The GM meetings have come and gone, which likely mean we’re a little bit closer to the offseason action getting started. Dayton Moore is officially in the fold for the Royals with the Braves new hire, but he surprised me when he said the other day that there isn’t really a need to jump the market like he’s done so often in the past. As annoyed as I used to get with him making those moves before letting the market set up, I appreciated the fact that there was something to talk about that was something more than speculative. So I guess for now we’ll continue to wait.
- I feel like I’ve talked about the Royals corner infield situation way more than I should, but it’s one of the bigger talking points of the offseason, so I suppose there’s some merit to the discussion. The more I think about it, the more I find it interesting that the Royals are so gung-ho about going after Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas over Lorenzo Cain. I get it to some extent. Both infielders are under 30 and theoretically both have some prime years left before they hit a decline while Cain is going to be the same age in 2018 that Alex Gordon was in 2016. Still, the Royals have plenty of options to man the corners, but really nobody to play center field. If you’re looking at the current organization, I don’t see a single player who I’d feel comfortable seeing out there even 100 times, let alone 140 or 150. My guess is that Cain looked at the Dexter Fowler contract from last year (five years, $82.5 million) and sees that as about what he wants. My other guess is that unless there are more teams in on him than I expect, he’ll have to settle for a maximum of four years and maybe even three. I still believe that the Royals are best off letting all the free agents walk and letting the 2018 help them expedite the beginning of the rebuilding of the farm system, but of all the current free agents, Cain is the one who is the most irreplaceable, so I do wonder if the Royals will change their tune on him if and when the market starts to come back on him.
- I’ve been asked on a couple radio appearances what I think the final numbers for the big three Royals free agents will be, so why not throw them into this space here? For Hosmer, I think he’ll be searching for one of the biggest contracts given out, but he won’t get there. I think the minimum years he accepts will be five with a maximum of eight. I’m guessing he gets somewhere between $20 million per year and $23 million per year. I’ll make my final number six years and $132 million with an opt out after year three. If you were wondering why I even mention eight years, that’s if a surprise team comes into the fold and feels they need the extra year to get him to sign. For Moose, he’s looking at a pretty straight forward four or five year deal at about $20 million per year. I’m going to say he gets five years and $100 million on the dot. If he goes four years, I think he gets a bit more per year and ends at $84 million. Cain is the interesting one. I mentioned what I think he’ll be looking to get, but I really think he settles in at something like three years and $54 million or four years and $72 million. The Royals have to hope he ends up over $50 million to make sure they get that first round pick for him. I think Mike Minor ends up at 3/$27 million or so and Alcides Escobar gets a year and $4 million with some incentives.
- The Royals were awarded the sixth pick in the competitive balance round, which means that as of this moment, they’ll be picking 18th in the first round and 36th in that round. Of course, with all three of their qualifying offers getting rejected, they are likely to add three picks to their top 10 rounds (either directly after the first round or after the compensation round in the second round of the draft) and probably will end up with five picks in the top 40. That’s a pretty impressive haul for them, and will allow them to operate as they did prior to the new draft rules that limited the amount a team could spend. Even with the 18th pick, they’ll have one of the higher draft pools in 2018 in a draft that looks to be relatively deep, which is a good thing. It’s why I’ve been so clear that letting the free agents with qualifying offers walk is the right thing to do. If the Royals end up getting the most bang for their buck in these comp picks, they could end up with nearly $15 million in their draft pool, which would have been the highest in baseball last season. That’s just an insane amount. I know there are questions about the Royals drafting, but given that haul that they can get, I will go out on a limb and say they have a top 10 system by the end of the 2019 season and maybe even sooner.
- One name I haven’t mentioned when talking about potential center field targets for the Royals is Juan Lagares. He has a relatively reasonable contract for the next two seasons ($15.5 million total) and can play some defense in center. He’s had two issues throughout his career, though. The first is that he can’t really hit. I’ll get to that. The second is that he can’t really stay healthy. That’s a problem, but it could be what makes him relatively inexpensive to acquire. The hitting, though, is interesting because he’s reportedly working with the hitting coach who helped to revive the career of J.D. Martinez. That’s not to say that he’ll become that or even really improve, but if he does, he seems like a perfect candidate for the Royals to buy low on and hopefully flip at the deadline. If he’s a dud, it’s not like they had anyone else worth playing in center anyway, so why not take the risk? Of course, it’s not my money, but that seems like a pretty good risk for them to take.