Royals Interested In Marcus Stroman

Royals Interested In Marcus Stroman

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Marcus Stroman is among the many pitchers the Royals “appear to [have] on their radar,” the New York Post’s Jon Heyman writes (X link).  Rotation help is a stated goal of the Kansas City offseason, and the club has been linked to such other free agents as Seth Lugo, Lucas Giolito, and the now-signed Sonny Gray and Erick Fedde, as well as trade targets on teams like the Mariners and Marlins.

Stroman is another name that would pretty much instantly become the de facto ace of a largely unproven K.C. rotation.  Cole Ragans looked tremendous after being dealt to the Royals in the Aroldis Chapman trade, but Ragans has only 136 Major League innings on his resume.  The rest of the Royals’ homegrown young arms struggled across the board, as did veterans Jordan Lyles, Zack Greinke, and Brad Keller.  With the latter two now free agents, the 2024 rotation currently lines up as Ragans, Lyles, Brady Singer, and then question marks.

It wasn’t exactly a clean season for Stroman either last year, as injuries spoiled what was initially shaping up to be a very strong 2023 campaign.  Stroman had a 3.95 ERA over 136 2/3 innings, which broke down as a 2.96 ERA in 112 2/3 frames prior to the All-Star break, and then a 8.64 ERA over his final 24 innings of the season.  The right-hander missed about six weeks due to hip inflammation and then a cartilage fracture in his right ribcage, and thus the Cubs limited to Stroman to shortened starts and bullpen work after he returned from the injured list in September.

With injuries also hampering Stroman in 2022, some durability questions naturally have to be asked as the righty enters his age-33 season.  That said, Stroman chose to bet on himself by exercising the opt-out clause in his contract with the Cubs, leaving behind a $21MM salary for 2024 in search of a larger pact in the free agent market.

MLBTR predicted a two-year, $44MM deal for Stroman, who ranked 18th on our top 50 free agents list.  This projection acts as reflects his recent injury history while still locking in some extra money and security.  Of course, only the market will determine how accurate this prediction was, and if Stroman’s price tag does approach a $22MM average annual value, it might put him out of Kansas City’s spending range.

GM J.J. Picollo recently said that the Royals have at least $30MM available on free agents this winter, as ownership is willing to allocate a bit more payroll than usual in order to address the club’s pitching needs and simply to help right the ship after a dreadful 106-loss season.  Stroman making over $20MM would alone eat up a good portion of that budget, but the fact that the Royals are even considering Stroman, Lugo, or even Gray indicates that Kansas City is prepared to make a relatively big splash for a larger upgrade.  Likewise, it should be noted that the Royals could also still look to obtain pitching help in trades, though giving up prospects would represent a different kind of cost than simply spending on a free agent.

Picollo made a point of noting how the Royals (and other rebuilding teams) need to work harder to convince veteran free agents to join a club that doesn’t look like a contender for 2024 or perhaps even in the near future.  That said, Stroman was willing to join the Cubs two years ago when Chicago was in the midst of a rebuild, so he could perhaps be amendable to joining the Royals if the price is right and if Stroman has confidence that the franchise is on the right track.  It also can’t be ruled out that Stroman might view K.C. as something of a stopover, whether via a trade at the deadline or perhaps another contractual opt-out clause.

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