The Royals appear to be “all in” the pennant race this season, and if they are buyers, the bullpen appears to be one area they could use additional depth. The Royals are sixth in the American League in bullpen ERA, a far cry from their pennant-winning days when they were dominating late innings with HDH. There is probably not a shutdown reliever they can acquire - re-acquiring Wade Davis is probably a pipe-dream - but adding depth and giving Ned Yost more options can allow him to piece together a solid bullpen to support what appears to be an improved offense.
According to Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger, the Royals have begun focusing on looking at starting pitchers and relievers on the trade market. Boston Globe reporter Nick Cafardo reported last weekend that the Royals are scouting Phillies reliever Pat Neshek.
Royals fans may remember Neshek and his funky delivery from his days with the Twins, who he pitched for from 2006-2010. The right-hander has had some injury problems throughout his career with the Twins, Padres, Athletics, Cardinals, Astros, and Phillies, but he was named to his second All-Star team this year. In 35 1⁄3 innings for Philadelphia this year, he has a 1.27 ERA with 35 strikeouts and just five walks. He has yet to give up a single run at home this year, and has not allowed a run in 36 of his 38 outings this year. In eleven Major League seasons, he has 2.79 ERA with nearly a strikeout-per-inning.
Neshek has an unorthodox delivery where he hardly winds up at all, then motions like he is about to go submarine-style with his delivery. Instead, he whips the ball sidearm-style, not unlike Royals reliever Peter Moylan. Like Moylan, Neshek has historically had a split where he has been death to right-handed hitters, although he does not have much of a platoon split this year. Despite his sidearm style, Neshek has been a flyball pitcher, with a flyball rate of 49% in his career.
Neshek is in the middle of an option year, where he is due to earn $6.5 million, although that can increase to $9 million based on the number of games he finishes - presumably to reward him if he becomes a closer. Neshek has finished just five games so far this year. The reliever market has been hot in recent years, but the non-elite middle reliever market should not demand sky-high prices. Neshek has a salary the Royals can easily afford, and while he might require good prospects, it won’t be anyone the Royals can’t part with. Cafardo reports the Yankees and Red Sox are among the other teams scouting Neshek.