Whenever there’s a pitching emergency in need of solving, the New York Yankees and pitching guru Matt Blake have been on the case for the past several seasons. Whether it’s bringing Luis Severino’s ace-like tendencies back, rehabilitating Jameson Taillon from his second Tommy John/ankle surgery, or figuring out how to save Clay Holmes’ command woes, Blake has been astoundingly successful at emphasizing cutters/changeups and fixing hurlers’ arsenals.
Now, does that sound like something the Kansas City Royals’ current staff might be interested in, providing they can escape KC? The team hasn’t developed an effective starter in the modern era other than Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura, and the natives are getting restless.
Alec Lewis’ mid-May assessment for The Athletic (quoted by SB Nation’s Royal Review, Subscription Required) features an extremely jarring sentiment: the Royals’ pitchers are now keenly aware that they can easily resurrect their careers in new homes like Jason Adam (Tampa Bay) and Jorge Lopez (Baltimore):
"Notably, current Royals big leaguers are not ignorant of the strides others have made elsewhere."
So, what does that mean for a Bombers team that has a healthy one-through-five and a dinged-up bullpen? It means finding ‘pen saviors like 2021 Holmes is Plan A, but you can’t turn down a starter if he falls on your doorstep — especially because embattled starters with solid peripherals, like Lopez, find themselves dominating in the back end all the time.
The Cubs are the best one-stop shop option for the Yankees this deadline, considering they can provide Willson Contreras behind the plate in addition to Ian Happ and bullpen pieces like David Robertson and Rowan Wick.
If the Yankees want to pair an adoptable pitcher with Andrew Benintendi, though, these three stand out as players who could make an immediate improvement under Blake.
3 Royals pitchers the Yankees should trade for at 2022 deadline
3. Brad Keller
Thus far in 2022, 26-year-old workhorse (Royals ace?) Brad Keller is missing barrels and spinning fastballs, but failing to collect strikeouts. Seems like something Blake could try to fix?
Keller’s slider is his bread and butter; the right-hander throws the pitch 37% of the time, more often than his four-seam fastball (29.1%). Lurking in the background of his arsenal is the change, thrown just 7% of the time. If Keller’s willing to redirect that pattern and emphasize his least-used pitch (if there’s any potential in it), he might be a solid innings-eater (or a 2022 bullpen weapon) in the Bronx.
Keller is only under contract through 2023, making him the exact kind of asset the Royals should be keen to move on from as soon as possible (unless they intend to extend him and make him their next ace, which feels unlikely). His fastball spin (65th percentile) is his most intriguing positive, and his walk percentage (66th percentile) indicates he’s typically around the zone. He just never misses bats, and doesn’t induce chases (9th percentile K%, 45th percentile chase rate). Maybe a changeup could help there in limiting predictability?
The right-hander’s surface results have actually been decent; Keller sports a 3.95 ERA in 54.2 innings. However, there seems to be a lot of untapped potential that lines up almost exactly with Blake’s teachings.