Royals sign LHP Yarbrough to one-year deal

Southpaw, 30, ready to put 'best foot forward' with new club

December 14th, 2022

Coming out of the Winter Meetings, the Royals' top two priorities were finding an established starter and finding a swingman who can pitch either out of the bullpen or rotation.

The latter has now been filled.

The Royals and left-hander Ryan Yarbrough have agreed to a one-year deal, the club announced Tuesday night. Sources told’s Mark Feinsand the contract is worth $3 million.

While it's yet to be seen whether a reunion with is in the club’s future, Kansas City decided to add to its depth with Yarbrough. The 30-year-old southpaw spent all of his five-year career with Tampa Bay, serving in both starting and relief roles -- experience that can benefit the Royals. Yarbrough explained on Wednesday on a Zoom call with local media that his plan is to enter Spring Training prepared to fight for a starting spot.

“There’s a lot of innings to cover just from a team standpoint,” Yarbrough said. “So, just to have an opportunity to be able to cover a lot of those innings for [the Royals] was really intriguing and exciting to us. But there’s nothing guaranteed. I’m gonna try to fight for that starting spot, but at the same time, you just really got to control what you can control.”

Whether Yarbrough ends up more as a starter or a reliever in 2023 remains to be seen, but regardless of his role, he can be a strike-throwing, low-walk addition to pitching coach Brian Sweeney’s staff.

“The thing that I think we liked the most about Ryan is that he’s logged innings,” Royals executive vice president and general manager J.J. Picollo said. “The things that stand out: He throws strikes, it’s a very low walk percentage, he commands the ball, there’s a lot of soft contact and it’s a very, very high strike percentage.”

Yarbrough has struggled more the past two years (a 4.90 ERA in 50 appearances) than his first three seasons with the Rays (a 3.94 ERA in 77 games), and he was designated for assignment last month after he was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn more than $4 million in arbitration. His average velocity is well below the norm -- ranking in the first percentile according to Statcast -- and his strikeout rate puts him only in the 15th percentile, but he can induce weak contact, ranking in the 97th percentile in average exit velocity and the 94th in hard-hit percentage.

A lot of Yarbrough’s difficulties in 2022 began with a groin injury that flared up at the end of Spring Training. What felt like a productive camp turned into the lefty having to play catch up heading into the regular season, trying to regain the groove he was in during exhibition play while trying to make sure his body was back to 100 percent. His numbers reflected the physical ailments he battled, and now, he enters ’23 with a chip on his shoulder, ready to show that he can right the ship.

“[I’m] just trying to do everything that I can to help them win ballgames, and obviously do everything I can to kind of prove last year wasn’t who I am,” Yarbrough. “There’s no blaming anyone but myself [for ‘22], but it’s just a matter of putting my best foot forward and really trying to get back and being really competitive.”

While adding a depth piece in Yarbrough is necessary, the big target remains Greinke and rounding out the starting rotation with a veteran arm. If the Royals can lock up that need, they can turn their attention to finding a versatile infielder (preferably a right-handed bat) to add to the lineup.

In the meantime, Yarbrough is ready to prepare himself to be that missing rotational piece. He’s hoping to spend some of the offseason with and , who he worked out with at times last winter, as they all reside in the Tampa, Fla., area during the offseason. Yarbrough already has a strong connection to his new manager, Matt Quatraro, from their time with the Rays. As Spring Training approaches, Yarbrough wants to make his transition to a new organization as seamless as possible.

“The goal is to try to get with them, starting throwing, throw bullpens,” Yarbrough said. “Just be together with them as much as possible to kind of get that familiarity and just make things easier going into spring.”