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Report: Royals agree to deals with pitchers Lugo, Stratton

Seth Lugo San Diego Padres Seth Lugo - The Canadian Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Royals general manager J.J. Picollo made it clear after a 106-loss season that Kansas City was in desperate need of pitching.

On Tuesday, they landed someone to start games and another to help finish them.

The Royals agreed with right-hander Seth Lugo on a $45 million, three-year deal to fill one of their open spots in the starting rotation, then landed reliever Chris Stratton on a $4 million deal, two people with knowledge of the contracts told The Associated Press. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because the deals were pending physicals.

Lugo can opt out after the 2025 season, one of the people said, while Stratton will get $3.5 million for this season and has a $4.5 million player option with a $500,000 buyout for 2025.

With one of the best curveballs in the game, Lugo is coming off a strong year with the Padres, where he went 8-7 with a 3.57 ERA while proving he could be a full-time starter. The 34-year-old started games early in his career but had largely worked out of the bullpen with only occasional starts during his first seven seasons with the New York Mets.

After driving up his value, Lugo declined his $7.5 million player option with the Padres and became a free agent.

One thing both pitchers have in common is experience, and that was something the Royals also wanted in their clubhouse.

“We're trying to put a team together. It's not really one individual talent,” Picollo said this week, while announcing a $5 million deal with reliever Will Smith. “Given the inexperience in our clubhouse other than Salvy (Perez) and Jordan (Lyles), we felt like we were short with guys like will that have not only won at a high level but experienced the game.”

Kansas City has been trying to find help for a starting rotation that has struggled the past few seasons. The Royals filled one big hole midway through last season when they acquired Cole Ragans from the Rangers for reliever Aroldis Chapman, and they hope Brady Singer can bounce back after a poor season while Lyles can continue to eat innings.

The 26-year-old Lugo should factor into the middle of the rotation. He started 18 games for the Mets in 2017, going 7-5 with a pedestrian 4.71 ERA, but only 12 total over the next five seasons, when he began to flourish out of the bullpen. Lugo was 20-17 with a 3.25 ERA over that span, striking out 378 while issuing only 91 walks over 329 1/3 innings.

Lugo got another shot to start in San Diego and made the most of it, and now the Royals are hoping he can keep it up.

Kansas City also has been searching for bullpen help in free agency. Smith is expected to finish out games, and Stratton should give the Royals a bridge from starters to the left-hander and ther rest of the back end of the bullpen.

The 33-year-old Stratton, who along with Smith won a World Series ring with Texas last month, had a 3.92 ERA in 64 games with the Cardinals and Rangers this past season. The right-hander also has pitched for the Giants, Angels and Pirates while appearing in 302 games with a 4.43 ERA over his 10-year big league career.

The Royals have been busy remaking their pitching staff since the end of the season. They also have acquired reliever Nick Anderson from Atlanta for cash, then landed right-handed starter Kyle Wright — who is expected to miss the 2024 season after undergoing shoulder surgery — for pitcher Jackson Kowar in a separate deal with the Braves.


AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.