With the World Series now in the books, we’re on to the offseason and that means the Royals have some massaging to do in order to make the 40-man roster one with, well, 40 or fewer players. There are currently 44 players on that roster including players on the 60-day disabled list and two free agents – Alcides Escobar and Jason Hammel. So with two easy decisions, the Royals need to cut at least two players and if they plan on adding anyone else from outside the organization, more than that. Let’s dig in.
The 60-day DL Guys
Jesse Hahn, Nate Karns, Cheslor Cuthbert and Jorge Soler all are currently not counting against the roster, but will be in short order. Soler, barring a trade, is sticking around. The other three all have a case for getting non-tendered. None are expected to make much, with MLB Trade Rumors projecting the three to make a combined $4.2 million or so, but two of the three didn’t even make a big league appearance last year and the third was anemic offensively for the second straight year before an injury lingered and kept him out.
If I’m running the show, I probably non-tender both Hahn and Karns and try to get them back on minor league deals. I think that might be the way the Royals go, but you really never know with them. They always march to a different beat. With Cuthbert, I’m probably cutting bait and just saying goodbye. While he’s younger than Hunter Dozier, he never showed the power that Dozier has and doesn’t have the positional flexibility. And both may be passed up soon anyway by some of the minor leaguers working their way through the system.
So with cutting bait on those three, the Royals could call it a day and be done for at least the time being as that would put them at 39 on the roster.
The Minor Leaguers Who Need to be Added
But that 39 number comes before players who need to be added to the 40-man to avoid being selected in the Rule 5 draft. The Royals have done a really nice job of knowing who they were likely to lose and not protecting those they aren’t, but there are quite a few decisions to make this year.
Nick Dini and Xavier Fernandez are both catchers who could be solid and might attract attention as big league backups right now. The Royals are so rich in catching that they really can’t afford to add them unless they make some cuts elsewhere. This won’t thrill people, but I’m guessing they don’t add Frank Schwindel either because they feel he’s a good risk to not be lost. D.J. Burt is eligible as well, and he’s a guy they may lose, but I just don’t see how they can use a 40-man spot on him either. The same is true for Donnie Dewees. They have plenty of fourth outfielder types, so if they lose him, oh well.
I believe there will be plenty of conversations about adding Jecksson Flores who broke out in 2018 at Northwest Arkansas and hit .314/.363/.440 while playing all over the field. Elier Hernandez also could get some consideration, though I think the Royals ultimately will risk losing him after he posted a sub-.400 SLG in both stops last season. The big questions are on the pitching staff.
Jonathan Dziedzic, Arnaldo Hernandez, Jake Kalish, Foster Griffin, Scott Blewett, Gerson Garabito, Ofreidy Gomez and Jon Perrin are all starters who are eligible for the Rule 5. Josh Staumont, Gabe Speier and Yunior Marte are all relievers eligible.
Hernandez, Blewett, Griffin and Staumont seem to me to be the likely pitching staff additions, and potentially Yunior Marte. The team likes Hernandez a lot while Blewett has had a fantastic AFL showing. Add them to Flores who I think gets the nod and that’s five new players and maybe even six if they do add Marte.
And now we’re back in trouble with 45 members.
The DFA Crew
So now it’s time to cut some players, and probably a lot of them, which means decisions the Royals don’t want to make will have to be made. To me, there are at least five obvious cuts to start. Bubba Starling, Paulo Orlando, Burch Smith, Brandon Maurer and Andres Machado can all be cut without even thinking twice. The Royals will likely think twice on all of them, but I think (hope?) they make the right call. That leaves questions on a few guys.
Ramon Torres had a similar rise to Flores, but took a big step back in 2018 and with Adalberto Mondesi and Nicky Lopez’s rise, the opportunities there for him are few and far between. I think he goes. Now we’re back in a situation where they could just stop, but it helps to have a little wiggle room, so I think they need to find one more cut. The easy answer is Ben Lively to me. He’s a depth guy and nothing more. That said, I wonder if they’d look at a DFA of Jason Adam with the idea that they could bring him back on a minor league deal. Either way, they’re down to 38, which is a good place to be for the moment.
I think it’s worth noting that Rosell Herrera may not make it through the spring, though I think he’s safe until at least then. The Royals may break camp with Lopez, and if they do, I think Herrera’s spot is the one to go and he’s out of options.
One other name to watch is Samir Duenez. He had a nice 2018 in Northwest Arkansas, hitting .279/.352/.464 and I really liked him as a prospect a couple years ago, but with Ryan O’Hearn hitting like he did in the big leagues and Nick Pratto coming on in the second half, Duenez might be in no-man’s land. I don’t imagine he loses his spot now, but his day of reckoning might be coming.
There’s really not much here that could clear a 40-man spot. Danny Duffy would have been a trade chip if he had a good season and/or was healthy, but neither really happened, so they’re not moving a guy at his lowest value, especially when they don’t want to move him anyway. They could flip someone like Jerry Vasto or Tim Hill to a team looking for a LOOGY, so that’s something to watch for. Or one of them could easily be let go as well, though I don’t really expect that.
Some would argue that Whit Merrifield should be in this list, and they might be right, but the odds the Royals trade him are so low that it’s not worth talking about. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but they’ll have to have their socks knocked off and it’s starting to get cold and they don’t want bare feet. I mentioned Jorge Soler earlier as well. Either he or Jorge Bonifacio could be moved, but the Royals need Soler’s potential and Bonifacio isn’t exactly coming off the best campaign to trade. I suppose it could happen, though, and that would open up another spot.
So that’s what the Royals are facing this offseason. It’s a lot of work for a team that isn’t likely to win more than 75 games and even that may be optimistic, but they’ll really have to work to massage this roster to get down below the 40-man and with so many fringe players, this might be a season-long struggle for them. But hey, at least it’s something to talk about!