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Michael Wacha and Kansas City Royals Finalize $32 Million, 2-year Contract


By Dave Skretta


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals made official their deal with starting pitcher Michael Wacha on Monday, a $32 million, two-year pact that includes a player option for 2025 and incentives based on the number of innings he pitches.

The Royals have been among the busiest teams in the majors this offseason, bolstering their rotation in free agency by signing Wacha and Seth Lugo along with their bullpen by signing Chris Stratton and Will Smith. They also have landed power-hitting outfielder Hunter Renfroe to give their lineup a veteran presence along with some additional pop.

The deal for Wacha includes a $16 million salary next year, a $16 million option and $50,000 bonuses for pitching 105 innings each season and each additional five through 150. When it is combined with the other contracts given out, the Royals have committed well over $100 million in free agency to improve the club.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Royals traded right-hander Jonathan Heasley to the Baltimore Orioles for right-hander Cesar Espinal. Heasley had a 7.20 ERA over 12 relief appearances for Kansas City last season, while the 18-year-old Espinal was 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA for the Orioles’ club in the Dominican Summer League.

The Royals are coming off a 106-loss season in manager Matt Quatraro’s first season, and the first full season in which J.J. Picollo has been general manager. But in a division without a clear-cut favorite, and with promising young talents such as Bobby Witt Jr. and Vinnie Pasquantino already on the roster, the Royals saw an opportunity to go from worst to first in the AL Central.

“We feel like it’s time for us to make a significant move,” Picollo acknowledged last week.

The Royals also are trying to rally public support for a new downtown ballpark to replace aging Kauffman Stadium, and putting a winning team on the field would help. They hoped to announce a location for the new stadium by the end of September, but their ongoing discussions with political leaders in multiple locations have slowed the progress on their plans.

The 32-year-old Wacha, a former first-round pick of the Cardinals, spent last season with Lugo in San Diego. He went 14-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 24 starts for the Padres, the third time he has had at least 10 wins and a 3.40-or-better ERA in his career.

Wacha has pitched in parts of 11 seasons for the Cardinals (2013-19), Mets (2020), Rays (2021), Red Sox (2022) and Padres (2023), going a combined 88-54 with a 3.96 ERA. Along the way, Wacha has been the NLCS MVP as a rookie with St. Louis in 2013, when he threw 13 2/3 scoreless innings over the course of two games with the Dodgers.

He has made eight postseason appearances in all, most recently with Tampa Bay during the 2021 Division Series.