2007 Kansas City Royals

It wouldn’t be kind to ignore the Royals in my 2007 Team Outlooks.

Dayton Moore’s contract obligations:

C – Jason LaRue – $2.5MM
C – John Buck – $0.38MM
1B – Ryan Shealy – $0.38MM
2B – Mark Grudzielanek – $4MM
SS – Angel Berroa – $3.25MM
3B – Mark Teahen – $0.38MM
IF – Esteban German – $0.38MM
LF – Emil Brown – $1.775MM
CF – David DeJesus – $2MM
RF – Reggie Sanders – $5MM
OF – Joey Gathright – $0.38MM
DH – Mike Sweeney – $11MM

SP – Odalis Perez – $1.7MM
SP – Luke Hudson – $0.38MM
SP – Jorge de la Rosa – $0.38MM
SP – Runelvys Hernandez – $1.225MM
SP – Zack Greinke – $0.38MM

RP – Jimmy Gobble – $0.38MM
RP – Ambiorix Burgos – $0.38MM
RP – Todd Wellemeyer – $0.38MM
RP – Andy Sisco – $0.38MM
RP – Joel Peralta – $0.38MM
RP – Joe Nelson – $0.38MM
RP – Ryan Braun – $0.38MM
RP – Ken Ray – $0.38MM
RP – Brandon Duckworth – $0.38MM

Injured players:
SP – Scott Elarton – $4MM (recovering from August shoulder surgery, targeting June 1 return)

Departed players:
RP – Elmer Dessens – $1.7MM

I know I’ve listed 26 active players here, but I’m not sure which reliever isn’t a part of the 2007 Royals.  The team is going to take payroll to the $50-55MM range, a franchise record.  They’ve got about $38.5MM tied up, but Brown, Hernandez, Gobble, Duckworth, and Wellemeyer are all eligible for arbitration.  I’ll ballpark it at $15MM left to spend this winter.

This outlook reflects the current state of the roster, as if the season started tomorrow.  Here’s what could happen between now and Opening Day to change the picture:

– Moore finds a decent offer for Emil Brown at the winter meetings, freeing up left field for Mark Teahen.
Alex Gordon is starting at third by May and is the team’s best hitter.
– Injuries to Sweeney, Sanders, or both opens up playing time for German, Shane Costa, or even Billy Butler.
– At the very least, the Royals acquire one Tier 2 starter, perhaps pushing Hernandez to the pen.
– A veteran reliever is acquired, and a couple of the guys I’ve listed go to Omaha.

I just had to get that out of the way before jumping into a closer analysis.

The Royals aren’t paying much for LaRue, so hopefully they spin him into something decent before the trading deadline and turn back to Buck.  Why wouldn’t a team like this just stick with Buck?

The right side of the infield is pretty well set, and not too shabby.  Berroa is just awful at short, but it would take a sly trade by Moore to find a replacement.  Teahen is said to be the team’s third baseman at present, even with super prospect Alex Gordon nearly ready to launch.  One of the two will shift to an outfield corner this spring once Moore figures out how to unload one of Brown/Sanders.  Brown is obviously more marketable.

German probably fills the Chone Figgins role.  The outfield is pretty much in a complete state of flux, as any success by Gathright would push DeJesus to left permanently.  Teahen could play right with Butler as the DH of the future.  That’ll be fun, but Gathright could flop plus the Royals are still stuck with Sanders, Sweeney, and Brown at the moment.

The first three spots in the rotation appear penciled in as Perez-Hudson-de la Rosa.  De la Rosa is nobody’s idea of a #3, but hey, why not give him a good ten starts and a little security to work with. Everyone would love Greinke to succeed and to start, but we’ll just have to wait and see.  Elarton won’t return until June at the earliest.  Hernandez made more starts in ’06 than any current Royal, but he posted a 6.48 ERA.  He probably gets the boot once Moore brings in a free agent.

Those targets include Gil Meche, Miguel Batista, and former Royals Jeff Suppan and Mark Redman.  My money is on Batista unless Brown can bring in a comparable guy.

The bullpen will obviously not consist of all nine guys listed.  Nelson, Ray, Wellemeyer, Gobble, and Peralta are probably in.  One veteran Joe Borowski type will be imported as well.  The Denver Post reports that Octavio Dotel has received offers from three teams to close games; the Royals are one team in a position to make that offer.

With Moore in charge, Royals fans are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Shealy, Teahen, DeJesus, Gordon, and Butler make for a strong, affordable offensive core.  Moore will continue hoarding young pitchers; hopefully top pick Luke Hochevar‘s shoulder strain last month in the AFL was nothing serious.  For 2007, it would be ideal if vets like Brown, Sanders, LaRue, and Sweeney stay healthy and relatively productive to allow Moore to get some starting pitching back.    

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