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Non-tendered free agents that could interest the Royals

Can the Royals find a diamond in the rough?

Milwaukee Brewers v Miami Marlins Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Just over a week ago, dozens of players were non-tendered and added to the free agent list. These players aren’t glamourous free agents like Shohei Ohtani, but they can be very useful players. A year ago, players like Cody Bellinger, Jeimer Candelario, and Willi Castro were among non-tendered players that went on to have very good seasons. The Royals also grabbed pitcher Ryan Yarbrough after he was let go by the Rays, and he went on to have some solid starts before he was traded to the Dodgers.

Some of these non-tendered free agents have already signed - the Royals quickly re-signed catcher Logan Porter, outfielder Diego Hernandez, and pitcher Austin Cox to minor league deals. But here are some that are still available that could be of interest to the Royals.

Starting pitchers

Kolby Allard has pitched in 245 innings with an ugly 6.10 ERA. But he’s a former first round pick and there may be reason to think the 26-year-old lefty still has some upside. For starters, he throws strikes, something the Royals could use - he has a 7.5 percent walk rate as a starter over his career, better than league-average. He’s a soft-tossing lefty with a good curve that gets whiffs, but he has given up a lot of hard contact. Kauffman Stadium could help him suppress his high home run rate, but he could also perhaps benefit from relying more on the breaking stuff. He missed a lot of this season with inflammation in his shoulder and his health is still a question mark, but he could be worth a flier on a minor league deal.

Yonny Chirinos pitched in Tampa Bay for several seasons, so Royals skipper Matt Quatraro should be familiar with him. He’s another strike-thrower with a 6.5 percent walk rate as a starter but a low strikeout rate that was just 14.4 percent this year in 85 innings. He has a 4.03 career ERA, although that spiked up to 5.40 ERA this year. The 29-year-old right-hander is a sinker/splitter pitcher who could use some tweaks to his slider and is at his best when he’s inducing groundballs, something the Royals defense could help with.

Josh Fleming is the left-handed version of Chirinos - former Rays pitcher with good walk rates that gets lots of groundballs but can’t miss bats. His 4.70 ERA in 51 23 innings this year is unimpressive, but the 27-year-old had three outings this year where he pitched four or more shutout innings, and his ERA is skewed a bit by an eight-run start against the Dodgers. Like Chirinos, Fleming had some elbow soreness he dealt with this season.

Dakota Hudson won 16 games his rookie campaign with the Cardinals in 2019, but has struggled with injuries since then. He put up a 4.45 ERA and 4.34 FIP in 26 starts in 2022 despite the second-worst strikeout-rate among anyone with at least 100 innings pitched. He was demoted to the minors for a stretch this year and finished with a 4.98 ERA in 81 13 innings. The 29-year-old right-hander relies on sinkers and sliders to produce a groundball rate over 50 percent. He has really ugly peripherals, but has somehow managed a career 3.84 ERA and 4.63 FIP.

Spencer Turnbull had a 4.13 ERA and 3.67 FIP in 50 starts from 2019 to 2021 before he went under the knife for Tommy John surgery. He missed all of 2022 and returned this year to be very ineffective in just 31 innings, while also battling some neck injuries. His fastball is down a tick from his prime as well as his whiff rate. The 31-year-old right-hander gets high groundball rates and was able to miss bats before he had surgery, so he could be worth a flier as an injury reclamation project.

Brandon Woodruff is a two-time All-Star who finished top ten in the National League in both ERA and strikeouts in 2020 and 2021. He will miss most or all of next season after shoulder surgery, with hopes of returning in 2025. He has a 3.10 ERA and 10.4 strikeouts-per-nine-innings in his seven year MLB career with the Brewers, but he is now on the other side of 30 and it remains to be seen how he’ll recover from major surgery.

Relievers

Adam Cimber has a funky submarine delivery and uses it to throw strikes and generate a lot of groundballs. Since he came up in 2018, he has one of the lowest walk rates and highest groundball rates among relievers. The 33-year-old was limited to just 20 23 innings this year due to shoulder injuries, but he led the league in relief appearances in 2022 and had a 2.53 ERA and 3.27 FIP from 2021 to 2022.

Trevor Gott has bounced around with six teams in his eight seasons but he put up a career-high 62 strikeouts in 58 innings last year with a career-best 3.20 FIP. He had an above-average strikeout-to-walk ratio and was among the best in not allowing opponents to barrel up against him. The 30-year-old right-hander relies on a cutter and sinker and ended the year strong with a 2.96 ERA over his last 27 outings.

Codi Heuer had a terrific rookie season in 2020 with the White Sox, posting a 1.52 ERA, but regressed a bit the next year and had elbow surgery. The former Wichita State Shocker has not pitched in the big leagues since then, making a handful of relief appearances in Triple-A this year. The 27-year-old throws in the mid-90s with great horizontal movement, and could be an interesting project.

Brandon Hughes had a terrific rookie season in 2022 with a 3.12 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 57 23 innings, but he battled knee problems this year that limited him to just 17 games. He’s a lefty reliever that holds lefty opponents to a line of .227/.309/.291 in his career, relying heavily on a slider. He generates whiffs and gets hitters to chase, but opponents also barrel up on him with frequency.

Penn Murfee had a 2.70 ERA in his first two big leagues seasons as a reliever with the Mariners, but has bounced around the league this off-season on waivers from the Mets to the Braves because he has a UCL injury that leaves next season in doubt. The 29-year-old right-hander throws from a lower angle and throws a nearly-unhittable sweeper. If he can return from injury, he could give the Royals a useful reliever for many years, but he’ll almost certainly miss much of next year.

Freddy Pacheco was ranked as the #18 prospect in the Cardinals system in 2022 with a highly-graded fastball that sat at 96-98 mph and a solid slider. But he suffered an elbow injury in spring training and was claimed off waivers by the Tigers. He didn’t pitch at all this season, and the Tigers cut bait on him, but the right-hander is still just 25 years old. He put up terrific strikeout numbers in the minors as a starter, but is probably a reliever at the big league level and will have to work to keep the walks down once he’s healthy.

Hitters

Kyle Lewis won Rookie of the Year with the Mariners in the shortened 2020 season, hitting 262/.364/.437 with 11 home runs in 58 games that year. But a major knee injury that was caused from a collision he suffered in the minors has resurfaced in the big leagues, keeping him off the field. Seattle traded him to Arizona this year, but he appeared in just 16 MLB games despite mashing in Triple-A to the tune of .371/.457/.641. He’s a right-handed bat with a patient eye and decent power, but his defense after all these knee issues is a question mark.

Austin Meadows was an All-Star with the Rays, and finished 20th in MVP voting as recently as 2021 when he hit 27 home runs. They traded him to the Tigers after that season, and he played just 42 games in Detroit before they non-tendered him this winter. Meadows has been unable to play due to physical injuries as well as anxiety. He is still just 28 years old and if he returns to form, he can be a low-average, high-power corner outfielder with some defensive issues.

Nick Senzel was the second-overall pick of what looks like a cursed first-round draft class in 2016. In 377 games with the Reds, he hit .239/.302/.369 before they let him go this year. Senzel played mostly center in Cincinnati, but he is capable of playing the infield, mostly third base. His positional versatility and his ability to mash lefties could make him a valuable bench player, with the possibility that a change of scenery unlocks some of the potential many saw in him as a prospect.

Juan Yepez also offers some positional versatility, although his infield defense is pretty poor. He has mashed at Triple-A, smacking 27 home runs in 2021, but his numbers were more pedestrian this year. He has played in 104 big league games with the Cardinals, hitting .240/.286/.419 with 14 home runs. The 25-year-old could be a useful bench player with some power potential.