The Royals have reportedly had discussions with free agents Michael Wacha and Jack Flaherty, writes Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors.
Both Wacha and Flaherty figure to be in the Royals’ price range, landing annual values that fall well shy of that rough $30MM annual rate. Wacha’s two-year, $32MM club option was bought out by the Padres at season’s end, but after posting consecutive seasons with 125-plus innings and ERAs of 3.32 and 3.22, he has a case for a three-year pact — albeit perhaps at a lesser rate than the $16MM which San Diego declined to pay (or pick up and attempt to trade him at).
Over the past two seasons, between the Red Sox and Padres, Wacha has posted a combined 3.27 ERA with a 21.3% strikeout rate, 6.9% walk rate and 37.7% ground-ball rate. Despite being more of a fly-ball pitcher, he’s allowed a manageable 1.14 homers per nine frames.
The Royals made the Will Smith signing official, and designated reliever Collin Snider for assignment.
David Lesky at Inside the Crown gives the scouting report on Smith.
Overall, the ERA seems a little bit on the flukey side, but also there are some reasons that he signed for $5 million over one year when he once signed for $40 million over three years. For one, the strikeouts were down a touch from 2022 and way down from 2013 through 2021 when his lowest strikeout rate was 28.7 percent. His walks were down too, which is noteworthy, but relievers need to get strikeouts and while Smith still does, he trends much more to average than very good to excellent like he used to. That’s okay, again, but it’s worth mentioning.
Kevin O’Brien also gives his thoughts on the Smith signing.
Smith will likely compete for the closer’s job in 2024, though it appears that Matt Quatraro wants to keep their options open in the ninth inning (at least to start the season). It does feel like the Royals may go after one more proven reliever in the free-agent market before Spring Training, but right now, the bullpen is already shaping up to be a lot better than what it was in 2023.
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