Heading into the 2017 season, many people believed that Dayton Moore had assembled his best rotation ever. Even after the tragic death of Yordano Ventura, this thought still held true with the signing of Jason Hammel. It wasn't wrong to think this either. Like in other years, there was no Luis Mendoza or Jeremy Guthrie type starters in the rotation.
Things particularly haven't gone as planned for the starting rotation, as that goes both ways. Nobody was expecting Jason Vargas to have a 3.06 ERA on July 20. Some other things have hampered the rotation. Danny Duffy missing five weeks, Nathan Karns joining the list of Royals pitchers to have TOS, and Ian Kennedy tweaking his hamstring. If you would’ve told me before the season started that Jake Junis, Eric Skoglund, Matt Strahm, Chris Young, Travis Wood, and Luke Farrell would have a combined 17 starts at this point in the season, I would have thought this team would have been far out of contention at this point.
But here we are on July 20 and the Royals are 2.0 games back. Though some of this pertains to good fortune (Indians aren't a .516 team) the Royals are in a position where they can add on small pieces.
Last week, I pondered around the idea of Jarrod Dyson returning to the Royals. Now I’ll take a look at some names, external and internal, that could possibly help solidify the back of the rotation.
On the surface, Marco Estrada has been terrible, posting a 5.33 ERA so far on the year. If you dig deeper though, his FIP of 4.31 and xFIP of 4.59 are closer to his career averages. He’s gotten unlucky on batted balls also, with his BABIP mark of .330 being way of his career .263 mark. This has occurred despite him giving up the around the same amount of hard contact (31.3% in 2016 vs 30.9% in 2017) as usual.
What’s even odder too is that Estrada has a little extra juice to his fastball this year, raising the average MPH from 88.1 to 90.1 this year.
The amount of return the Blue Jays would net in a deal lies on the money. Estrada is owed $14.5 million this year. If Royals take the contract, it seems as if they won't have to give much in return.
A rumor that seems to scare Royals fans, Jaime Garcia seems to be a pitcher on the decline. Garcia is a pitcher that has been consistent with injury issues and even though he hasn't dealt with any this year, his peripherals are heading a scary direction, as his K-BB% is at career-low mark.
Atlanta apparently isn't ready to sell yet, but a rental pitcher like Garcia should be a deal the Royals should be able to pull off.
This is probably my favorite possibility. After missing all of last year with TJS, Lynn has been steady with a 3.40 ERA on the year. Throughout his career, Lynn has been one of the better pitchers in all of baseball, owning the 39th best WAR among pitchers since 2011.
Since coming back from injury, his strikeouts and walks have been steady, but his home run numbers are concerning, as his HR/9 numbers have jumped to 1.66, more than double his career average.
Obviously, it’s still a question as to whether the Cardinals well sell or not, but Lynn should be a piece that shouldn't cost too much.
Now to in house options. When Junis was up in the big leagues this year, we saw flashes of good and bad. But it has been a different story in his 60 innings down in Omaha. After struggling in his first go-around in AAA, Junis has been able to dominate PCL hitters, posting a 2.55 ERA and 2.54 FIP. His 70/10 K/BB ratio tops all Pacific Coast League pitchers.
When Junis was up, he got pounded by the long ball, allowing a whopping 9 home runs in 35 innings pitched. He’s an option for the future, possibly next year, but hopefully not this year.
Lets put it this way for Skoglund. His first 6.2 innings pitched were great. His list 3, not so much. The sample size was limited for Skoglund, but after his tremendous debut, his stuff wasn't fooling anybody at the major league level.
Like Junis, Skoglund is an option for the future. We’ll likely get to see him out of the bullpen in September.
A player that probably should have not been starting a game for the Royals this year, but a circumstance came in which he was needed for a spot start. He struggled in the 2.2 innings he threw, allowing ten baserunners.
Farrell has really gotten into a groove in AAA (3.10 ERA, 10.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 since June 2), but if the Royals haven't any hopes of being contenders, Farrell should probably not start any games at the major league level
As you can see, there was a pattern. If the Royals want to stabilize the back of the rotation, they need to make a trade or two. Because starting Travis Wood every fifth day isn’t going to work.