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Kansas City Royals Rumors
Though the Royals are coming off their best season in nearly three decades, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that the team will soon need to turn its focus to some difficult offseason decisions. Industry expectations, according to Martino, are that the Royals will at least listen to trade offers for its more expensive players — including Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas — if other teams come calling this winter. Gordon’s case is the most pressing, as he’s only controlled through 2015 at $12.5MM before he has a $12.5MM player option. Gordon has publicly stated that he plans to exercise that option, though it’d be a surprise, to say the least, considering he could be in line for a much more sizable long-term commitment next offseason if he turns it down. Martino also notes that the Royals will have interest in re-signing Nori Aoki this offseason. From my vantage point, the team needn’t feel pressure to move any of the three previously mentioned players, though I’ll cover that at greater length in the upcoming Royals Offseason Outlook.
For the time being, here’s more on the AL Champs and the rest of their division…
- The Royals are expected to decline their $12.5MM option on designated hitter Billy Butler in favor of a $1MM buyout, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The move isn’t exactly unexpected after the down season he had at the plate. However, Heyman adds that the team may look to pursue Torii Hunter, as they did seven years ago, in the event that Aoki signs elsewhere as a free agent. The Kansas City Star’s Andy McCullough also hears that Butler’s option is likely to be declined.
- The Twins‘ front office flew out to Torey Lovullo’s home in California to conduct their second interview with him on Monday this week, tweets Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com, but there’s still been no decision reached as to who will be the team’s next manager. Lovullo and Paul Molitor are believed to be the favorites.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski spoke candidly to reporters, including Matthew Mowery of the Oakland Press, about the team’s lack of financial flexibility this offseason. Said Dombrowski: “We have the most generous owner in baseball you could possibly have in sports. But we’re in a situation where $200 million payrolls aren’t what is common here. … It’s a situation where we’re really in a spot that if you’re going to have four starters being paid and you’re going to have a couple superstars in the middle of your lineup, that means there’s not as much availability to do some other things. And you have to determine what you’re going to do.”
Here are the latest minor moves from around the league…
- The Reds have outrighted corner infielder Neftali Soto, per the MLB.com transactions page. Soto, 25, has had two brief big league stints but has spent most of his time since 2011 at the Triple-A level. The third-round pick out of Puerto Rico owns a .270/.323/.410 slash over 1,328 plate appearances at that level.
- In his latest Minor League Transactions roundup, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports that the Reds have outrighted Trevor Bell to Triple-A Louisville, and the right-hander rejected the assignment in favor of free agency. The 28-year-old Bell allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning at the Major League level this season and has a 5.57 ERA in 116 1/3 big league innings between the Reds and Angels. Bell has a lifetime 4.93 ERA in 199 Triple-A frames.
- Perhaps of greater note to Reds fans is that Eddy also notes the signing of Australian catcher Jake Turnbull. As Steve Butler of the West Australian reports, Turnbull, 16, signed for a six-figure bonus and fielded offers from six MLB clubs before signing with Cincinnati. He will play in a pair of Australian leagues this winter, including the professional Australian Baseball League, where he’ll join the Perth Heat — the reigning league champions. Turnbull will then head to the U.S. to begin his pro career next spring.
- Among the other notable names mentioned by Eddy is right-hander Clayton Mortensen, who re-signed with the Royals after posting a 4.74 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 76 innings with Triple-A Omaha this season.
- MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports (via Twitter) that the Brewers will re-sign Taylor Green to a minor league deal. Green, 27, has been with the Brewers since the 2005 draft but hasn’t reached the Majors since receiving a look in 2011-12. He batted .207/.266/.343 in 154 plate appearances with the big league club and owns a career .299/.371/.485 batting line at the Triple-A level.
Here’s the latest news on the Twins’ hunt for Ron Gardenhire’s replacement…
- The Twins have had no contact whatsoever with Maddon, reports Berardino, whose report indicates that expected cost may be a factor. A source in Maddon’s camp tells Berardino that the former Rays manager would have welcomed the interest but would probably be looking for a team with a clearer route to competing in the near term.
- Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo had his second interview with the Twins today, according to Derek Wetmore and Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Lovullo’s first interview went well, and past rumors had seemingly narrowed Minnesota’s choices down to Lovullo, Paul Molitor and Doug Mientkiewicz.
- New market addition Joe Maddon is not in the mix for Minnesota, the report adds. Molitor seems to be the favorite for the job at this point, per Wetmore and Wolfson.
- The Twins have yet to ask the Royals for permission to interview bench coach Don Wakamatsu, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. It could be that the Twins have already decided upon the aforementioned finalists, or they could simply be waiting until Kansas City’s postseason run is over.
After last night’s Game Five loss, the Royals have now faced a 3-2 deficit in all three of the franchise’s World Series appearances. In 1980, K.C. was eliminated by the Phillies in Game Six and in 1985, the Royals (who were actually down 3-1) came back to defeat the Cardinals and win the Series. While we wait for Tuesday night’s game, here are some items from Kansas City…
- Top Royals prospect Kyle Zimmer has left the Arizona Fall League with a shoulder issue and will see Dr. David Altchek, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. MLB.com ranks Zimmer the No. 2 prospect in the Royals organization and the No. 47 prospect in the game. Baseball America, meanwhile, ranked Zimmer No. 26 overall in its midseason list. Zimmer had opened eyes in the AFL, with ESPN’s Keith Law writing (Insider-only) that Zimmer and the Pirates’ Tyler Glasnow were the best pitching prospects he’d seen. Zimmer missed most of the 2014 season with shoulder troubles, so his current issues aren’t new.
- The Royals heavily pursued Carlos Beltran last offseason and offered the veteran slugger a three-year deal with a fourth-year option, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Kansas City’s offer would also have paid Beltran more than the $45MM he received from the Yankees on a straight three-year deal. (Last winter, ESPN’s Buster Olney noted that state tax differences between Missouri and New York would’ve meant Beltran would’ve taken home more money with the Royals’ contract, even if the total dollar value was less than $45MM.) In the end, however, Beltran ended up signing with the Yankees because, in part, he playing for a big-market team would help his chances for the Hall of Fame.
- Royals hitting coach (and former Cubs manager) Dale Sveum is still interested in managing, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “I’m not holding my breath. It’s just the nature of the beast,” he says. “If somebody calls, they call.” Sveum says he doesn’t worry about having lost the Cubs job now that he’s in the World Series with Kansas City. “It definitely doesn’t hurt,” he says. “We all do this for this, no matter what capacity you’re in.”
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe details the challenges faced by the Braves and Dodgers this offseason. John Hart and Andrew Friedman differ in age, style, and substance, but they face similar roadblocks. Here’s more from Cafardo..
- Scouts who have seen pending free agent James Shields over his career feel he’s changed from a fastball/changeup pitcher to a fastball/cutter pitcher. At one time his changeup was unhittable and the cutter, which has now taken over, is hittable at times. Shields is still effective but there is some bewilderment over his repertoire.
- Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle will be made available in a trade, though his $19MM contract will be a deterrent unless the Jays are willing to assume part of it. Still, he seems more tradable than knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
- Cafardo expects Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist to draw a lot of trade interest this offseason. In fact, new Dodgers boss Andrew Friedman might want to reunite with him in Los Angeles.
- The White Sox would love to move John Danks, but the $28.5MM owed to him over the next two years will be a deterrent to teams. Meanwhile, pitching coach Don Cooper still believes Danks, who has lost some of his heat, could become the second coming of Buehrle and pitch effectively in the mid-to-high 80s.
- The Twins haven’t asked Torey Lovullo for a second interview yet, but he also hasn’t been told he’s out of the hunt.
The Rays operate on one of the tightest budgets in baseball, but relief could be within sight, writes Cork Gaines of RaysIndex.com. The team’s television contract is set to expire following the 2016 season. While Tampa Bay has a reputation for poor fan investment, they actually draw a strong viewership. Based on recent television deals, Gaines finds a roughly linear relationship between viewership and annual payment. That would put the Rays in line to earn about $80MM to $100MM per season, a large increase over their current $20MM payment. One cautionary outlier is the Twins, who earn just $29MM per season despite a viewer base that would suggest a $80MM yearly return. Gaines noted that ownership stakes were not factored into the analysis.
- Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon might not be the only Rays stakeholders ready to abandon Tampa Bay, reports Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Despite the impending television deal, owner Stuart Sternberg has discussed a possible relocation to Montreal with potential Wall Street investors. Montreal drew over two million fans four times during the Expos tenure. Tampa Bay has not reached that milestone since their inaugural season. To me, it seems like Sternberg is attempting to improve his leverage in stalemated talks with St. Petersburg, but there is some question about the Tampa area’s ability to support a major league franchise.
- As we prepare for Game 4 of the World Series, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com notes starter Jason Vargas almost didn’t end up with the Royals. Vargas was expected to return to the Angels who coveted a stable veteran presence in their rotation. However, Kansas City was willing to guarantee a fourth year, which was a sticking point for the Angels. Vargas is quoted as having made the decision for his family, although I’m sure he’s quite pleased with how the first year of his contract turned out. Good luck to him in tonight’s contest.
Hendriks, 25, threw 19 1/3 frames for Kansas City after being acquired from the Blue Jays in a mid-season deal. On the year, Hendriks tossed 32 2/3 innings if 5.23 ERA ball, striking out 6.3 and walking 1.9 batters per nine and posting a more favorable 3.84 FIP.
Over parts of four seasons in the bigs, Hendriks has worked to cumulative 5.92 ERA over 188 2/3 total innings. In nearly 400 Triple-A innings in his career, however, Hendriks has allowed 3.19 earned per nine.
The Royals have claimed outfielder Moises Sierra off outright waivers from the White Sox, according to MLB.com’s Scott Merkin (Twitter link). Additionally, the Sox have outrighted outfielder Michael Taylor to Triple-A Charlotte.
The move comes at a somewhat unexpected time for the Royals, who are in the midst of the World Series, but Sierra will add to the team’s outfield depth for the 2015 season. The 26-year-old batted .276/.311/.417 with a pair of homers in 135 plate appearances for the White Sox this season after they claimed him on waivers from the Blue Jays. Sierra has played mostly right field in his career, and while defensive metrics didn’t like his work with the Blue Jays, both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating gave him positive reviews in a small 372-inning sample this season. Sierra has less than two years of Major League service and can be controlled through the 2019 season if Kansas City sees fit.
Taylor, 28, at one time ranked as high as the No. 29 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America, but his career stalled after a few promising seasons at the Triple-A level. Taylor was one of three players, along with Travis d’Arnaud and Kyle Drabek, traded by the Phillies to the Blue Jays in exchange for Roy Halladay. Toronto traded him to Oakland for Brett Wallace (another top prospect who ultimately did not pan out), who eventually flipped him to the White Sox in a minor deal for right-hander Jake Sanchez. Taylor is a career .167/.254/.216 hitter in 114 big league plate appearances, though he sports a .278/.369/.441 batting line at Triple-A.
With these moves, Chicago’s 40-man roster is down to 37, Merkin notes.
Sad news today out of Chicago, as longtime White Sox scout Paul Provas passed away from brain cancer at age 63. As Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports, Provas had been scouting for the South Siders since 1993 after doing the same for the cross-town rival Cubs dating back to 1983. MLBTR extends its condolences to his family and friends.
Here are the day’s news and rumors out of the American League:
- Left-hander Joe Beimel would love to return to the Mariners, and the team has expressed interest in re-signing him as a lefty specialist, reports Greg Johns of MLB.com in his latest Mariners Inbox. The veteran southpaw made the club after signing a minor league deal and posted a 2.20 ERA in 45 innings. Beimel’s 5.0 K/9 leaves something to be desired, but he was a legitimate weapon against lefties. Beimel held same-handed hitters to a .188/.217/.288 batting line. Sabermetric stats such as FIP (3.18) and xFIP (2.96) both approved of his work against left-handers, though he was well north of 5.00 in each stat when facing righties.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Marius Payton of CSN Houston that top prospect Carlos Correa‘s rehab is considered complete at this point (h/t: Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter). Baseball America’s No. 3 midseason prospect saw his season come to an end prematurely due to a broken leg, but he was impressive when on the field, hitting .326/.415/.510 with six homers and 20 steals in 62 games at Class-A Advanced.
- Even as the Royals are gunning for a World Series title in 2014, thoughts inevitably must drift at times to the future. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders whether starter James Shields may present a double-edged sword with his history of huge innings totals: on the one hand, those innings show his durability; on the other, they act as an arm odometer. Then, of course, there is the matter of his increasingly poor postseason track record.
- Kansas City faces tough decisions as it ponders its amazing late-inning arms, Sherman adds. Wade Davis and Greg Holland might combine for a $15MM tab next year, with further increases for 2016. GM Dayton Moore said the team can fit those salaries, but also indicated that he already is thinking about how things will play out in the long run. “Yes, in the immediate, it works,” he said. “We can make that fit. But we do have to analyze our roster from an economic standpoint every year.”
- Meanwhile, former Royals GM — and current Red Sox VP of player personnel — Allard Baird tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he looks back fondly on his time in Kansas City and is pleased with the club’s run of success. As Cafardo notes, Baird’s time resonates in the current roster, as he drafted players like Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Zack Greinke (who was later flipped for several current key roster pieces) during his time at the helm.
Prior to last night’s three inning, five run meltdown, Mike Petriello of FanGraphs examined why Royals ace James Shields has failed to live up to his “Big Game” moniker. In a detailed analysis, Petriello discovered Shields’ pitch selection has changed in the postseason and his cutter has been less effective. However, and as Petriello notes repeatedly, it’s hard to draw conclusions from such a small sample of innings.
- Shields is a popular subject today. WEEI.com’s Alex Speier wonders if Shields’ postseason non-performance will result in a lower free agent price tag. His reputation for October excellence is undeserved – he has the third highest ERA among 65 starters with 10 or more postseason starts. Speier does note that Barry Zito and Edwin Jackson signed rich free agent contracts following lousy postseason performances. The limited market for starters should keep Shields in demand, even if teams are wary of his late season contributions. If anything, this improves the positions of Max Scherzer and Jon Lester.
- The status of Rangers hitting instructor Dave Magadan and pitching coach Mike Maddux should be determined within the week, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Per comments from GM Jon Daniels, the future of Magadan and Maddux depends on comfort. New manager Jeff Banister will need to be “confident in how they see the game, in how they communicate with players and who he feels he can lean on.” Magadan is expected to meet with Banister today.
- After viewing MLBTR’s arbitration estimates for the Yankees, NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty takes a look at who might be tendered. Francisco Cervelli ($2.5MM projected salary), Ivan Nova ($3.3MM), Shawn Kelley ($2.5MM), David Phelps ($1.3MM), and Michael Pineda ($2.1MM) are the five he believes will return. Kuty believes David Huff ($700K) and Esmil Rogers ($1.9MM) may be non-tendered. My own opinion: while the Yankees may seek to replace Huff, there isn’t an urgent need to cut his near-league minimum salary. However, Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues notes that Huff could be the odd man out if New York needs a 40 man roster spot. Rogers does seem to be an easy non-tender choice.