While some may still consider the Royals a cheap franchise, it’s been remarkable to see the number of players signed to long-term deals since the Dayton Moore era began. David DeJesus, Joakim Soria, Billy Butler, Zack Greinke, Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura and now Danny Duffy have all signed deals designed to keep them in Kansas City beyond their six years of “required” time. I’m sure I’m missing someone, too. It’s really been amazing. The Duffy news was probably the most positive to date to come out of this offseason for the Royals, and I do believe should open up the club to fill the remaining holes prior to Opening Day.
- With the signing of Duffy, along with the trades of Jarrod Dyson and Wade Davis and the arbitration number for Eric Hosmer, the Royals have saved somewhere around $12.7 million from where their projected payroll was at the start of the winter. I’ve got their payroll somewhere around $128 million with a couple open roster spots available. Cots Contracts (a phenomenal resource) lists the Royals as ending 2016 with a 40-man roster cost of $177,170,963 in 2016, which was ninth in all of baseball. The 25-man Opening Day roster was $131,487,125. So if the Royals are keeping costs steady with that, they don’t have much room, but I suspect they could add a couple key pieces. That leads me to the bullpen where I think they pick up at least one more arm and maybe two. What’s interesting is that the possibilities are littered with former Royals. Joe Blanton, Luke Hochevar, Greg Holland, Peter Moylan and J.P. Howell all make varying levels of sense. Add in some other arms like Yusmeiro Petit, Sergio Romo, Joe Smith, Vance Worley and even maybe a Jerry Blevins and the options are there. None of these pitchers are a slam dunk to be great, but I think the Royals have a shot to pick up one or two to help bolster a bullpen that right now looks a bit uncharacteristically weak.
- I feel like I’ve done a good job of convincing myself that Cheslor Cuthbert as the primary DH along with half-days off for regulars could work in 2017. It actually could work. I mean, Cuthbert could be an above average hitter and could continue to improve. And even if he doesn’t improve, it could work if Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain all have seasons like they did in 2015 and Jorge Soler breaks out and shows why he was such a highly rated prospect and Alex Gordon bounces back. But you can’t count on either, so I still feel like the Royals need to go out and sign some thunder for the middle of the lineup. I’m kind of warming up to the idea of Brandon Moss, but he’s no sure thing to be an upgrade over Cuthbert in anything but likely home run power. What’s nice about Moss is he can play first base and outfield a little bit and with the extra option year for Billy Burns, he could make that roster spot superfluous between he and Whit Merrifield. Of course, we’re now four years removed from him hitting .256/.337/.522 with Oakland and he is coming off a .225/.300/.484 year which was an improvement over his 2015 numbers. Other options include Pedro Alvarez, a reunion with Billy Butler, Adam Lind, Justin Morneau, Mike Napoli or maybe Franklin Gutierrez. No, I’m not upset that the Royals didn’t sign Mark Trumbo, even for the deal he reportedly inked with the Orioles. I wouldn’t give up a draft pick for him.
- This year’s Hall of Fame class of Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez is a good one, but also a little bit surprising to me. Given how hard the voters were on Mike Piazza for their suspicions of his PED use, I thought Pudge might take a couple tries before he got in, but he squeaked by and will get in as a first ballot HOFer, which is pretty cool. I think it’s clear based on the fact that they were both over 70% that Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman will make it next season along with Chipper Jones and probably Jim Thome. I still believe Billy Wagner is the better closer than Trevor Hoffman, so I hope he gets in someday, but I do think there’s something to 600 saves. There are just some numbers that transcend the player, and I believe that 600 saves is enough to earn enshrinement. I still look at the ballot and see a bunch of players who are worthy of being inducted, so the ballot crunch isn’t going to get any better any time soon, which is unfortunate, but as long as Edgar Martinez finds his way in someday, I’ll be happy.
- Ever since the Duffy extension, I’ve been asked quite a bit who is next. The easy answer is nobody. That’s the likely answer. Of the rest of the pending free agents (Moose, Hosmer, Cain, Vargas and Escobar), I’d bet on none of them being back in 2018. Ignoring Vargas and Escobar for the time being, the big three of remaining free agents all look like they’re headed to free agency. I will say that if any of these players would sign an extension, I guess I’d pick Moustakas and a big reason for that is because of his injury that’s led to some uncertainty about him heading into the season. I also get the impression that while he doesn’t have a love of Kansas City or the Royals quite like Duffy does, I think he does really enjoy the franchise and fits in well with the city. Now, to look at the question a different way, if all of them do reach free agency without an extension, I think Cain is the most likely to come back. I could see him going out on the free agent market looking for a big payday and being disappointed and coming back to the Royals for a two-year deal that would be both affordable and a smart move. You might be wondering about my thoughts on the Royals re-signing Hosmer. Yeah, I don’t see it. I do think at least one of the rest of the free agents will be back in 2018, though, so now we play the waiting game to find out which one (or ones) it is.