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Royals reportedly looking to trade for a closer

Could the Royals add another bullpen piece?

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals have already made a bit of splash this off-season, spending over $100 million to upgrade a team that lost 106 games last year. But they may not be done, according to a report from Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic. In his column today, he writes “they remain open to adding one more piece — a closer.”

The free agent market for closers has thinned, with former Royals reliever Aroldis Chapman signing a one-year, $10.5 million deal with the Pirates this week. But Rosenthal writes the Royals may be looking to make a deal.

With the free-agent market all but picked out, the Royals’ preference is to make a trade, according to a source briefed on their thinking. The problem? That market also is thin on possibilities.

Rosenthal writes that Devin Williams of the Brewers is likely not available and Kenley Jansen of the Red Sox likely costs too much for the Royals. He suggests the Guardians will entertain offers for Emmanuel Clase, but that the asking price will be very high. Clase is one of the hardest-throwing relievers in baseball, regularly hitting 100 mph. However his strikeout rate fell significantly to below-average levels this year, as he whiffed just 21.2 percent of opposing hitters. The 25-year-old right-hander is under contract for three more years on very club-friendly terms, with two club options after that.

Other options not mentioned by Rosenthal could include Marlins pitchers Tanner Scott and A.J. Puk, although recent reports suggest Miami may move Puk to the rotation. The Royals may have some stiff competition in trading for a closer as the Yankees, Cubs and Orioles are all said to be looking for a late inning reliever.

Trading for a reliever can be very risky. Reliever performance can be fickle and there is a small margin of error. Throwing a baseball very hard, even for short stints, takes a toll on an arm. The Royals have improved, but they don’t appear to be on the verge of contention where adding a closer moves the needle much for them. Giving up young players - and it will require very good young players to get someone like Clase (something the Royals are in short supply of) - is not recommended for a small market team trying to build up their organization.

As it stands right now, Will Smith is most likely to get the most save opportunities for the Royals, although Nick Anderson is a candidate as well. Young pitchers like James McArthur, John McMillon or Will Klein could eventually become possibilities as well.