Royals Make Waves, Sign Seth Lugo and Chris Stratton

The Seth Lugo and Chris Stratton signings are good moves for a Royals team that had one of the worst pitching staffs in the AL in 2023.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 20: Seth Lugo #67 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the third inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies at PETCO Park on September 20, 2023 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The Kansas City Royals are reportedly finalizing a deal with right-handed pitcher Seth Lugo, according to Anne Rogers of MLB.com.

Jon Heyman of the New York Post adds that the deal is expected to be for three years and $45 million, with the third guaranteed year a player option valued at $15 million. Lugo included an opt-out in his last contract and it paid off, as he proved last year he could be a full-time starting pitcher, posting a 3.57 ERA in 26 starts over 146.1 innings pitched. He struck out 140 batters.

Lugo was a known strike thrower in 2023, sporting a 6% walk rate according to FangGraphs. This is something the Royals rotation definitely lacked. His best pitch is his sinker, and he uses it to induce ground balls at an above-average rate. That should play nicely with the Royals’ stellar infield defense.

The signing comes on the heels of Kansas City adding veteran left-handed reliever Will Smith on a one-year deal. Lugo immediately becomes one of the better arms in a Royals rotation that is expected to include Cole Ragans, Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, and Jordan Lyles. 

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Royals general manager J.J. Picollo has been active this offseason, as he’s already traded for pitchers Kyle Wright and Nick Anderson, selected right-hander Matt Sauer from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft, signed utility player Garrett Hampson, and made additional minor league adds that could end up vital pieces in the big league bullpen.

Picollo has been quite transparent about what the Royals have been looking to add to their roster and the amount of money they’re willing to spend (around $30 million). 

Lugo’s $15 million annual salary should leave the team some room to potentially bring in more starting pitching. Notably, Zack Greinke recently announced that he’s looking to pitch again in 2024 (per Jon Morosi of MLB Network). The Royals might prefer an arm with more upside, but then again, there’s no doubt that Greinke is a legend in Kansas City.

Furthermore, just as I am typing this article, Anne Rogers reports that the Royals have also signed right-handed reliever Chris Stratton. According to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, the deal is worth $3.5 million in 2024 with a player option for $4.5 million in 2025.

Even with these latest signings, the Royals might not be done making moves just yet. Their 40-man roster is full, so there could be a trade in the works to clear roster space. Moreover, they’ve been linked to the Seattle Mariners and Miami Marlins this offseason as potential trade partners for starting pitching. Rumors have also been floating around that the Royals have checked in on free agents Marcus Stroman, Lucas Giolito, and Jack Flaherty.

Needless to say, the Lugo and Stratton signings are two really good moves for a team that ranked near the bottom of the league in rotation and bullpen ERA. Lugo is a guy who will likely come in and eat a ton of quality innings, and Stratton will provide the bullpen with much-needed depth. This will hopefully help the Royals improve from their 56-win season in 2023.