A few weeks ago, the Royals broke camp trying to bring Eric Hosmer back to the team but with the idea that if he said no, they could commit to the inexperienced players at the positions vacated by him, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. Fast forward to today and the Royals now have veterans at all three positions and look to have a stronger lineup because of it. I’ll get to those moves in a minute in the notes as to whether I believe they’re prudent or something else, but as far as the 2018 team is concerned, I think it’s fair to say they are better today than they were when they broke camp. Will it matter? I wouldn’t guess it will. But hey, the Royals have actually made moves to improve, right or wrong, and that’s encouraging on some level, I think.
- Bringing Moustakas back at that price ($5.5 million in 2018 with $2.2 million incentives and a $1 million buyout on a mutual option) was probably pretty darn hard for the Royals to turn down. There’s been a lot made about what Moustakas isn’t, and that makes sense if you’re talking about it him in regards to a massive, multi-year contract, but he didn’t sign that. He will earn a maximum of $8.7 million in 2018. That’s roughly the value of a win. In his career, he’s been worth about two WARP per 130 games played. Yes, that’s an arbitrary number and he reached some higher numbers earlier in his career due to good defense that may not exist anymore, but it would be very difficult for Moose to not at least earn his paycheck. He’s projected to be worth 1.3 WARP in 2018, so the money is absolutely right. The money has been right for all three veterans they’ve brought in since spring started. From a value standpoint, the Royals are absolutely doing the right thing with all of these players. The money isn’t the entire value for Moustakas as the Royals are giving up a pick that’ll likely be right before the third round, but even so, it works as long as he stays healthy. Let’s be clear that health is no sure thing, but even so, this deal works as far as dollars per win.
- The news of Moustakas signing broke right before I was about to get on a plane to come home, so I had some time to think about it and I still can’t decide if this move shows they don’t have faith in Cheslor Cuthbert or if it was just too good of a value for them to pass up. Let’s ignore the deal for Jay because they didn’t really have any young center field possibilities outside of Bubba Starling. Signing Duda and Moustakas have made it so both Hunter Dozier and Cuthbert will likely be in the minors and in a bench role respectively. It’s not such a big deal with Dozier because Duda is really inexpensive and there are no emotional ties, so if Dozier is hitting in AAA, the Royals should be able to easily walk on Duda. But Cuthbert now has to suffer through another season as a reserve infielder at best, which he showed in 2017 was certainly not his best role. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I think Cuthbert is a star, but we’ve all said time and time again that now is the time to find out what the Royals have. Do the additions of these players make the Royals a playoff team in 2018? I find that unlikely. The offense will certainly be better and more watchable, but there are still a ton of questions on this team. Sure they could surprise, but if you could predict that, it wouldn’t be a surprise. The argument is that these players can be flipped at the deadline for something of value, and they absolutely could, but let’s remember the return for J.D. Martinez at last year’s deadline. And then let’s remember the market for these guys now. They might get a flyer who pans out, but unless they go absolutely bonkers, I don’t see the return for any of them being that great. I just don’t love the “they’re great for trading at the deadline” argument because of that.
- Now to get to some of what I saw while I was at spring training, I have to say that I came away incredibly disappointed with most of the players who I was excited about. I was really looking forward to Burch Smith and Brad Keller, the two Rule 5 guys, but neither one showed much of anything. Smith got lit up and showed a fastball that wasn’t nearly what I had hoped it would be. I talked a bit about Keller the other day, but he just didn’t seem even remotely ready or really even hideable on the roster all season. I was hoping to see Donnie Dewees show me what he showed in the few times I saw him during 2017, but he didn’t impress. And then on Wednesday, Nicky Lopez had about the worst 10 minutes possible. On first base with the bases loaded and two outs and the Brewers unable to do anything right, Lopez ended up going too far off first and getting the runner on third thrown out at home. Then he made an error to open up the next inning which led to a frame that put the game out of the Royals reach. I feel like I’ve said this a million times, but I know it’s just spring training, and yet, I still found myself disappointed. The big league club looked pretty decent in the few innings per game they played, but the guys who followed sure make it look like the minor league seasons will be bleak.
- And finally, I never talked about the Ricky Nolasco signing, which broke while I was in Arizona. If you follow me on Twitter, I almost had a meltdown over it before realizing it was a minor league deal. There is no minor league deal that is bad as depth is always so important. All that said, I sincerely hope that this is truly only a depth move because even with Jesse Hahn going down and maybe being out for awhile, I can think of at least eight pitchers who I’d rather see start games for the Royals and maybe more than that. His work with the Angels after coming over from the Twins in 2016 was really good, but he regressed back to being objectively horrible in 2017. There is certainly value in the innings he could provide, but, again, I’d rather see any number of pitchers throw those innings. I don’t want to get too worked up over a minor league deal, but I just wanted to say I really, really hope he doesn’t get significant innings in 2018.