3 Relievers the Royals Should Trade For to Fix Bullpen

Kansas City closer James McArthur isn't cutting it, and the Royals don't have time to wait for him to figure it out
May 1, 2024; Arlington, Texas, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Hunter Harvey (73) could be the answer to the Royals' ninth-inning woes.
May 1, 2024; Arlington, Texas, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Hunter Harvey (73) could be the answer to the Royals' ninth-inning woes. / Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Royals finally went out and spent some money on impact talent this past offseason and it’s already paying off in a big way.

Kansas City is firmly in the hunt for the AL Central this season, but there’s still some holes on the roster that need to be addressed – especially in the bullpen. 

But that might be an easy fix. Let’s break down some key trade targets that could give the Royals an even better chance of winning their first division title since 2015.

Royals’ Bullpen Holding Them Back

The Kansas City bullpen hasn’t been abysmal, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. 

The Royals rank 15th in MLB with a 3.85 ERA in the bullpen, but the biggest issue has been closing out the ninth inning. 

Current closer James McArthur simply isn’t cutting it. He holds a 4.15 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP with three blown saves already this season. The biggest red flag is that he only has 18 strikeouts in 17 ⅓ innings – not encouraging signs for a closer. 

Adding a bonafide closer and shifting McArthur to the seventh or eighth inning could bring about a world of difference. 

There aren’t a ton of teams willing to part with assets this early in the season, but some squads like the White Sox and Marlins have already started to move players.

Here are the top options in early May:

Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox

Kopech is the most obvious trade target for several reasons. 

First of all, Chicago is clearly not a serious team this season and they have no reason to need a closer when they’ve won just 10 out of their first 38 games.

Kopech has earned saves in four out of five opportunities this season, holding a 3.66 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP with 26 Ks in 19 ⅔ innings.

Kopech is extra intriguing because he’s a starter converted into a closer.

It’s a longshot, but that gives Kansas City another option to at least open games down the road if the starting rotation is hampered by injuries.

Kopech, 28, has started 60 games in his career already and was particularly effective in 2022 – with a 3.54 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP and 105 strikeouts in 119 ⅓ innings. 

Since he’s only under contract for this season, it makes NO sense for the White Sox to not try to extract some value for them, and the Royals need to act fast before another team does.

Tanner Scott, Miami Marlins

Similar to the situation above, Miami has already signaled that it’s not even attempting to contend this season.

So why keep your closer?

Scott was one of the very best relievers in baseball last season as he recorded 12 saves and 24 holds with a 2.31 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP with 104 strikeouts in 74 innings. 

He got off to a rough start to begin this season as he’s struggled with command (14 walks in 14 innings), but his 2.57 ERA is encouraging, as are his four saves in five opportunities.

Like Kopech, Scott is only under contract for this season and it would be silly for Miami to hold on to him when he’s not going to be getting many save opportunities going forward.

Hunter Harvey, Washington Nationals

Harvey doesn’t have the closing experience of Kopech or Scott, but he’s the best pitcher on this list.

He’s been a revelation in the bullpen for Washington this season with a 2.66 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP and 24 Ks in 20 ⅓ innings – racking up 12 holds in 18 games pitched. 

The best part about Harvey is that this clearly isn’t a fluke. 

He had similar stats last year – a 2.82 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 67 Ks across 60 ⅔ innings with 10 saves and 19 holds. 

Harvey is also under contract for just the 2024 season, and it’s only a matter of time before the Nationals accept the harsh reality that they’re not ready to contend in a top-heavy NL East yet. 

Harvey could be a huge difference-maker in Kansas City.

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