What traditionally has been a major strength for the Royals turned into a major weakness in 2018. The Royals had the worst bullpen in baseball by WAR last season with an AL-worst 5.04 ERA. Additionally, they lost some of their best arms - Joakim Soria and Kelvin Herrera - through mid-season trades. While the pen should improve a bit simply by losing some of their worst pitchers, that still leaves a lot of holes to fill.
Wily Peralta filled in adequately as closer last year once Herrera was dealt, converting all 14 of his save opportunities. But there were red flags too, His 15.4% walk rate was ninth-worst among all pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched, up there with Brandon Maurer. He was 17th among such pitchers in hard-hit contact allowed. His left-on base rate was 81.9%, much higher than the league average of 72.8%, suggesting more of those baserunners could lead to runs next year.
So it makes sense the Royals might look for other players that can fill that closer role, or even just add another late inning option for the club. According to Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic, the Royals are one of many teams interested in former Angels closer Blake Parker.
Parker is drawing widespread interest as a free agent, according to a source; all five teams from the AL Central have checked in, among many others. His goal likely is a two-year contract that would buy out his remaining arbitration years. A one-year deal might be more realistic, and Parker at least figures to get a number similar to what he would have earned in arbitration.
Parker was non-tendered a few weeks ago by the Angels, making him a free agent. MLB Trade Rumors projected Parker to make $3.1 million through the arbitration process, up from his $1.8 million salary from 2018.
The 33-year old right-hander had a 3.26 ERA and 14 saves last season. In 66 1⁄3 innings he had 9.5 strikouts and 2.6 walks-per-nine innings. Parker had some problems with the long ball - he gave up 12 home runs, tied for seventh-most among all relievers. He had a very high left-on-base rate of 89%, and a high FIP of 4.40. His velocity declined as the season went on, raising some concerns.
Parker was a late bloomer. The former Arkansas Razorback didn’t make his Major League debut until age 27 with the Cubs. The Mariners, Yankees, Angels, and Brewers all claimed him off waivers in 2016, before he eventually stuck when the Angels claimed him again in December of that year. He enjoyed his breakthrough season in 2017, with a 2.54 ERA, 11.5 strikeouts-per-nine innings, and 1.5 WAR, according to Fangraphs.
Parker seems to be a nice late-inning reliever to gamble on and possibly spin as an asset at the trade deadline. But many teams seem to be interested in him as a low-cost option. The Royals may have an advantage if Parker wants a closer’s role. But there may also be red flags to stay away, particularly since the Angels, a team not particularly cost-conscious, let him go in the first place.