I think there’s a pretty good chance a 25-man roster built with only free agents would be a playoff team in 2018. Alex Avila, Jonathan Lucroy, Eric Hosmer, Neil Walker, Mike Moustakas, Eduardo Nunez, Jon Jay, Lorenzo Cain, J.D. Martinez and Logan Morrison is a pretty salty offense. The rotation of Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn and one of Jaime Garcia or Jason Vargas could win some games. And a back of the bullpen headlined by Greg Holland and Matt Albers would at least not be a total disaster. But admittedly, the bullpen is a weakness on that team. Still, to have that conversation on January 19 is just crazy.
- If I had to guess, I’d say that Kelvin Herrera is the next Royals reliever to be traded. After agreeing to a 2018 salary of a touch under $8 million, there’s certainty in his cost, even if it wasn’t that big of a deal before the agreement. If you’re looking for a potential trade partner, it’s basically any team in baseball that is trying to contend in 2018. If the Royals are willing to trade in the division, I could see a deal being struck with the Twins as they continue to work to rebuild their bullpen. Adding Herrera to Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed would give them a pretty solid back of the bullpen, though it isn’t without risk. One name that intrigues me is Akil Baddoo and not just because the name actually intrigues me. He’s a long way away, but he hit .323/.436/.527 in rookie ball as an 18-year old and has a chance to carry those OBP skills through to the big leagues. Some other options for Herrera include the Astros, Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals and Dodgers. If you’re worried about trading another closer to the Cubs, at least they can’t acquire Jorge Soler for this one. Well, I guess they could, but that would be weird.
- A couple years ago, I jokingly randomly selected a Royals prospect in the BP KC breakroom that I indicated was my sleeper prospect in the whole system. It turned out to be Rudy Martin, and what’s funny is that he might actually be a sleeper prospect now. No, he isn’t likely to be anything more than a role player with a ceiling of a Jarrod Dyson type, but in this slow offseason, he’s a fun guy to root for. He was a 25th round pick in 2014 and stands at a robust 5’7” and 150 lbs. I hate stat scouting among prospects because the statistics in the minors don’t tell nearly enough of the story, but Martin has surprising power for his frame (which only means he might hit a home run if he ever makes the big leagues), but he plays a pretty solid outfield, has some good speed and if he can cut down on the strikeouts, might be able to be a big leaguer. In all likelihood, he’s Terrance Gore at best, but Martin is a prospect who I’m strangely excited to see if he can progress to be a fourth or fifth outfielder in the big leagues at some point.
- There has been a lot of speculation about why this free agent market has been so slow. I think all the possible reasons out there are valid, but I have another one that I think makes some sense to go along with them. This current free agent class is pretty devoid of star power. Aside from J.D. Martinez because of his power, there isn’t really a single player who can put a team over the top really left on the market. I guess you could argue that Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta as starters and Greg Holland in the bullpen could be that guy, but all have their warts. Teams are intelligent enough to know that spending nine figures on players who aren’t true difference makers really isn’t that smart. Think about the case of Mike Moustakas, as an example. I figured he’d get a contract in the neighborhood of five years and somewhere around $90 million or maybe even more. But why give him that contract when home runs are being hit by everyone and you can find a player worth two wins above replacement for far less money? I feel like so many teams are so much better at identifying young talent now that they can find a guy to provide that kind of value relatively easily. That’s not to say that the myriad of other reasons listed aren’t legitimate, but I really believe you can add that one to the list.
- And now your weekly Eric Hosmer update. I talked about this on 810 on Thursday, but with what I just said in mind, I sort of wonder if maybe Hosmer isn’t more valuable and better served on a team like the Royals or Padres. While he hit a robust .318/.385/.498 in 2017, he really hasn’t ever been that guy to put an offense to the next level. Rather, his role as a guy you can plug in the middle of the order and who can stand in front of his locker after every game might have more value to a team with young players coming up, theoretically in droves. Having Hosmer on the roster allows for young players to ease into life both on and off the field and not have to be the guy from day one. Maybe the Cardinals see him as the last piece of the puzzle, but he isn’t worth more than five years and, say, $85 million, but as someone who can protect young players and help to usher in the next era of winning baseball in a rebuilding city, maybe that’s actually worth more to a team. I don’t think it’s outlandish to think there is a benefit from having that presence on the roster and if that helps to develop a couple of the role players that help on the next playoff team, his value does go beyond his statistics. I’m not saying I’d give Hosmer $20 million per year for seven years, but I could definitely see the argument that him and players like him are, in fact, better served on that sort of team.