With talk of the Royals rebuilding, I think a lot of people have a sense of doom. I get it. The last time the Royals won a title before 2015, they kind of meandered along for a few years and then spent the better part of two decades rebuilding. I’m not saying that won’t happen again because I can’t predict the future, but I am saying that seems relatively unlikely. I said a few weeks ago that I think with all the picks and money they should have in the upcoming draft combined with their international spending money (and now bringing in some of the former Braves prospects), the farm system can be back in the top third of the league very quickly. And by the time some of these contracts come off the books and some of these prospects are ready, there’ll be a new television deal that should at least help the Royals spend a little more to supplement.
- The signing of Wily Peralta was interesting for a couple reasons. The first is that they actually made a deal and added a piece to the big league roster. Peralta isn’t going to be confused for anything special at this time, but hey, it’s something. The most interesting thing to me was that the buyout on next year’s club option (nope, not mutual) was for $25,000. I had hoped that when I started seeing option buyouts for less than my annual salary that it would mean I was making well over six figures. Guess not. The Royals don’t have much hope for this move, but I think they did a great job of hedging with it. If Peralta is good, as either a starter or reliever, they can probably get back a useful piece or two at the deadline because he’ll be owed just about $500,000 at that time. If he’s bad, they can just cut him and not feel much pain at all, either this year or next year when it comes time to pay him the buyout. And if he’s somewhere in between, they can try to capture lightning in a bottle in 2019 as his salary doesn’t escalate enough to make him expensive to acquire in a trade. I’m guessing he ends up a reliever because of the Royals track record with guys like him. He throws very hard, which is nice, but it’s really easy to hit, which isn’t so nice. The odds are this won’t work, but it’s a deal to talk about and it’s one of those risks that a rebuilding team should be taking.
- Another thing a rebuilding team should be doing is trying to find elite talent in the Rule 5 draft. It doesn’t happen that often, but every now and then, a team will uncover a legitimately solid or better contributor. We’ve seen the Royals find a star closer in Joakim Soria and some other solid pieces over the years as well. This year’s draft is interesting to me because there are a few guys who could make a lot of sense. It’s much easier to hide a pitcher all season long, and if Cal Eldred gives a good report, Rob Kaminsky might be a guy to watch for. He has trouble staying healthy, but he’s put up some good numbers and maybe there’s something they can build on with him. I would also take a shot on Joe Broussard from the Dodgers. He’s been a solid reliever with great strikeout rates and good enough control to translate. Nick Burdi from the Twins is another pitcher who can’t stay healthy, but man does he have a good arm. On the other side of the ball, if the Royals are serious about trading Whit Merrifield, Travis Demeritte would be a nice pickup. He has surprising pop and plays really good defense at second base. He’s quick too. He will strike out and strike out a lot, but there are worse guys to bridge to the future than him. Another name I haven’t heard much of is Wes Rogers from the Rockies. Rogers can fly and can hold down center field. He doesn’t have a ton of pop, but he can turn singles to doubles and he’s stolen 181 bases in 207 attempts over four seasons in the minors. He’s never played above high-A ball, but if you’re willing to let him take some lumps, he could be fun to watch.
- With the signing of Peralta, I have the Royals paying about $92 million or so to 10 players on guaranteed contracts with another $13.5 million or so in arbitration estimates to three more. Then you have Travis Wood’s deal, which the Royals are paying either all or most of, so that’s more than $110 million for 13 players. Dayton Moore mentioned $120 million for his payroll number at some point in the past few days, which seems pretty unrealistic at this point without making a couple moves to shave that number down a bit. That said, if they can move a piece like Soria, Hammel or Moss and save somewhere between $6 million and $9 million (depending on if they have to eat any of the deal), they could still do a little work, if they so choose. In my mind $120 million really means $130 million, so if they had around $108 million accounted for with 12 spots open, that’s some wiggle room. Guys like Merrifield, Jake Junis, Scott Alexander, Raul Mondesi, Ramon Torres, Cheslor Cuthbert and Jorge Bonifacio can fill pretty prominent roles at under $1 million. Call those seven and maybe Paulo Orlando at about $4.5 million and they’re looking at about $17 million to spend on four spots. A bargain pickup of Cameron Maybin, as has been rumored along with some other low cost pitching depth and they’d be at $130 million with a team that wouldn’t be good, but would have plenty of potential mid-season trade chips. I don’t see the room for Eric Hosmer, but we’ve talked about this. That’s probably a good thing.
- The ebbs and flows of baseball are really interesting to me. It makes perfect sense that seeing a lot of pitches is a good plan as a batter and, subsequently, as a team. Teams were lauded for that and getting on base at a high rate and all that. And with that, swinging at the first pitch actually became a little bit smarter. Some pitchers, knowing that hitters will try to work the count, will groove a fastball on that first pitch to get ahead. So the game has changed a little bit. And now, looking at the leaders for the Royals in pitches per plate appearance, the top of the list is littered with some of their worst hitters. Brandon Moss, Alex Gordon, Drew Butera and Jorge Soler were the four Royals hitters to average more than four pitches per plate appearance. That’s not to say that wildly hacking is the recipe for success or anything, but it’s just not so simple that taking pitches and getting deep into counts is the key to success. Terry Bradshaw talked about his philosophy of finding a pitch and driving it. That seems incredibly simplistic, but really that’s the biggest issue plaguing the Royals offense when it’s bad. This is a team of hitters who just do not know what pitches to swing at and what not to swing at. I’m not saying Bradshaw can come in and fix all their issues, but if he can reach a couple of them, it’ll be a much more watchable offense at the very least.