Three Royals Trade Targets to Fill Their Need at Closer

The Royals have continued to hold onto a playoff spot, but they won't make it far without an established closer at the back of their bullpen. Here are 3 trade targets that could help fill the need.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JUNE 23: Tanner Scott #66 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the ninth inning against the Seattle Mariners at loanDepot park on June 23, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Bryan Cereijo/Getty Images)

This year’s Kansas City Royals have somewhat surprisingly risen to and remained in contention as the All-Star Break nears. It was believed that they’d at least improve upon 2023’s 106-loss outcome, but eight games above .500 88 games into the season? Not so much.

It’s still up in the air just how deep they can take this run. They’re third in the AL in stolen bases, sixth in runs scored and fWAR, seventh in SLG and batting average, ninth in wRC+ and 10th in home runs. Basically, they’re middle-of-the-pack on offense.

On the pitching side of things, the Royals sit first in HR/9, fifth in FIP, sixth in ERA, ninth in BB/9 and 12th in K/9. This is a bit more promising than the offensive rankings, but there’s still room for improvement.

The one spot the Royals could use help from? Closer. Their relievers have combined to rank 11th in the AL in ERA and they’re tied for sixth in the league in blown saves, with 12.

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The bullpen lacks the strikeout numbers that they’ll need to continue a run to the postseason. Royals relievers are tied for fifth in the league in groundball-percentage, but they’re also just 16th in LOB%, meaning they need some help keeping inherited baserunners from scoring.

The Royals Need A Closer

Right-hander James McArthur has 15 saves for the Royals this year, 11 more than anyone else in their bullpen. He’s built off a decent rookie showing last year with an impressive switch to reliever this year, but he doesn’t give the club the established closer they need.

McArthur, a 6-foot-7 behemoth of a hurler, has a 4.08 ERA and 105 ERA+ through 33 outings and 35.1 innings of work. He’s only striking out 7.1 batters per nine innings and has done a solid job of limiting baserunners, but the need for some experience is clear.

In the 2023-2024 offseason, the Royals went out and acquired a ton of relief-pitching help. Chris Stratton, Will Smith, Sam Long, Nick Anderson and John Schreiber were all brought in. Of that group, Smith has easily the longest track record. He’s had a hard time getting going this year, though, and likely can’t be relied upon to close out high-stakes games.

So that brings us to the punchline here. The Royals need a closer. Without an internal option, they should turn their attention to the trade market. While there aren’t a ton of high-end names out there, there are a few that fit the bill of low-cost, high-impact options. Let’s check them out.

3 Royals Trade Targets That Could Fill Their Need

Carlos Estevez

Estevez, a pending free agent, has been closing out games for the Angels for the past two years and has turned himself into a solid closer. Since the Angels are going nowhere anytime soon, he’s likely to be on the move at this year’s deadline.

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In 27 games this year, the 31-year-old has 16 saves with 27 strikeouts and just three walks in 27 innings of work. He typically strikes out around 10 batters per nine innings and has excelled at keeping the bases empty this year, posting a H/9 of just 6.3 with a HR/9 of 1.0.

Since Estevez is a rental, he won’t break the bank for the Royals in trade negotiations.

Kyle Finnegan

The Washington Nationals seemed to be making a random push for contention for a bit there, but they’ve come back down to earth. The club is six games under .500 and have a quietly dominant closer that they may look to move.

Finnegan, 32, has hit double-digit save numbers for the Nats in four straight seasons but none have been as strong as the current one. He’s sporting a sub-2.00 ERA and is third in the majors in saves with 23. He has a K/9 just under 10 and has brought his H/9 down from 8.6 last year to 5.4 this year.

The thing with Finnegan is that he’s under control for another year beyond the current one, which may lead to the Nationals upping the asking price. If the Royals want stability at the back-end of the ‘pen beyond 2024, he’s an option worth pursuing.

Tanner Scott

Scott, another pending free agent, is having a fantastic year for an embarrassingly bad Marlins team. Of all the Marlins’ trade chips, Scott is the most obvious candidate to switch uniforms at the deadline.

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The 29-year-old has spent time as Miami’s closer in each of the past three years and has been especially strong in the most recent two. In 2024, he’s got 12 saves and 27 games finished in 36 outings, posting a 1.46 ERA and 301 ERA+ along the way.

Like others before him, Scott is a high-strikeout arm, which is what the Royals need to be eyeing in their quest to bring a new closer in. Staying in line with his career averages, Scott’s K/9 is right at 10.0 this season. His walks are up, but his H/9 is way down from his career norm, so the Royals have a chance to get their hands on a rental who doesn’t allow runners to come around and score.