During that terrible A’s series, I think a lot of people realized that the end of the run had come and the Royals really weren’t going to do it again this season. That led to almost a eulogy of sorts for the Royals recent run of success. I didn’t join in, but it wasn’t because I don’t think what we’ve seen the last couple years is worthy of that. Rather, it was because I don’t think the good times are over. I think they’re on a brief hiatus during the 2016 season. Maybe I’m being a wide-eyed optimist, but I see a lot to like about the 2017 Royals. I think the ride picks up again next season. Maybe that’s also why I’m kind of okay with not being worn down in October this year. Anyway, on to the notes.
- With Ian Kennedy continuing to pitch well this year, a lot of questions have been asked about his opt-out following the 2017 season. For those who don’t remember, Kennedy’s deal pays him $7.5 million this year, $13.5 million next year and if he doesn’t opt out, he gets $16 million in 2018 and $16.5 million in 2019 and 2020. But if he does choose to opt out of his deal, he gets a bonus of $6 million from the Royals. So following the 2017 season, if he chooses to opt out, the Royals will have paid him $27 million over two seasons. That means that in order for the opt out to make sense, he has to believe he can receive a contract for at least $43 million over three seasons or more. He’s currently thrown 183 innings with a 3.64 ERA. He’s made 30 or more starts for each of the last seven seasons. He’s a guy you can count on to take the ball every fifth day. This is his first season with an above average ERA since 2012, but there’s a lot of value in going out there every start. If he can perform as well in 2017 as he has in 2016, he’d likely end up with about 65 starts and 380-400 innings of a 3.65-3.75 ERA. The 2017/2018 free agent market is much better than this year’s, but there’s a market for that out there. In a market where guys like Phil Hughes are making $14 million per year, I think there’s a very good chance Kennedy could look and say he could get something like three years and $48 million from some team and opt out. I still keep thinking back to his comments in spring training about moving his family and wonder if he’d rather have some stability, but I think the odds are much better today that he opts out after next year than they were six months ago.
- Looking ahead to the offseason, I believe the Royals will need to add at least two starting pitchers who they think can help their staff at some point during the 2017 season. In my opinion, one needs to be a guy you can slot in right away. Maybe that’s just figuring out a deal with Edinson Volquez and hoping that an October-less season will get him ready to perform well again. Some guys I’d target for the sometime in 2017 role are Jhoulys Chacin, Scott Feldman and maybe even Brett Anderson. Of course, I wouldn’t break the bank for any of them, so they might find deals that are better for them, but these are guys I’d have interest in as the swing man role that Chris Young attempted to fill this season. Add them to a rotation of Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Yordano Ventura and what seems like Jason Vargas and then to a stable of guys like Alec Mills, Jake Junis, Matt Strahm, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen (I’m assuming he’s back on a minor league deal) and maybe Dillon Gee and I think there might be enough to figure something out. Of course, I said that this season and look where that got us all. And hey, I’m not going to even think about counting on Kyle Zimmer, but if the thoracic outlet surgery was his problem all along, that would be a nice little “look what I found” type of surprise for the Royals next season. If you’re wondering who I’d target for the guys who could slot immediately into the rotation, I don’t know that answer yet. There’s not much out there that will be in the Royals price range.
- One thing I think the Royals really need heading into next season is to find someone who can get on base at the top of the order. I know that’s your “duh” comment of the day, but if they could add a piece who could post a .350 OBP at the top of the lineup, that would allow everything else to fall into place. They really would be in the market at the same two positions they’re always in the market, right field and second base, although I could see them shifting Lorenzo Cain to right and looking at center field as well. In center, Dexter Fowler would be a nice fit offensively, but will likely be expensive, and that’s if he even wants to leave Chicago. I always come back to feeling like Martin Prado will be a Royal at some point in his career. He hasn’t played any second base this season and hasn’t played much there at all in a few years, but I just wonder if that could make some sense for next year’s club. If nothing else, I’d consider moving Cain to the leadoff spot, but I fear if that happens we’d see Alcides Escobar hitting second, which nobody needs to see.
- I was talking about this with Cody Tapp on his show on 1510 AM, but he brought up how often Drew Butera has been behind the plate with Ventura on the mound. I know it’s been discussed and I knew it had happened more than a couple times, but it’s to the point that I think it’s more than a coincidence. Butera has started 29 games behind the plate this season, and 10 of them have been with Ventura on the mound. He started six games when Perez missed time with that calf injury and just one of those was a Ventura start, so in nine of his 23 other starts, he’s caught Ventura. Four of the nine starts were day games after a night game, but the most recent one was a day game after a day game when Perez had caught a day game after a night game. That’s what got both of us thinking. Now, I’m not a big believer in catcher ERA because I think there are just way too many variables to make it make sense, but in the interest of presenting the facts, Ventura has a 3.94 ERA in 64 innings throwing to Butera and a 4.58 ERA in 112 innings of throwing to Perez. He had a 3.98 ERA throwing to Perez last year, so that part is likely noise, but I think the Royals definitely see something between Ventura and Butera, so I’m now wondering if the Royals get Butera locked up as he’s a free agent following the season. I don’t really have a conclusion here, but it’s something interesting to think about.