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Free agent target: Julio Teheran

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Former Braves mainstay can now be had, but at what cost?

Divisional Series - St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves - Game Five Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In my last article, I wrote that the Royals could target Martin Perez as a free agent. The idea was both that he could be likely be had for very cheap on a multi-year deal, and could eat innings if healthy.

I confess that was not one of my more inspiring ideas, but a rebuilding team doesn’t always have the luxury to do “inspired”. I also wanted to get that one out of the way so I could write about Julio Teheran.

Julio Teheran was once a top prospect in the Braves system. He ranked as high as 10th on mlb’s top 50, and dominated at the various levels of the minors. He never reached the “Ace” status he was expected to, but has carved out a solid living as a middle rotation, durable innings eater since coming to the majors.

He reached the majors in 2011, but didn’t stick until 2013, and has averaged over 190 innings pitched per season (and at least 30 starts) since. His best season came in 2014, where he posted a 2.89 ERA over 221 innings, earning 3.4 fWAR. He features a full four-pitch mix, fastball, slider, curve and change-up, though he throws his fastball/slider combination over 80% of the time. He saw a slight uptick in his K/9 last season, but paired it with an uptick in BB/9.

The Royals rotation struggled to eat innings last season. Glenn Sparkman threw the third-most innings of any Royals pitcher last season with 136, so Teheran could bring some much needed stability to the rotation, while also likely being an upgrade over most of their options. He also provides some of the much coveted “veteran presence” that the Royals front office has long espoused as important.

He’s consistent, young (29 next season) and not injury prone. He’s been roughly an average pitcher (about 2 fWAR per season) since 2013, and has made two All-Star appearances. This seem like the kind of pitcher that would be firmly outside the Royals price range. And perhaps he will be.

But MLBTraderumors seems to think he could be had at a reasonable rate. They project him to get a 2 year/$18 million pact. With this kind of AAV and years, it seems very reasonable that a team like the Royals, who have both an immediate and long-term need for a pitcher to eat innings, as well as some financial flexibility in the coming seasons, could scoop him up on a longer deal.

Given his health and consistency, as well as his young age, I’d be willing to offer him as much as a 5 year deal. However I think the Royals should start at something along the lines of 3 years, $26 million. At the risk of another Ian Kennedy situation, I might max out at something like 5 years, $45 million, with an opt-out at the 3 year mark.

There’s little doubt that the Royals need more pitching in 2020, and beyond. It’s downright ludicrous to believe that a full playoff rotation will emerge from Keller, Junis and the prospects in the pipeline. Signing a veteran like Teheran to a long term deal sends a message that the Royals are serious about improving next year, and contending in the near-term. That’s the kind of message we as Royals fans would love to receive.