Unless you’re a fan of relief pitchers, Marlins players getting traded or just rumors in general, those Winter Meetings were something of a dud. The best part of the meetings was that when they were over, we were a little closer to spring training than when they started. Of course, there are now probably more questions than answers regarding the Royals. I wasn’t expecting that. I honestly believed that things would get moving on day one and by day three, the Royals would have wheeled (whelt?) and dealt their way to a pretty different looking team. And yet, here we are. I imagine we’ll see a fair amount of movement still, but it won’t be as fast and furious as it often is during the meetings.
- Let’s just start with the Danny Duffy stuff. You all know what’s going on with him and the trade rumors. I find myself torn about what the Royals should do, but maybe not for the reasons that you would expect. From a pure baseball perspective, it’s very difficult to justify not trading him if the deal is there. He’s under contract through 2021, and even if you go with the argument that you know he’ll re-sign in Kansas City after that deal, you have to wonder how many effective innings he’d have after that. As it stands right now, the Royals might hope to be somewhat competitive in the last year of his deal, and that’s no guarantee. So yeah, why not get a nice haul of prospects for him? But there’s more than just what’s on the field. Duffy wants to be in Kansas City and signed a below market deal to stay in Kansas City less than one year ago. The optics aren’t great, and you have to wonder what kind of impact it would have in the future on young players and potentially free agents. My guess is somewhere in between nil and where a lot of people believe, but I don’t think there’s no impact. Unless the Royals ultimately have a plan to compete in 2019 or 2020, though, I just think the benefit of a deal outweighs the negative of some backlash. Ask me again in an hour and I might disagree with that, though.
- In thinking about the rebuild, it’s hard to agree with the Royals assessment that it’s a three-year process, but if you squint enough, you can see how it could work. Some might argue that the last rebuild Dayton Moore led took a little longer than three years. And that would be true, but I don’t think the lower levels were stocked as well as they are right now. A lot of that is from a really solid 2017 draft, but that helps. Add in all those draft picks and the draft money they have and they can add to that. Basically, they’ll have to get lucky on a couple mid-range prospects becoming more than that and rising quickly and see guys like Raul Mondesi and someone from the Cheslor Cuthbert/Hunter Dozier/Jorge Bonifacio group develop into big parts of the future. If I had to guess, I’d say 2018 and 2019 are really rough. Then there’ll be some hope in 2020, a step back in 2021 and a solid showing in 2022 that might be enough for a Wild Card spot. That would be a pretty decent timeline and certainly one people would probably accept.
- With the Royals being actual contenders the last few years, I sort of lost my love for the Rule 5 draft, but it’s been re-energized this season. So imagine my dismay when the Royals pick came and went without them making a selection. Luckily for me, they later traded for both the fifth and the sixth pick, getting two pitchers who they’ll now have to keep on the big league roster all season or else they might lose them. The first acquisition was Burch Smith, and he’s the one I’m super excited about. He was a 14th round pick of the Padres in 2011 and made it to the big leagues (with terrible results) in 2013. He missed all of 2015 and 2016 after Tommy John, but made it back in 2017 and was really good in 56 innings. Then he threw about 20 more in the Arizona Fall League and it sure seems like he’s finally healthy. I don’t know if Smith can be a starter, but he certainly has the frame for it. If not, though, I think he has a chance to be a really good power reliever. I imagine there’ll be some growing pains in 2018, but even if he struggles and gives up a lot, he’ll get his strikeouts and I believe he can be a nice piece in the next few Royals bullpens at the worst. It was a good pick.
- The Royals centerfield candidates for 2018 aren’t exactly what you’d call inspiring. Get your jokes out of the way about the 2018 Royals in general not being inspiring. You done? Okay. Anyway, the choices according to Dayton Moore the other day are Paulo Orlando, Alex Gordon and Billy Burns with Bubba Starling maybe finding his way to the big leagues quickly if he hits in AAA. A lot can happen between now and then, but if the first three are the top choices, I have a hunch that Starling ends up starting the year in center field. If you want an example, go back to just last spring. The Royals were expecting to contend and still went with Raul Mondesi at second base because of his upside. In a year when the Royals aren’t expecting to do anything but watch the opposing team shake hands after the game, why not go with the guy who might possibly be able to salvage something in his career? If I had to guess, it’s not going to work, but with Donnie Dewees getting close and Michael Gigliotti not too far behind him, the time is now to see if Bubba is anything.