We only have to wait about one more month for pitchers and catchers to report. There doesn’t seem to be the same buzz for spring training in Kansas City this year as there has been in the past with all the changes to the team coming, but I think we all know that I’m pumped up. I even booked my yearly trip to Arizona, so I’ll bring you Royals coverage from spring training for the week I’m down there. I’ll wait while you take a minute to contain your excitement. Even this close to reporting dates, we’re still waiting on basically everyone to sign. Maybe the free agents can form a team and take on the rest of baseball. I’d watch that movie.
- I think at this point in the offseason, the Royals should be looking to take advantage of the market. I mentioned yesterday that I don’t like the idea of signing someone with the plan of trading them, but they’re in a bit of enviable position that they can take a risk. Think about a player like Jonathan Lucroy. The market for him seems to be basically non-existent. On the surface, it’s hard to see how he fits with the Royals. Admittedly, this one is a stretch, but why not try to make it work? Sign Lucroy, let him catch, play first and DH. He does his thing where he puts up a solid OBP and at the deadline, one of the teams looking to make a push to the postseason needs a veteran catcher. Lucroy isn’t a great example because of Salvador Perez, but this would absolutely be the season to give him even more of a break behind the plate in a season where they aren’t likely to go anywhere. Give him some time off at DH and some time at first and maybe they get first half Salvy (.290/.318/.532) all season and that’s a bat that plays anywhere. I know Lucroy isn’t the best example, but he’s the one I’ve been thinking about in trying to find a fit on the Royals as a mid-season trade chip. There are others too, and if the Royals are really serious about expediting this rebuild, signing some guys with depressed markets is a pretty good way to go about it.
- Whit Merrifield has basically been rumored to at least be on the block all offseason. I think it’s more than reasonable to trade him if they get the right deal, but I’m one who wonders if his market is enough to make it worth trading him right now. Even so, if they do trade him, the question becomes who plays second base in 2018, and Jon Heyman wrote the other day about a possibility that I could see coming to fruition. He mentioned that the Royals are interested in Ryan Goins. And without going off the deep end about a one-off rumor that hasn’t even happened, I’m going to say that I think that would be a terrible idea. While I believe a rebuilding team should take chances on a lot of different guys, I think the key is to find guys who could potentially have value either as a long-term piece or a trade chip. Goins would be neither. Aside from a random blip where he walked a lot for a few weeks in 2015, he really hasn’t been anything to write home about. He does rate as a pretty good defender, but he’ll be 30 and is essentially a poor man’s Chris Getz. No thank you. If they trade Merrifield, I’d much rather watch Ramon Torres to see if he can be anything than sign an also-ran who we already know can’t be.
- One name we’ve heard basically nothing about is Jason Vargas, which isn’t that surprising considering how little has actually happened, but he’s another guy who might actually make some sense to bring back for the Royals. I know I’ve harped a lot on rotation depth, so I won’t give that song and dance again, but Vargas could be a nice piece for the Royals on a one-year deal. We know he likes being in Kansas City and we know the Royals are big fans of him, so I could see something being worked out if he exhausts all efforts to find a multi-year deal. What I like so much about a signing like Vargas is that it would be really with the first half in mind. That’s good because Nate Karns is probably a bit of a question early in the season and I would like to see both Jake Junis and Trevor Oaks finish the season strong. It’s not because there’s likely to be an October schedule to worry about, but it would help to make sure they get through all six months of the season in preparation for years when maybe there is an October schedule to worry about. Oaks could start the year in the minors and limit his innings while Junis could get a few starts off here and there with another big league option. Like with the Lucroy situation above, it doesn’t have to be Vargas, but he seems like a nice risk to take for a likely bad team.
- Royals relievers threw 570.1 innings last year. Of those, 389.1 of them are either no longer with the team or are free agents (that’s just Peter Moylan). That’s 68 percent of the team’s bullpen innings gone. If they end up trading Kelvin Herrera, their top five innings thrown relievers will all be on a different team in 2018. I still think they can have a decent bullpen at times next season, but it’ll be an even farther cry from the World Series teams than the last two seasons. If Herrera is still there, I think he puts together at least a better season than last year. I like Ryan Buchter a lot, and I think that some combination of Scott Barlow, Brian Flynn, Kevin McCarthy, Wily Peralta and Burch Smith could provide some solid innings. Sure there’ll be some rough spots, probably for all of the guys I’ve listed. And from Brandon Maurer since he’s not good at pitching, but I think we’ll actually see some signs of a really good bullpen…followed by weeks where we wonder if they can ever hold another lead. As much transition as there is with position players, I think an under-discussed exodus is in the bullpen, so that’ll be an especially interesting position group to watch both during the season and in spring training as there will be competition for almost every job.