On January 22nd, 2017, the baseball world was stripped of the opportunity to see dominance emerge. Despite being stolen from the game at the age of 25, Yordano Ventura cemented his legacy in Baseball lore and in the hearts of Kansas City. The oft-described fiery spirit emerged as a rotation threat during the Royal’s breathtaking 2014 playoff run and continued to provide solid innings for the 2015 and 2016 staffs. Ventura always had the stuff to dominate hitters but struggled to find the consistency of a #1 in a rotation resulting in underwhelming results considering his talent ceiling.Yet that stuff and energy often got the better of him, resulting in multiple questionable instances over the years, but his teammates truly appreciated his deep desire to impress and dominate. In memoriam of Yordano, teammate and friend Christian Colon wrote that “I knew the struggle you had to overcome to get where you were and I could always see it in you eyes that you wanted more”
It is clear that Yordano brought his own flavor to the game, inspiring his teammates to succeed and inspiring opposing hitters to get better.
All in all, Ventura finished with 38-31 record 3.89 ERA 107 ERA+ and 3.98 FIP over 547.2 Innings between 2013 and 2016. Along with 2 astonishing World Series runs including one ring in 2015. link to baseball-reference
Needless to say, He will be missed.
With just 21 days until Spring Training begins, The Royals will have to make a move or two in order to remain relevant in an interesting AL Central.
The problem,unfortunately, lies in the rotation.
The staff, led by recently extended lefty Danny Duffy, features the overpaid Ian Kennedy and an assortment of questionable arms. The Royals will not make the postseason with the current situation and Ned Yost will definitely feel short handed relative to the previous staffs that included Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, and the late Yordano Ventura along with Wade Davis and Greg Holland in the bullpen. Even more frightening is the exodus of bats that will leave following the 2017 campaign.
So how to the Royals solidify the staff?
The Royals need innings and they need them fast
Option 1: Jason Hammel
Hammel is clearly the best remaining Free Agent starter, having tossed 337.1 Innings over 61 starts of 3.79 ERA ball with an slightly above league average 103 ERA+ since the onset of 2015 with the Cubs (link to baseball-reference). Those numbers sound like Royal’s starters stats. Hammel could slide in behind Duffy and Kennedy to form a serviceable front three (if Duffy emerges like he is predicted). MLBtraderumors reports that the Mariners were the last team interested before acquiring Gallardo and Smyly. This leaves the Royals the opportunity to swing some payroll at the presumably cheap right-hander. Hammel should command no more than a one or two year deal not exceeding what Andrew Cashner got from the Rangers.
Option 2: Scott Kazmir
The pricier of the Short-Term solutions, Kazmir would cost the Royals an asset or two in a trade and comes with a steep contract and injury concerns, but also brings more upside than Hammel. Kazmir threw 136.1 Innings of 85 ERA+ ball with the injury riddled 2016 Dodgers, however as recently as 2015 possessed a 126 ERA+ and made the all star team in 2014 (link to baseball-reference). Despite his age and experience, Kazmir brings upside and quality stuff. In the ideal world, the deep pocketed Dodgers would contribute a significant portion of his salary, but the Royals could involve Joakim Soria in a swap which would help make the $16,000,000 payroll hit less of an impact (link to baseball prospectus).
The Royals will need to retool soon, and a controllable asset could go a long way.
Option 1: The Phillies
The Phillies will most likely not compete next season, but their flexible payroll and stockpile of MLB ready arms make them a potential trade partner with the Royals. Jared Eickoff, Aaron Nola, and Vincent Velasquez could all be targets for Dayton Moore. All three possess multiple years of control and the kind of upside that the Royals need. In return, the Phillies could nab Mike Moustakes, allowing Franco to slide to first base where he will provide the most defensive value long term and given the financial capacity of Philadelphia, an extension is possible. The Royals received quality play at Third Base in 2016 and have Ryan O’Hearn itching in the Minors to replace Moustakes’s bat. This move is a bit of a stretch, but has potential for both sides.
Option 2: Jimmy Nelson
Nelson pitched to a 4.62 ERA and 92 ERA + in 2016 but could provide stable back-end innings for the Royals for the nest four seasons (link to baseball-reference). The Brewer’s asking price will most likely not be high, but shouldn’t garner more than the Dan Straily overpay. Nelson is a controllable asset that should benefit from the spacious Kouffman Stadium, as his 1.9 HR/9 shows. The fact of the matter is that the Royals will be irrelevant in 2 years unless they acquire a starter like Nelson with team control.
It has been a rough few days for Kansas City and my condolences go to Ventura’s family and friends
But the season starts sooner than it seems and they now have a more glaring rotation issue than ever.
Here’s to a successful 2017 Royals