The Royals have been talking to other clubs about potential trades involving veteran pitchers Scott Barlow, Taylor Clarke and Ryan Yarbrough, tweets Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. Outfielder Edward Olivares has also been discussed in potential deals.
Of the bunch, Barlow is the most obvious and straightforward trade candidate. The 30-year-old righty thrived as the primary closer in Kansas City from 2021-22, pitching 148 2/3 innings of 2.30 ERA ball with 40 saves, a hefty 28.2% strikeout rate and a solid 8.4% walk rate. The 2023 season has been far more troublesome. Barlow’s average fastball sat at 95.3 mph in ’21 but has dipped to 92.9 mph this season. His walk rate has also spiked, and the right-hander’s 5.35 ERA is a career-worst mark.
That said, Barlow still figures to hold appeal to other clubs. Dip in velocity notwithstanding, he still has well above-average strikeout (26.2%), swinging-strike (12.6%) and opponents chase (37.6%) rates. His $5.3MM salary is generally affordable, and Barlow is controllable through 2024 via arbitration. This year’s struggles are at least in part due to a .340 average on balls in play and 61.6% strand rate, both worse-than-average marks which should eventually trend toward his career marks of .306 and 76.1%. Barlow had a solid 3.97 ERA as recently as July 16, but he’s been tagged for eight runs through 4 2/3 innings over his past five outings.
Clarke, also 30, has a shorter track record and more pronounced struggles in 2023. The right-hander has been tagged for a 6.00 ERA in 45 innings this year, thanks to a particularly dreadful slump dating back to mid-June. Clarke had a 2.70 ERA through his first 30 innings but has been tattooed for 22 runs in his past 15 innings. A season-long .374 BABIP isn’t helping his cause, but that alone doesn’t explain the extent of the right-hander’s struggles. From 2020-22, he pitched to a respectable, if unspectacular 4.44 ERA with solid strikeout and walk rates.
The 31-year-old Yarbrough inked a one-year deal with Kansas City after spending his entire big league career with the Rays organization. He’s earning $3MM this season and, although he missed time after a frightening incident where he was struck by a comebacker, the lefty has been decent when on the field. In 51 innings — seven starts, seven relief outings — he’s posted a 4.24 ERA. Yarbrough has one of the lowest strikeout rates in MLB (13.7%) but also one of the lowest walk rates (4.2%) among pitchers with at least 50 innings.
While Yarbrough started the season in Kansas City’s bullpen, he moved into the rotation not long before his injury and has continued starting since returning in early July. He’s made four starts since coming off the IL, pitching to a 2.19 ERA with a 15-to-2 K/BB ratio in 24 2/3 innings. He’s a pure rental and could help round out the back of someone’s rotation in the season’s final two months.
Olivares, 27, came to the Royals from the Padres organization in the 2020 trade that sent Trevor Rosenthal to San Diego. He looked solid at the plate in 2022 when he hit .286/.333/.410 with four homers, eight doubles and a pair of steals in 174 trips to the plate. His 2023 output has taken a step back. He’s logged a career-high 274 plate appearances but turned in a tepid .246/.299/.409 batting line.
The right-handed-hitting Olivares has even platoon splits this year but has generally been better against righties than lefties, when looking at his career as a whole. He’s played all three outfield spots in his career but has primarily worked in the corners; he doesn’t have above-average grades at any of the three positions, though. Olivares would be controllable for three more years beyond the current season, but he hasn’t developed as the Royals had hoped and is more of a change-of-scenery candidate than someone who’d fetch them meaningful prospect depth.