The Royals may seem down and out after a disastrous weekend in Cleveland, but the truth is they are still in the post-season hunt at just 2.5 games back of the Wild Card. The trade deadline was last month, but that doesn’t mean the trading season has to come to an end. Teams can still trade players that clear waivers, a process more fully explained here. The players traded this time of year are more of the “Dollar Store” variety, but you can find some useful players, like the Royals did in August of 2014 when they acquired Josh Willingham. To be eligible for the post-season, a player must be in the organization by September 1.
On 610 Sports last week, Dayton Moore suggested the team could be interested in adding pitching depth this month.
“If we were to do anything at all, it would probably be to add a pitcher or two, primarily because we’ve had so many injuries.”
The pitching staff has been hit hard with injuries - Nate Karns, Trevor Cahill, and most recently, Danny Duffy have hit the disabled list. Depending on the severity of Duffy’s injury, the Royals could look for a starting pitcher.
In the bullpen, the Royals are missing Joakim Soria, Neftali Feliz, as well as potential bullpen additions in the minors like Miguel Almonte and Kyle Zimmer. With the pen struggling this month with an ERA of 5.53, the Royals may look to add another relief arm, so we don’t see any more Onelki Garcia appearances. Here are some options that could still be available.
Santiago Casilla, Athletics
Santiago is a long-time reliever who has spent his entire career in the Bay Area, for both the Giants and A’s. Now 36, the right-hander has a 4.37 ERA with Oakland with 47 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings and 16 saves. Casilla brings a 94 mph fastball and a sinker. He has a huge split this year, pitching much better in the friendly confines of whatever they call that dumpy stadium the A’s play in now. No pitcher, not even Joakim Soria, has blown more saves over the past two seasons than Santiago Casilla. Casilla is signed through next year, with a salary of $5.5 million in 2018.
Jim Johnson, Braves
Johnson would be very similar to the Brandon Maurer acquisition, a pitcher who is better than his stats would indicate. The right-hander has struggled with a 5.62 ERA although his FIP is just 3.45. He has 22 saves this year and has struck out 10.32 hitters-per-nine innings with a low home run rate. However his walks are up this year and he has blown nine saves. He hasn’t been hit hard - opponents are hitting just .260/.326/.380 against him, and he had a 3.86 ERA until two weeks ago, when he gave up 11 runs over four outings. Johnson is signed through 2018 with a salary of $4.5 million next year. He has already been placed on revocable waivers, but it is unknown whether or not he has cleared.
Jason Motte, Braves
Five years ago, Motte led the league in saves with the Cardinals. He had Tommy John surgery in 2013, and has struggled since then. He has put up a 3.60 ERA in 35 innings with the Braves this year, although with a 5.36 FIP. He has an ugly strikeout-to-walk ratio, and his velocity is way down from his days with the Cardinals, with a fastball that now sits at 93 mph. Motte has benefited from an absurdly low BABIP of .224 and just returned to action after missing a month with a back injury. Motte will earn about $5 million for the entire season, and is a free agent this winter.
Juan Nicasio, Pirates
Nicasio has been pretty effective this year, leading the league in relief appearances, so he may not clear waivers this month. He has a 2.85 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 60 innings with a decent walk rate of 2.7 per-nine-innings. The right-hander throws one of the more effective fastballs among relievers this year, averaging 95.8 with his heater. Of his 65 relief appearances, he has had a scoreless outing in 54 of them and opponents are hitting just .222/.286/.330 against him this year. Nicasio makes $3.65 million this year and is a free agent this winter.
Craig Stammen, Padres
Oh no, not another Padres pitcher! Stammen has pitched just four MLB innings from 2015-2016, but the Padres took a chance on him and he rewarded them with a 3.42 ERA in 68 1⁄3 innings. He has a good whiff rate with 8.43 strikeouts-per-nine innings, but has one of the highest home run rates among relievers. Stammen is a sinkerballer, with a groundball rate over 50%. He has given up just two runs in 20 2⁄3 innings since the All-Star break so he is at least trending in the right direction.
Drew Storen, Reds
Storen saved 29 games with the Nationals in 2015, but has really struggled the last two seasons. He has a 4.44 ERA and 4.93 FIP with the Reds this year with 3.76 walks-per-nine innings. He was effective most of the season, posting a 3.00 ERA through August 6, until he gave up 14 runs over seven outings, including a six-run disaster against Atlanta last week. Storen has 46 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings, and a groundball rate of 50%. If the Royals think his recent woes are just temporary, he could be a bargain.
Brad Ziegler, Marlins
A native of nearby Odessa, Missouri and former Missouri State Bear, Ziegler will be paid $9 million in 2018, the second year of his two-year contract, a deal the Marlins would probably like to get out of paying. The submariner has a 4.61 ERA and 3.84 FIP in 41 relief innings. Like most submariners, he has a low strikeout rate, but survives by keeping the ball down. Ziegler has a 66.7% groundball rate this season. Ziegler grew up collecting Royals baseball cards, and although he may be a bit outspoken with his tweets, he would probably fit into the Royals clubhouse.
Which, if any, of these relievers should the Royals pursue?
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None of them