Brady Singer, ranked the fifth overall prospect by Baseball America in the 2018 draft, has received criticism for not becoming the great, rotation-anchoring starter the Royals needed. Singer still hasn’t thrown his changeup very often, which sometimes gets him in trouble. He’s streaky and can be knocked around for string of starts until he finds his groove again. It seems like he’ll never be a staff “ace.”
There are a few issues with this. First, Singer wasn’t a top 5 or top 10 pick. The Royals selected him 18th overall, and for a college pitcher to do what Singer has done—regularly throw competent, healthy innings despite often terrible defenses behind him—is a great result. Second, Singer’s performance since the start of 2022 has been hugely underrated. Over the past two seasons, he’s thrown 289 innings and counting of 3.73 FIP baseball. Only 18 other pitchers in baseball have pitched that many innings with that low of an FIP.
This week, we saw Singer at his best. Against a Mariners team with the 11th best wRC+ in baseball, Singer carried a perfect game into the fifth inning and a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Had Matt Quatraro not sent Singer out for the eighth inning, Singer would have pitched seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts against two lone baserunners allowed.
But perhaps Quatraro had a good reason to send Singer out to collect more outs: the Mariners immediately started feasting on Royals pitchers not named Brady Singer, and have done so for days.
J-Rod clears the bases! pic.twitter.com/BAiVJvRKz9— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) August 15, 2023
Josh Rojas ties it in the 9th pic.twitter.com/oTLcnBmyH7— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) August 15, 2023
First home run as a Mariner for Josh Rojas!— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) August 16, 2023
Oh, and that’s the 4th home run in the 4th inning pic.twitter.com/NiKKFKZl9m
The Royals have one more game against Seattle. But in the first three games of the series, Singer allowed two runs in 7.1 innings. The rest of the pitching staff allowed 20 runs in 19.2 innings.
This rather amusing juxtaposition between good pitching and bad pitching has leaned heavily, heavily towards the latter this season. Kansas City’s hitters have come around recently: since the start of July, the Royals have had a top ten position player group in all of baseball, and indeed it has been the offense bailing out (and attempting to bail out) the pitching in the Mariners series. In the same time period, the Royals have had the fourth-worst group of pitchers in the league by Fangraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
And while it sounds counterintuitive, this is precisely why the Royals must trade Singer this offseason.
There are three main reasons for this. Chief among them—the driving reason why the Royals need to trade Singer—is precisely how much pitching and overall talent they still need. Kansas City doesn’t need to find just a few pitchers this offseason; they need to basically replace their entire pitching staff.
Does that sound a little like an exaggeration? I implore you: look at their roster of big league pitchers and tell me which ones are likely to be productive next week, let alone next year. Singer is one. Cole Ragans is another. Carlos Hernández in some capacity. Austin Cox, maybe. That’s...that’s it. A few more could take a step or come out of nowhere. But you cannot expect any more than four of the 32 pitchers who have thrown an inning for the team this year to throw competent innings next year.
The second reason Kansas City needs to trade Singer in the offseason is because Singer’s service time clock and the Royals’ competitive window do not match up. Singer is a free agent after three more seasons, but the Royals are extremely unlikely to be competitive next year. Even if you assume the Royals are competitive in 2025—a very big assumption, considering that the 2023 Royals are probably going to set the franchise record for losses—that’s only two years before the Royals lose Singer to free agency.
Finally, the Royals should trade Singer because he will have immense trade value. Singer is unambiguously a good starting pitcher despite what his ERA says right now. He will have higher upside, less risk of injury, and be significantly cheaper than free agent pitchers on the market. I don’t want to get into the details of a trade at this point, which is worth its own entire article. But suffice it to say that Singer would probably command at least one top 100 prospect and a total package of two to four significant pieces in a trade.
Importantly, the Royals don’t need to trade Singer for pitching. A run earned is the same as a run prevented, and talent is talent. If you have enough talent, you can trade from positions of strength to shore up positions of weakness. Even if the best return for Singer are position players, that gives the Royals the option to trade position players for pitchers down the line.
I would rather the Royals keep Singer. He’s fun to watch and his skill stands in stark contrast to the parade of dudes the Royals have been using when he’s not on the mound. However, it is more important that the front office is honest with where the team is and what their window is. Singer can help Kansas City win meaningful baseball games. It’ll just have to be via what the Royals get in return for his services.