Royals sign Jordan Lyles to 2-year deal, hope for many innings

Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Royals were specific in their shopping list for a starting pitcher: They wanted someone capable of throwing a lot of innings, which would take some of the strain off the rest of their young and promising staff.

They decided that right-hander Jordan Lyles was the right fit.

The Royals announced their two-year, $17 million, deal with the 32-year-old Lyles a week after agreeing to terms with him. The Royals made space for him by designating for assignment first baseman Ryan O'Hearn, whom they had just re-signed last month to a $1.4 million contract to avoid salary arbitration.

“You never have enough pitching and you never have enough depth. The teams that went to the playoffs this year, they survived a lot of injuries because they had depth,” said Royals general manager J.J. Picollo, who signed left-hander Ryan Yarbrough to a one-year deal earlier in free agency.

“These two signs help us move in that direction where we can manage the season more effectively.”

Lyles has certainly proven to be durable the past couple of seasons. He made 32 starts for the Rangers in 2021, throwing 180 innings, and 32 more for the Orioles last season, when he tossed 179 innings and had a complete game.

“The reason we’re excited about Jordan and Ryan,” Picollo said, “is when we look at their track record, they’ve been able to pitch significant innings. We’re going into this season thinking between the two of them we can secure or stabilize 300 innings, which is a pretty good chunk between two pitchers.”

The trick is to make sure they’re quality innings.

Lyles, who has played for seven teams over 12 seasons, was 12-11 with a 4.42 ERA in his lone year in Baltimore, and his best season came in 2018, when he went 12-8 with a 4.15 ERA during stints in Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. But Lyles is just 66-90 with a 5.10 ERA for his career, and his WAR – wins-above replacement – is a negative number.

Lyles said he’s been working on some things during the offseason to gain a tick or two on his fastball, along with trying to be more consistent with his off-speed stuff. And there’s some hope those tweaks, along with a new manager and coaching staff in Kansas City, will allow him to unlock his potential at a later stage in his career.

The Royals hired Matt Quatraro to replace Mike Matheny as manager shortly after the season. Quatraro arrived from Tampa Bay, which has a solid track record of maximizing pitchers. And his new pitching coach is Brian Sweeney, who had been the bullpen coach in Cleveland, which likewise has produced a stellar cast of pitchers over the years.

Lyles also can provide some veteran leadership for a staff full of 20-somethings such as Brady Singer and Kris Bubic.

“I’ve definitely been in that position the last couple of years,” Lyles said, “but there’s nothing I’m going to spring training searching for or looking to do. I just take pride in being the best teammate I can be.”

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.