more runs, or losing.
|Chris Young enters the game|
|Royals up 5+||4|
|Royals up 4||3|
|Royals up 3||0|
|Royals up 2||1|
|Royals up 1||0|
|Royals down 1||3|
|Royals down 2||4|
|Royals down 3||1|
|Royals down 4||5|
|Royals down 5+||5|
Now the Royals will need a guy to mop up innings when they are up a lot, or down a lot. But at this point, wouldn't it be better to use those innings to find out what a kid from the minors can do? The Royals don't have a super-great system, but there are some pitchers the Royals could benefit from taking a long look at, such as Jake Junis, Miguel Almonte, Eric Skoglund, Jonathan Dziedzic (when he returns from his injury), and even Josh Staumont.
The Royals still owe Young around $5.8 million on his contract, which includes his $1.5 million buyout for 2018. He was quite good in 2015 and has always had an approach that lived life on the edge with his high flyball rates. His strikeout rates spiked up heavily last year, although it has gone back down this year. There is perhaps some hope he could turn things around and become useful. But he is also 37 years old. Time is ticking.
Perhaps Chris Young survives this roster crunch. Will he survive the next one, when Scott Alexander comes off the disabled list some time next week? What about when Brian Flynn returns this summer? At what point do the Royals finally pat Chris Young on the back and say "thanks for the memories"?