Beginning this evening, all Major League free agents are free to sign with other clubs, marking the unofficial start of the Hot Stove season. The Royals are likely going to have a quiet off-season, looking to build upon the second-half success with younger players on the roster.
Still, they may be looking for relief help, possibly a more solid solution at third base, as well as roster depth. They are looking to get to payroll down to about $85-90 million and are near that mark already with current players, although they could have some wiggle room.
If the Royals sign any free agents, my guess is they will look for relievers on one-year deals, possibly some reclamation projects. With that in mind, I will make the case for signing free agent Zach McAllister.
McAllister is far from a marquee free agent, as he was actually let go by the Tigers in August. The Tigers had one of the worst bullpens in baseball, so if he can’t crack that pen, it is not a good sign.
However there are some signs of encouragement from the right-hander. He was a very solid contributor to the Indians pitching staff for years, putting up a 3.99 ERA in eight seasons, and a 2.99 ERA from 2015-2017 when he was moved exclusively to the bullpen. His strikeout rate over that time was 26%, with well over a whiff per-inning. As recently as 2017 he was a solid 1.4 WAR reliever with a 2.61 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 62 innings.
McAllister had a really rough April, giving up 11 runs in 9 2⁄3 innings, but was passable after that with a respectable 3.38 ERA with opponents hitting .268/.316/.439 against him from May until the end of July. But he was caught in a numbers crunch in Cleveland and was let go a few weeks after the Indians acquired relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from the Padres. He was destroyed in three appearances with the Tigers, leading to his release again. He was signed to a minor league deal by the Dodgers, but was never called up and he should be eligible for free agency.
The 30-year old McAllister is one of the hardest-throwing relievers available this winter and while he does have some flexibility as a starter and reliever, he would be a much better bet to resurrect his career as a short-reliever. Considering he has been let go a few times this year already, any kind of Major League deal should be amenable to him, and the Royals could perhaps even get him on a minor league deal with incentives. McAllister has a chance to be this year’s Wily Peralta, with perhaps even more upside.
Other relievers that should interest the Royals: Tony Barnette, Randall Delgado, A.J. Ramos, Carson Smith, Drew Storen.
Here is a list of free agents this off-season. Jon Heyman and his “expert” gave predictions on how much the top 131 free agents should expect to receive this off-season. Make your case, which free agent should the Royals target and how much would you give him?