Offseason Outlook: Kansas City Royals

The Royals will pursue pitching in the hopes that a deeper starting staff will result in the club's first winning record in a decade.

Guaranteed Contracts 

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Contract Options

Free Agents

The Royals haven't had an elite starter since they traded Zack Greinke to Milwaukee two winters ago. This offseason GM Dayton Moore will seek rotation help as Greinke hits free agency for the first time in his career. While the Royals aren't expected to be the high bidder for their former ace, they appear ready to spend on starting pitching.

Jeremy Guthrie - Royals (PW)

Unless they obtain rotation help, it'll be hard for the Royals to win more games than they lose. Royals starters completed 890 innings this past season, the third-lowest total in MLB. The team's starters combined for an ERA of 5.01 (26th in MLB) while ranking toward the bottom of the league in strikeout rate (6.5 K/9, 25th in MLB), walk rate (3.2 BB/9, 24th in MLB) and ground ball rate (41.7%, 30th in MLB).

To be fair, Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy missed most of the season with injuries and Jonathan Sanchez was far less effective than expected. But injuries limit just about every team, and general managers must create depth beyond the top five names on the pre-season depth chart. This winter the Royals could look to re-sign Jeremy Guthrie, who pitched well in his return to the American League, posting a 3.16 ERA in 14 starts. No one's going to mistake him for a top-of-the-rotation starter, yet there's value in players like Guthrie, as long as the financial commitment remains modest — say a short-term deal for no more than $7MM annually.

Luke Hochevar pitched himself into possible non-tender territory, posting an ERA of 5.73. No organization likes to give up on a former first overall pick, so Hochevar could be tendered a contract this offseason. He'd earn $4MM-plus if he's offered arbitration.

Regardless of what happens with Guthrie and Hochevar, the Royals have Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza, Paulino and Duffy in place for 2013. It'd be encouraging to see the team pursue a top-of-the-rotation option to supplement this group, and owner David Glass has indicated he's willing to spend to improve his team's rotation.

Greinke's name will no doubt surface, since the longtime Royals starter will be available in free agency. Other free agents, such as Kyle Lohse and Anibal Sanchez appear to intrigue Moore at a time that the rotation lacks anything resembling an ace. The free agent market will probably include familiar names such as Dan Haren and Jake Peavy and pitchers like Josh Johnson, Jason Vargas and Justin Masterson could be available in trades. David Price could be a tantalizing trade target, even though the Rays would inevitably ask for an elite young position player — Wil Myers perhaps? — in return for the 27-year-old who might be the top left-hander in baseball.

Conversely, the Royals' bullpen was a force in 2012. Not only did Kansas City's relievers pitch more innings than every team except the convention-defying Rockies, the group ranked sixth in ERA (3.17) and led MLB bullpens in wins above replacement (7.3 WAR, according to FanGraphs). This hard-throwing group (93.8 mph average fastball, third in MLB) is generally young and controllable, which means most of these arms will return. Still, every team should pursue relief help over the course of the offseason, since injuries inevitably occur and some players regress. Moore has also traded relievers such as Jonathan Broxton for prospects in the past, so surplus relief wouldn't necessarily be a problem.

Improbably, the Royals' bullpen pitched this well without a single inning from the team's most prominent reliever. Right-hander Joakim Soria missed the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and his status with the team now looks uncertain. Soria's contract includes an $8MM option and while he has said he would like to stay in Kansas City, $8MM would be too much for a small market team with bullpen depth to spend on a recovering reliever. Perhaps the sides can agree to a one-year contract with incentives and a low-base salary.

Though the Royals out-scored just two American League teams in 2012, their offense doesn't need as many changes as the pitching staff. In fact, the team's lineup seems to have breakout potential. Injuries limited Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez this past year, and both could play a full season in 2013. More production can also be expected from 22-year-old first baseman Eric Hosmer, who struggled at the plate despite lofty pre-season expectations. Plus, Myers, Baseball America's 2012 Minor League Player of the Year, could break camp with the club as its everyday right fielder (Jeff Francoeur could then be released or become a bench option for Ned Yost to use against lefties).

The pieces are in place at every position except one. Royals second basemen combined for a .256/.289/.359 batting line last year. Five players played the position ten times or more and four of those infielders — Irving Falu, Chris Getz, Johnny Giavotella and Tony Abreu — remain on the Royals' 40-man roster. Despite the array of internal options, I believe it'd make sense for the Royals to consider pursuing second base help this winter. The free agent market looks thin at second, but Moore could pursue a trade for a player such as Skip Schumaker, who's now being used off of the bench in St. Louis. The versatile Schumaker continues to get on base (.339 OBP this year), though he's a platoon bat who should be shielded from left-handed pitching. Trading for Schumaker would create depth without blocking 2010 first rounder Christian Colon.

The Royals' class of arbitration eligible players looks relatively modest this year, even if the club retains Hochevar. Getz, Blake Wood, and Brayan Pena project to have affordable salaries in 2013, so they're expected to return in supporting roles (Wood missed the 2012 season to undergo Tommy John surgery). Should Moore continue to pursue extensions for his young players, Mike Moustakas could be next in line. The pre-arbitration eligible third baseman hit 20 homers in 2012, his first full season.

The Royals have enough above-average players in place to surprise people in 2013. But major improvements don't happen by accident. One recent example, the Nationals, didn't contend until they made meaningful upgrades to their rotation. It's hard to imagine that Kansas City's path to contention will be much different.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

41 Responses to Offseason Outlook: Kansas City Royals Leave a Reply

  1. Jack Hillyard 3 years ago

    “owner David Glass has indicated he’s willing to spend to improve his team’s rotation.”–It wouldn’t take much spending to improve the team’s rotation. In fact, more dumpster-diving could conceivably do that. He didn’t say he’d spend to get a #1 or #2. Personally, I am not optimistic the Royals rotation will improve much, given David’s and Dan’s DNA–to make a profit, seeing fans as someone to exploit in doing so.

  2. This team could be scary good with a decent rotation. I can’t see them spending what it takes on the free agent market to get all the rotation help they need, but I could see them making a trade or two, signing one good free agent SP and maybe another No 3, and patching together something decent. All that premium young talent is on the offensive side. Balance it out and you’ve got a legit contender.

    • Thomas Wilson 3 years ago

      Haren, Paulino, Duffy, Guthrie, Mendoza with Chen moved for salary relief would put them right in the thick of it for 2013

      • Moe Lester 3 years ago

        Duffy and Paulino won’t be back until June at the earliest. And I would have to think that right now the rotation looks like this: Guthrie(hopefully), Mendoza, Odorizzi, Sign Lohse, and then Smith.

    • Red_Line_9 3 years ago

      They might need to deal a premium bat for a premium young pitcher. Playing it safe is never going to get the job done in the Kansas City market. They don’t have time to let the young offense price themselves out of contention..thus repeating the cycle.

  3. rizdak 3 years ago

    However improbable, it would be pretty funny if they actually signed Greinke. But really, what FA ace would be persuaded to sign there? The best I can imagine is a Joe Blanton or Erik Bedard.

    • x man 3 years ago

      they need to trade for James Shields.

    • twentyfivemanroster 3 years ago

      I disagree. I think it was true just a couple seasons ago, but with the the offense and defense behind them I think a solid starter or two would really think hard about signing with the Royals. It’s not(nor should it be) the albatross team of a couple years ago that made Greinke want to get out.

  4. They’ve got to hire a voodoo priestess to help them shake off the curse before they do anything else. Signing Jonathan Sanchez seemed like a positive move but look what happened there. Complete disaster. The Royals front office seems to suffer the Midas touch in reverse.

    • Colin Christopher 3 years ago

      They signed Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur the year before that, and both of those guys had career years with KC, so maybe that reverse Midas touch isn’t completely true. Every team makes moves that don’t pan out.

    • Thomas Wilson 3 years ago

      Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francouer, Felipe Paulino, Jeremy Guthrie, Jonathan Broxton there are plenty of examples pointing some very nice signings(the Frenchy extension was a horrible Idea)

  5. Koby2 3 years ago

    With the history this team has shown in pitchers who have received Tommy John surgery, I wouldn’t expect Paulino or Duffy to throw in the majors before June at the earliest. Though with those two returning, with the possibility of Odorizzi maturing some more in the minors, the pitching depth could double from what the team had this past season, as long as they acquire two front-line starters. Anibal Sanchez is a good start, as well as someone like Edwin Jackson. If the Angels decline Haren’s option, he’d be a fun one to go for. Though, knowing how this front office works, they’ll trade for Scott Feldman and give Hochevar a $30 million deal and call it an offseason.

  6. burnboll 3 years ago

    Royals should really embrace their farm system once and for all and bring up a handful of young guys and let them get full playing time. It’s about time to roll the dice with the kids.

    Bringing up kids from the farm system is only a problem if you don’t give them playing time and only let them in as bench players.

    • Colin Christopher 3 years ago

      The Royals are already embracing their farm system and letting the young guys play. Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and about half the guys in their bullpen have all come up to win starting jobs in the last two seasons.

  7. Jwick22 3 years ago

    Really thought kc was going to be decent this year. maybe the can get a couple decent pitchers via free agency. With the new wild card in place maybe they will still be in it come the trade deadline and if so then trade for a front line starter.

    • $17867741 3 years ago

      Re-sign Gutherie. In his career thus far, Gutherie has pitched well in AL Central ballparks. The only weaknesses would be pitching in Progressive Field (Cleveland).

      link to

  8. Colin Christopher 3 years ago

    It seems somewhat of a stretch to say that Paulino and Duffy are “in place” for 2013. Duffy didn’t have his surgery until mid-June, and Paulino’s wasn’t until early July. I read somewhere that Paulino thinks he’ll be back by May, and I guess that’s possible, but it doesn’t seem like the Royals can bank on having both guys back until the All-Star Break.

  9. Otis26 3 years ago

    I would trade Myers for Shields in a second. No questions asked. My guess for the rotation next year coming out of spring training: FA/Trade Pitcher, Guthrie, Chen, Mendoza, and Smith/Odorizzi. Not that exciting really. Would be better to pick up two starters.

    • Jwick22 3 years ago

      im a braves fan but from what ive read on myers i think he gets u more than a james shields.

      • baseballstu 3 years ago

        absolutely. myers and one or two other prospects get you a david price.

        • johnsilver 3 years ago

          Tampa bay probably isn’t making any David price jokes. They are probably looking at a 2-3x increase in his pay via arbitration this winter, or 10-12m salary for 2013 and with 3 years of control left, price already informing them he has -0- interest in any LT deal??

          Another year of hammering Tampa like that (Lincecum money perhaps after 2013) and Tampa maybe moves him and loses some of the few fans they actually can get into the DumpsterDome.

          • Dynasty22 3 years ago

            Agreed with the first need to bash their fans though.

          • johnsilver 3 years ago

            Some local TB baseball fans would probably attend more games if they could leave and still hear after being bombarded with with cow bell noise from the few fans (Rays) that actually attend the games.

            That post didn’t come out of nowhere. NYY and Boston games? The rays draw 20k, anyone else and they draw 10k and that included their “fight” for a playoff spot this past season.

          • You definitely not following Price’s twitter, he has been saying all years that he wants LT deal with Rays. With new tv deal upcoming which will net them 70+m annually, Rays can extend him if they want. Plus Price’s projected salary for 2013 is around 7m.

          • johnsilver 3 years ago

            Twitter? *No* Thanks :-)

            As for 7m, as a Super 2 on 2nd year of arbitration eligibility and just made 4m+? Better rethink that 7m figure.. Lincecum got 14m and Price’s numbers blew away Lincecum’s.

            BTW: Price stated last off season in the TB Times/Tribune he was more than fine going year to year with a deal *unless* the Rays ante up. Price isn’t going to take a hometown discount.

          • You may need to search before you speak. Lincecum was 2 times Cy-winner when he headed to arb and his 1st arb was 9m while Price’s was 4m. If you seriously think Price will make 14m for arb2 from 4m this year then you know nothing about arb process. Better search how much Verlander made for his arb1 and arb2, and how similar was it comparing to Price.

            Price mentioned so many times in his interviews, either with TB times and/or Sun sports that he’s open to LT deal and publicly shown his complaint why the team is not locking him up with LT deal after Moore’s historic lopsided LT deal. I am sure he’s smart enough to know what Rays can offer and what they cannot. It probably means he’s willing to take a hometown discount deal because it is just that clear this franchise can’t throw him a market value deal.

  10. Red_Line_9 3 years ago

    Seems to me that Christian Colon is blocking Christian Colon

    • Chris 3 years ago

      Christian Colon had a good year.

      • Red_Line_9 3 years ago

        As a 23 year old in AA it was less than you’d expect from such a high pick. I just don’t think he’s a player you assume takes over a starting job in his career…he’s looking like a utility infielder…just saying that if they have the option of picking up a solid MLB 2B…they wouldn’t be blocking him the way K’aihue was with Hosmer.

  11. Red_Line_9 3 years ago

    Time for the Royals to turn some talent into a dominant young starting pitcher.

  12. 102win 3 years ago

    Listen up Dayton. Send Wil Myers and Chen (KC pays 1/2 salary) to the Rays for RHP James Sheilds, RHP Wade Davis and (A) RHP Jeff Ames. Tampa gets salary relief, so they can sign a couple bats. Royals then move Bubba Sterling and Chris Getz to The Reds for RHP JJ Hoover and SS/2B DiDi Gregorius.Then Sign Brandon McCarthy 2/14 mil and 2B J Keppinger 3/15 mil 2013: Shields, McCarthy, Hoover, Davis, Mendoza
    Lineup: Gordon, Escobar, Billy, Salvy, Moose, Keppinger, Hosmer, Cain, Lough
    Bench: Pena,Gregorius, Frenchy, Dyson
    Payroll around 75 million

    • Rays have the best rotation in baseball and they have about 7+ starters who would put up 3.00~4.00 era. Why would they want washed up Chen? It is a waste of rotation spot. Myers for Shields straight up does make sense, but Shields, W.Davis and Jeff Ames for Myers not going to happen.

      • 102win 3 years ago

        Chen would slide into Wade Davis’ current role, it would be to our benefit to have Chen as part of the deal. I think you are wrong about the Rays trade not adding up. We only get two years each out of Shields and Davis, the Rays need a power hitting OF who is cheap for 6 years. Also, they save about 8 mil that they could use on a couple 1B/DH types–also a huge need for them.

        • If Myers is a proven everyday player at MLB level then yes, but he is not. Hosmer used to have a higher offensive ceiling years ago and look how he hits now. So you are saying Myers’ value is equivalent to two years of 4.5+ WAR pitcher, 5 years of #3.5 type pitcher (W.Davis career ERA:3.94 FIP:4.28 in AL east, he was #17 prospect in baseball and now refining his secondary pitches. His slider and curve are legitimate plus pitches and if given chance as a starter again there is a big chance he can be more than #3) and a 1st round pick in 2011 who’s raking A ball with 1.96 era PLUS taking a bad contract of Chen? That won’t happen.

          • 102win 3 years ago

            2 years of Wade Davis. Remeber Wil is the #1 position prospect in baseball, and is a huge need for the Rays. This trade could allow Tampa to add three position players maybe something like: Myers, Berkman, Swisher for close to their current payroll.

          • Guest 3 years ago

            Wade Davis is locked up until 2017. Plus, Shields is not a money grabber and there is a plenty of chance Royals can extend him. I am not sure giving up 2+ years of 4-5WAR pitcher plus 5 years of #3.5 or decent setup man/closer guy plus a decent prospect in return for #3~5 prospect in baseball. And no, Profar is the #1 position prospect in baseball.

    • 102win 3 years ago

      Then after 2013, we sign Hunter Pence for 4/52mil. Payroll jumps to around 85, but we have a parade on the Plaza.
      2014: Shields, Hoover, McCarthy,Duffy,Lamb or Paulino (Wade Davis=long guy)
      Line up: Gordon, Pence, Hosmer,Billy,Moose,Perez,Keppinger,Cain,Escobar
      Yes WS Champs in 2014

  13. steveyea 3 years ago

    Sign Guthrie to a reasonable 2 year deal for about 7-8 per before end of WS, then sign Zack to come back to the small market team he loved, now that we have the young exciting offense, and then sign Anibail or Dan Haren or Jake Peavy to be a legitimate #2 starter, so you have Zack/Anabail or Dan or Jake, Guthrie, Mendoza and Chen, without trading Myers or any other offensive piece, and you can be patient until the Paulino/Duffy/Lamb elbow guys or Odorizzi force their way into the lineup, at which time you can bullpen guys or make fair value trades. Glass will be a spending hero at exactly the right time to start the new Royal’s dynasty, Dayton a hero GM to finally get it right for the major league team after already doing so well at the minor league level. Save $4 million by not keeping Hochevar, $3 million more if you can get anybody to eat half of Francoeur’s contract, another $3 million if Odorizzi proves worthy of the 5 spot and you can get anyone to eat half of Chen’s contract next spring. Glass will spend $30-40 million, 15-20 million for Zack, 7-8 for Guthrie, and 8-12 for Anabail or Haren or Peavy, but save $17 million off Hochevar, Francoeur, Chen, and Soria, for a net spend of $13-23 million, and the Royals will turn their last weak area into a strength. If you can get Soria to go incentive laden, do it, but otherwise, the Royals need three top starters more than they need another top reliever, and they need to do it without trading away Myers or any other of their current offensive starters, and they can do it without spending any money this year except on the starters. Cain/Dyson can cover CF, and Getz/Gio/Abreu/Falu can cover 2B/ utility spot okay, with either Lough or Abreu/Falu as extra bench man, and Piña or Moore as backup catcher if Brayan wants too much dough (he won’t).

    • Red_Line_9 3 years ago

      Milwaukee might be the small market team that Greinke loves.

    • Moe Lester 3 years ago

      Greinke isn’t coming back. Sanchez would be a nice pick up, and I hope we bring back Guthrie. Dropping Hochevar is an addition by subtraction.

  14. Red_Line_9 3 years ago

    No, that’s not really what I was saying. I was saying that acquiring a 2B wouldn’t be damaging the future at 2B for the Royals…the way going out and signing a 1B would have been for the Royals before Hosmer’s arrival.

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