While the expectation surrounding the Royals has been that they’ll have to reduce payroll in 2017 after a franchise-record $140MM mark in 2016 — GM Dayton Moore himself has recently suggested as much, in fact — team owner David Glass tells Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star that he hasn’t made a final determination on the payroll. Glass calls Moore a “very persuasive” general manager and said there’s no way of knowing where the payroll will stand due to the fact that there’s no way of knowing what the offseason will hold.
“I don’t know where we’ll end up,” Glass tells Mellinger. “…[W]hat we actually do depends on the opportunities we have, and none of us, including our general manager, know right now what we can do.” The roster impact of Glass’ apparent openness to continuing to spend at an aggressive level remains to be seen, but Mellinger reports that the Royals, as a franchise, actually lost at least $10MM overall in 2016.
As Mellinger points out, the Royals are facing a payroll increase even if they simply stand pat and let Edinson Volquez and Kendrys Morales depart via free agency. (Kansas City reportedly plans to buy out Volquez’s $10MM mutual option.) Indeed, the Royals will see a number of built-in contractual raises as well as numerous arbitration raises that will spike payroll. Alex Gordon’s salary jumps from $12MM to $16MM next season, and he’s hardly alone when it comes to escalating salaries. Ian Kennedy ($7.5MM to $13.5MM), Lorenzo Cain ($6.5MM to $11MM), Mike Moustakas ($5.6MM to $8.7MM), Chris Young ($4.25MM to $5.75MM), Joakim Soria ($7MM to $8MM), Salvador Perez ($2MM to $3MM), Mike Minor ($2MM to $4MM) and Yordano Ventura ($1MM to $3.25MM) will all see their guaranteed salaries rise. And, as we projected earlier this week, the Royals also stand to see substantial arbitration raises for Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera and Jarrod Dyson.
Kansas City does have some payroll coming off the books. In addition to Volquez and Morales, the Royals could see Luke Hochevar and Kris Medlen depart. And they have some non-tender candidates, including Tony Cruz, Daniel Nava, Tim Collins and Dillon Gee. Those subtractions, though, won’t offset the raises throughout the rest of the roster. That’s likely the reason that there are already rumors about the Royals trading closer Wade Davis, who is set to earn $10MM next year (once his option is picked up). However, Glass’ comments at least curb what appeared t be a foregone conclusion regarding payroll reduction.
As Mellinger writes, one creative way to manage the 2017 payroll to some extent would be to agree to backloaded extensions with Duffy and Herrera. Both the team and Duffy have expressed interest in a long-term deal before, and Mellinger writes that the plan is indeed to talk about an extension this winter. If that’s the case, the Royals could guarantee Duffy significantly less than his $8.2MM arbitration projection in 2017 and pay him at a higher rate in subsequent seasons of the deal — after some combination of Cain, Moustakas, Hosmer and Davis are off the books. A similar approach could be employed with Herrera, whom MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected to receive a healthy bump from $2.55MM to $5.3MM.
One party, in particular, may come away as the beneficiary of a potential payroll crunch in Kansas City, though, as FanRag’s Jon Heyman reports within his latest notes column that the team is unlikely to make a qualifying offer to Morales. The 33-year-old switch-hitter enjoyed a monstrous four-month stretch to close out the season, hitting .296/.357/.531 with 24 homers in 106 games en route to an overall line of .263/.327/.468 (and his first 30-homer season since 2009). However, the Royals believe there’s a good chance that Morales would accept the qualifying offer after rejecting one from the Mariners in 2013 and languishing on the free agent market until the following June.
While Heyman writes that in an ideal world, Kansas City would prefer to keep the slugging DH in 2017 and beyond, the Royals are also intrigued by the idea of a floating DH role that would allow Gordon, Moustakas (who had surgery to repair a torn ACL earlier this year) and Perez to get the occasional breather from the rigors of their daily defensive routines. Perez, in particular, strikes me as someone who stands to gain from that line of thinking, as he’s averaged a staggering 137.5 starts behind the plate per season dating back to 2013.