Welcome to this edition of the Royals Beat newsletter. My name is Anne Rogers, and I’ll be delivering news and insight to your inbox all offseason. Thanks for following along!
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have been clear they’d like to improve their pitching staff next season, and understandably so -- their starters had a 5.12 ERA last year with the third-worst strikeout rate in baseball.
There is no shortage of pitching on the open market this winter. While the Royals have not given clarity on what they would like their payroll to be next season, they should have a good amount to pursue those mid-tier starters on the market -- and they have openings in their rotation to match.
There will be several additions to the free-agent pool Friday night after the tender deadline, when non-tendered players become free agents. But for now, here are five starting pitchers who would make sense for the Royals to pursue this offseason:
Seth Lugo, RHP
2023 numbers: 26 starts, 146 1/3 innings, 3.57 ERA, 23.2 K%, 6.0 BB%, 1.20 WHIP, 3.83 FIP
Lugo, who was on this list last year when I put together candidates for the Royals, proved he can still start during his one year in San Diego following several years in the Mets’ bullpen. Lugo made $7.5 million in 2023 and opted out of a deal that would have paid him the same in ‘24, but he likely earned himself a multiyear deal with his strong season. He’s got a mix that can generally keep the ball in the ballpark and his trademark curveball generates a lot of whiffs. Lugo throws strikes, and the Royals need that.
Lugo is not in the upper tiers of free-agent pitching and is already 34, but he has low mileage on his arm from his days in the bullpen. If he stays healthy and continues his workload from this past season, he would be a good option for the middle of the Royals rotation -- and they can offer him a definite spot to start every five days.
Jack Flaherty, RHP
2023 numbers: 29 games (27 starts), 144 1/3 innings, 4.99 ERA, 22.8 K%, 10.2 BB%, 1.58 WHIP, 4.36 FIP
Flaherty is an odd case because his track record is all over the place. He looked like a future ace in 2019 with the Cardinals as a 23-year-old, but then the shortened ‘20 season, injuries and inconsistencies hampered him the next three years. He was traded to the Orioles at the Trade Deadline, but struggled enough that they put him in the bullpen down the stretch and in the postseason.
Health is an ongoing question for Flaherty, but he offers a high ceiling with good stuff and having only just turned 28. It would make a ton of sense for him to sign a one-year deal and increase his value heading into next offseason. But he also might be looking for a multiyear deal and guaranteed money. Either way, if the Royals think they can help him iron out some of the inefficiencies, they should be checking in on Flaherty.
Lucas Giolito, RHP
2023 numbers: 33 starts, 184 1/3 innings, 4.88 ERA, 25.7 K%, 9.2 BB%, 1.31 WHIP, 5.27 FIP
The Royals know exactly what kind of pitcher Giolito is when he’s pitching well. They saw it plenty of times during his tenure with the White Sox. But when they faced him as a member of the Guardians at the end of this past season, he didn’t look like himself. Giolito didn’t help himself out with a dreadful second half, bouncing from the Angels to Cleveland, struggling with both teams. But like Flaherty, Giolito offers quite a bit of upside.
From 2019-21, Giolito posted a 3.47 ERA and 1.076 WHIP. The Royals would be betting on getting him back to that kind of pitcher instead of who he was the past two seasons. But they have to take some risks in this tier of pitching. Like Flaherty, Giolito might be open to signing a one-year deal to hit the market again next year, or he could be searching for guaranteed money over several years. The Royals should be open to both.
Kyle Gibson, RHP
2023 numbers: 33 starts, 192 innings, 4.73 ERA, 19.5 K%, 6.8 BB%, 1.32 WHIP, 4.13 FIP
This might seem like it mirrors the Royals’ signing of Jordan Lyles from last offseason, given that Gibson is a 36-year-old innings-eater. But Gibson pitched like the Royals hoped Lyles would have last year, proving valuable for a young Orioles team that won 101 games and the American League East title. And the Royals, who have been open about their search for pitching depth, need more innings.
Gibson, who hails from the prestigious University of Missouri (I’m not biased), is a durable backend starter. He wouldn’t be a flashy signing, nor should he be the only starter the Royals bring in, but a one-year deal wouldn’t hurt if he’s willing to come to Kansas City and help a staff take the next step.
Wade Miley, LHP
2023 numbers: 23 starts, 120 1/3 innings, 3.14 ERA, 16.1 K%, 7.8 BB%, 1.14 WHIP, 4.69 FIP
When he was healthy -- he dealt with a lat strain and left elbow discomfort this past year -- Miley was as effective as ever for the Brewers in 2023. He’s not going to be a major innings-eater like Gibson, nor even as durable as Giolito likely would be, but Miley is a veteran with a good track record. He doesn’t strike out a ton of batters, but the Royals will field a solid infield defense behind him. And he doesn’t walk many either, which is a characteristic the Royals desire.
Miley turned 37 this week and has played for eight different teams across his 13-year career. He’s put together reliable campaigns for several of them. If the Royals want to add a veteran presence to their rotation, Miley would be another good fit.
Bobby Witt Jr. finished seventh in American League MVP voting, revealed Thursday night by MLB and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, capping an incredible season for the Royals shortstop.
With Shohei Ohtani taking home the award for the unanimous winner for the second time, Witt received several down-ballot votes, cast before the postseason. One writer put him as high as fourth, and four slotted him in the fifth spot. Most of his votes (eight) came in the eighth spot.
Witt became the first player in club history to join the 30-30 club with 30 homers and 49 stolen bases while slashing .276/.319/.495 in 158 games. Witt is just the third Royal since 2015 to finish in the top 10 of MVP voting -- Lorenzo Cain finished third in ‘15 and Salvador Perez finished seventh in ‘21.
• Hall of Famer and Royals legend George Brett will be profiled in a new MLB Network documentary at 7 p.m. CT on Dec. 7, as this year marks 50 years since Brett arrived in Kansas City.
• The Royals Amateur Development System is hosting an expo for youth sports coaches at Kauffman Stadium on Dec. 2. The expo will have several sessions with expert speakers for coaches to learn about the mental and physical health of young athletes today, and experts will speak at each session. Click here for more info, and you can secure free tickets here.
FORWARDED FROM A FRIEND? SUBSCRIBE NOW
To subscribe to Royals Beat, visit this page and mark "Royals Beat" from our newsletter list. Make sure you're following the Royals or that they're checked as your favorite team.