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Meet the Sellers: Kansas City Royals

Going into the All-star break, the Kansas City Royals are clear sellers.

Coming into the season, they were considered a dark horse in the AL Central after some interesting offseason signings. They went out and signed OBP king, Carlos Santana, and traded for then Boston outfielder, Andrew Benintendi, while having a solid young nucleus. They were expecting a big jump this season from some of their young minor league arms. Guys like Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Kris Bubic and Daniel Lynch have not been able to repeat successful minor league numbers. Instead, the Royals sit at the bottom of the division with a 36-53 record. 

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The Royals have some interesting pieces potentially on the block. One of which has struggled mightily this season but is a great buy-low candidate. They also have an ace that has put up terrific numbers this season before he hit the IL. Moreover, they have a reliever with closing experience. That reliever used to be elite, is struggling this season, but is coming off a solid campaign in 2020.

Here are some players that would fill the Blue Jays’ needs…

Brad Keller

This would be a perfect buy-low opportunity for the Jays. He has had his struggles this season, but he has a very favourable contract. Keller does not hit free agency until 2024 and is arbitration-eligible the next two off-seasons.

This year, Brad Keller has struggled to an ERA of 5.97 and a FIP of 4.90. He has been getting hurt with both hits and walks this season, which is irregular. He has surrendered the most hits in baseball this season, giving up 119 in 95 innings. He has also surrendered the most walks in baseball with 48. His BB/9 is at an elevated 4.5. All these walks and hits allowed have led to an alarming 1.76 whip. 

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So, with these horrible numbers, why should the Blue Jay’s take a chance on him? He has been successful each of the last three seasons, including a 2.47 ERA last season. His FIP was higher, finishing the season at 3.43 which is still solid. His BB/9 was only 2.8 and his H/9 was a low 6.4. Despite the struggles this season, he has been a workhorse as well. He currently leads the majors in starts, with 19.

Additionally, Keller looked like a stud his final start before the All-star break, so he could be turning a corner. He pitched 7.2 innings against the Cleveland Indians, racking up 9 strikeouts and surrendering only one earned run. He also only allowed four hits. The start before then, he was effective too, pitching 6.1 innings, allowing only two runs. Based on his last couple starts, and his struggles this season, I think he makes a great buy-low candidate for the Blue Jays’ rotation.

Danny Duffy

The Kansas City ace has recently returned from the IL. He is expected to hit free agency this offseason, finishing a 5-year contract worth $65M. He has been loyal to the Royals and has been a big-league arm with them since 2011, after being drafted in 2007. 

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Before an IL stint for his forearm, Danny Duffy was pitching like an ace. He has pitched to a sparkling 2.53 ERA with a FIP of 3.46 through 11 starts and 57 innings. He is allowing hits at a career-low (minus 2013, only 5 starts) and minimizing home runs. His H/9 sits at a comfortable 7.9 and he is only allowing 0.9 HR/9. Moreover, he is striking batters out at his highest clip ever, with a 9.8 K/9. Duffy has also had solid control this season, walking 3.3 batters per 9. 

Last season, through the same amount of starts as this year, Duffy really struggled. His ERA was 4.95 with a FIP of 4.75. He allowed far more baserunners and long balls last season. His H/9 was 8.5 and his HR/9 was 1.6. The question Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins needs to be asking themselves is, “Which Danny Duffy will appear for the Blue Jays?” Will it be the one who struggled last season, or the one who has pitched like an ace this season? Brad Keller is likely a buy-low option because of his struggles this season, whereas Duffy would be getting sold higher, although he is a rental due to his success this season.

Greg Holland

Just like Danny Duffy, Holland is a rental. He is currently signed to a one-year contract worth $2.75M. Since he is a rental, a struggling one as well, the asking price should be extremely low for the rebuilding Royals.

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Through 35 innings, Greg Holland has been inadequate this season. His FIP is even higher than his ERA, which is worrisome. He carries an ERA of 4.89, with a FIP of 5.57. He has struggled mightily with his command, which has led to a career-worst HR/9 and an elevated BB/9. He has been allowing 2.1 HR/9, while walking 4.6 per 9.

Holland has been horrible this season, so why does he make sense for the Blue Jays? First, he has lots of experience as a closer, racking up 217 career saves. Next, although he has been awful this season, last year he put up excellent numbers. In 28.1 innings, he had an excellent 1.91 ERA to go along with a respectable 2.52 FIP. He rarely conceded home runs last season, allowing 0.3 HR/9. His command was much better last season, issuing only 2.2 BB/9. If Holland can find the success previously shown, his experience in the bullpen could help the Blue Jays.

The cost of Holland should be minuscule, therefore, the risk would be slight as well. 

All three of the players listed in this article should come at a relatively low cost, so it would be wise for the Blue Jays to do their due diligence.

All statistics found on Baseball Reference.