The Royals bullpen has been bombed so far this year as reliever after reliever struggles to record outs. Coming into tonight they had posted a 6.95 ERA in their 44 innings of work. That's including closer Joakim Soria, who has allowed just one run in his six innings of work. Remove those six very good innings of work, and the ERA balloons to 7.82. They allowed four more runs tonight that aren't figured into that equation.
Beyond Soria, who is probably the most under-rated closer in baseball and a truly special pitcher, the only other two reliable arms have been left-handed specialist John Parrish and hard throwing righting Josh Rupe who have combined to give the Royals 10.1 innings of 2 run baseball.
Parrish has made a nice career as a lefty specialist and in the long-term, that's all he should be used as. But with the Royals struggles Trey Hillman has continued to move him into higher leverage situations. I wont imagine that his success in that role will last long however. Over Parrish's 10 seasons in the Majors he's posted a 4.47 ERA and was out of the Majors altogether least season. Not the sort of career line that inspires confidence.
Rupe is spending his first year outside of the Rangers organization and has uninspiring peripherals with a strikeout rate under six and a walk rate over four. But Rupe does have a live arm and he's throwing the ball harder this year than he ever has before. The long term projections on him aren't great either, but as of right now, he might be their best option.
To try and fix this problem, the Royals are getting aggressive. Kind of. They don't appear to be playing the market for a solid option from outside of the organization, and at this point in the season, such options probably aren't available anyways. But they certainly are working flights between AAA and the bigs hard in an effort to throw everything available at the wall in the hopes that something sticks.
Earlier this season they purchased the contract of another Rangers scrap-heap reliever, Luis Mendoza, however after watching him pitch an uninspiring four innings where he allowed ten earned runs, they designated him for assignment.
Also getting the boot was Juan Cruz. Cruz was a fairly hot free agent a couple seasons ago when the Royals made an aggressive play for him. He was coming off a dominant season as a setup man for the Diamondbacks where he posted strikeout rates over 12 for two straight seasons.
Yes, he had issues with command and yes he was switching to the more difficult American League, but everyone assumed the ability to miss bats would translate. It hasn't. In his two seasons with the Royals the walks went up, the strikeouts went down, and the Royals front office watched their investment collapse.
Cruz certainly hadn't been good for the Royals so far this season, allowing 13 base runners in just 5.1 innings. But I would've assumed that the Royals would've stuck with him longer, tried to rebuild some value, and traded him for at least a middling prospect of some sort. That they released him outright suggests that they may have tried and found no market what-so-ever for him, though I find that difficult to believe.
While Cruz is certainly damaged goods, his ability to miss bats hasn't deteriorated to the point where no one would give him a chance. It'll be interesting to see which team picks him up. There are certainly enough teams that would be interested in a guy with his stuff as at least a low-leverage guy.