The Royals have a crop of young pitching prospects knocking on the door of the big leagues, but that hasn’t stopped Dayton Moore from adding starting pitching depth to ease the transition for those pitchers to the majors. The Royals have already signed left-handed veteran Mike Minor to a two-year deal, and they may be looking for one more veteran arm. According to MLB Network reporter Jon Morosi, the Royals have shown interest in 15-year veteran right-hander Adam Wainwright.
Sources: #Royals have shown interest in free agent Adam Wainwright, but they don’t appear to be frontrunners to sign him. Of course, Wainwright played for Kansas City manager Mike Matheny in St. Louis. @MLBNetwork @MLB— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 22, 2020
As Morosi notes, Wainwright is familiar with Royals manager Mike Matheny, having played for him from 2012 to 2018, and he should be somewhat familiar with Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred, who served in the Cardinals organization before coming to Kansas City. Dayton Moore should also be familiar with Wainwright, having been part of the Braves organization when they drafted the pitcher in the first round of the 2000 draft.
The 39-year old has still been a solid pitcher in his later years, when healthy. He made ten starts in 2020 with a 3.15 ERA and 4.11 FIP, worth 1 WAR, according to Fangraphs. In 2019, he made 31 starts with a 4.19 ERA and 4.36 FIP, with 2.2 WAR in 171 2⁄3 innings of work.
Wainwright has had some injury issues, and will continue to be a risk at his age. He made just eight starts in 2018 due to hamstring issues, and he ruptured his Achilles tendon in 2015, causing him to miss most of the season. He has mostly avoided surgery since his Tommy John surgery in 2011 however, going under the knife after the 2017 season to remove a cartilage flap, a procedure that did not cost him any time.
Wainwright won’t impress with his fastball, which will have trouble breaking 90 mph, but he is known for his big curveball, which still graded as the best in the game last year, according to Fangraphs. He also throws a cutter and a sinker, and has induced a groundball rate of 48 percent in his career. His walk rates had climbed a bit the last few seasons, but last year he posted the seventh-lowest walk rate in baseball.
The veteran has been a great clubhouse presence and is very active off the field in charitable endeavors, raising thousands for charity through fantasy football, and winning the Roberto Clemente Award for philanthropy this year.
The pursuit of Wainwright makes sense when you consider how valuable veteran James Shields was to mentoring the Royals in 2013-14. The Royals are looking to bring up some young pitchers to the big leagues, and there are few better pitchers to show them the ropes than a three-time All-Star with 167 career big league wins. Wainwright would join Mike Minor, Brad Keller, and Brady Singer in the rotation, and with Kris Bubic seemingly a rotation candidate as well, Danny Duffy could transition to a reliever, bolstering the bullpen.
Wainwright is seeking a one-year deal, and according to Mark Saxon of The Athletic, he wants one “that is less dependent on performance incentives than his recent extensions with the Cardinals.” The Cardinals have expressed some interest in bringing him back, but as of a few weeks ago, Waino had received no offers from any teams. The Braves were said to be interested earlier this winter, but have already signed pitchers Drew Smyly and Charlie Morton.
Craig Edwards at Fangraphs and Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors both project Wainwright to receive a one-year, $6 million deal. Everyone seems to think Wainwright will return to St. Louis, where he seems comfortable. But by dragging their feet, the Cardinals could lose out on the veteran. If the Royals are aggressive, perhaps they could swoop in and bring that big bender to Kansas City.