- The Royals have formally named Dale Sveum their new bench coach and Mitch Maier as their new first base coach, GM Dayton Moore tells reporters (Twitter links via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan). Former first base coach Rusty Kuntz will remain with the organization but will have a new, yet-unspecified role. Sveum’s promotion means that the Royals will be in the market for a new hitting coach in addition to a new pitching coach following the decision to part ways with Dave Eiland.
Royals GM Dayton Moore has been mentioned repeatedly as a theoretical candidate to join the Braves’ front office. But he largely dismissed any such notion in comments today to MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan (Twitter link).
Moore, who has run Kansas City’s baseball operations since 2006, said that continuing on in that role is “doing what I’m supposed to be doing.” He also heaped praise upon Royals owner David Glass, saying he “adore[s] Mr. Glass and the opportunity he has given us.”
Needless to say, it doesn’t sound as if Moore has much interest in considering a new opportunity in Atlanta. The Braves are in need of a new GM after John Coppolella was forced to resign amidst an international signing scandal — the full fallout of which remains to be seen.
There were indications that Moore could at least consider the GM position — or, perhaps more likely, a move to replace Braves president of baseball operations John Hart at the apex of the baseball ops department — despite the success he has found with the Royals. (See here and here.) After all, Moore’s ties to the Braves run deep: he broke into pro ball with the organization and ascended to an assistant GM position there before leaving for K.C. And the Royals are entering what looks to be a transition phase after finally reaching the promised land in 2015.
Perhaps there’s still some room for a change of heart after today’s comments. But Moore surely said what he did for a reason — presumably, that ongoing speculation isn’t helpful as the Royals prepare for an important offseason. He was addressing the team’s future today, after all, when he announced that Dale Sveum will serve as bench coach while Mitch Maier will coach first for the organization next year. (Twitter links via Flanagan.)
- Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star welcomed former Royals beat writer Bob Dutton onto his podcast this week, and the two discussed a wide variety of topics, including several looks back to the Royals of the early 2000s. Royals fans will want to check out the entire podcast, but the portion that takes a retrospective look at some historic Royals trades undoubtedly will have a broader appeal to all baseball fans. Dutton recalls details of the trades of Royals stars Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye and provides an inside look at each of those deals. Perhaps most notably, he recounts the story of Beltran, with whom the Royals had reached a tentative agreement on a three-year deal that never came to fruition after it was presented to ownership. That spring, the Royals and Rangers were discussing a swap of Beltran for Michael Young and Hank Blalock when Beltran suffered an oblique injury, per Dutton. It’s a fascinating look back in transaction history, and I’d recommend a full listen to any who read this. This also makes for an appropriate place to wish Dutton the best in his retirement from the beat; Dutton provided outstanding coverage of the Royals for years before joining the Mariners’ beat with the Tacoma News Tribune earlier this decade. I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting him in person but have admired his excellent work for years. Best wishes to Bob from those of us at MLBTR.
We’ve heard varying suggestions on just how much money soon-to-be free agent Eric Hosmer may be seeking, or may command, on the open market. That’ll all be sorted out when the negotiations start in earnest, but it’s fun to begin thinking about it now.
We’re now just a few weeks away now from the start of free agency, after all. First, the Royals will issue a qualifying offer — which will be at a $17.4MM rate. Hosmer, inevitably, will reject it, making him a free agent just weeks after his 28th birthday.
By now, Hosmer’s broad profile is well-known. The former third overall draft pick played in all 162 games this year, slashing a robust .318/.385/.498 and banging 25 home runs for the second consecutive season. That’s quite a bit more than he has produced previously, though Hosmer has had other solid seasons at the plate.
The question teams will be asking is whether there’s reason to believe that Hosmer can maintain that level of output. He rode a .351 batting average on balls in play in 2017, steadily outpacing his .316 career rate. And Hosmer has stayed within the same general K/BB range as ever, while continuing to put the ball on the ground over half the time. His hard-hit rate dropped below thirty percent for the first time since his debut season. When he did put the ball in the air, it went out of the park over twenty percent of the time for the second consecutive season, though it’s still fair to wonder whether that’s sustainable.
There are other factors, too, of course. Hosmer is no longer a double-digit annual stolen base threat and hasn’t always drawn strong reviews from baserunning metrics. Likewise, defensive metrics have never matched his generally positive reputation with the glove. In these areas, perhaps, Hosmer’s reputation outpaces what some of the numbers say — as a result, he hasn’t even yet cracked 10 fWAR over his career — although these are among the most controversial areas of sabermetric analysis.
Perhaps the most interesting concept, though, is the idea that Hosmer delivers value that outpaces his direct, on-the-field contributions. Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star just published an interesting, though eminently arguable look at the evident position that super-agent Scott Boras intends to take on the matter this fall. Most intriguingly, Boras is said to be readying for an attempt at quantifying the ways in which Hosmer’s halo adds value by producing “a metric on intangibles.”
Mellinger cites an executive that thinks Boras will be looking for something like $20MM annually on a decade-long term. That’s quite an ask for a first baseman with the stat line of Hosmer’s — particularly in a day and age when a far superior hitter such as Edwin Encarnacion can only get $20MM over three years (albeit at a significantly older age) and with a number of other quality bats available in free agency.
Plenty of less-than-amazing batters have taken down big money over long terms, though typically such players were expected to deliver significant value in the field and on the bases. Jason Heyward, for example, got $184MM over eight years (plus two opt out opportunities). But Heyward was only 26 and was one of the game’s most valued defenders. Oh, and he also carried a lifetime 118 wRC+ to that point — clearly superior to Hosmer’s 111 wRC+ career mark, though the latter did have the bigger offensive platform season.
We aren’t going to get a sneak peek at Boras’s binder. But Mellinger lays out the broad case for Hosmer to out-earn his prior productivity:
But consider this. The Royals built their success, in large part, on intangibles. How much did they talk about clubhouse friendships, of bonds formed in the minor leagues, and of the joy they found in playing for each other?
For argument’s sake, let’s assume that was overstated, and that the parade happened because of athleticism and relief pitching more than anything else. But you can’t have watched the Royals’ rise without believing the other stuff had a part in it, too. The resiliency in the comebacks, the consistent performance in the biggest moments.
The Royals had a parade because of these things, the team welcoming in record attendance and interest.
Shouldn’t the players be rewarded, too?
Do you buy that? Even a little? How do you value it? And how do you value the stat line you expect Hosmer to put up? Rolling it all together, just how much will he be worth on the open market? (App users can click here for the poll.)
Within his latest AL Notes column, FanRag’s Jon Heyman writes that Royals GM Dayton Moore doesn’t appear to be going anywhere despite rumors about him possibly taking over the Braves’ front office. Moore, who cut his teeth in the front office world as a Braves exec, has been an oft-rumored replacement for John Coppolella in Atlanta following his resignation as general manager.
In other Royals news, the team is planning to give a qualifying offer to center fielder Lorenzo Cain, though the team hasn’t firmly decided on that option just yet, per Heyman. It seems like a no-brainer in my view. Despite the fact that Cain will be 32 next season, he hit .300/.363/.440 season at the plate with15 homers and swiped 26 bases while playing elite center-field defense in 2017. The Royals undoubtedly expect Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to reject QOs, so the minimal risk of Cain accepting would hardly put an exorbitant strain on payroll, though it’d limit their maneuverability for the remainder of the winter. Cain should be able to shatter that mark even with draft compensation attached to him. Heyman also notes that hitting coach Dale Sveum will now be the team’s bench coach, replacing the departed Don Wakamatsu. As such, the Royals are on the hunt for a new pitching coach and a new hitting coach to step into Sveum’s spot.
- The Braves were leaning toward a managerial change before last week’s scandal with now-former GM John Coppolella, Heyman reports. Internal candidates Bo Porter and Ron Washington, both former big league managers, were the leading candidates to take over the dugout, and Heyman writes that one of the two would “likely” have been handed that job. Instead, Brian Snitker will keep his post. Meanwhile, with Moore likely to remain loyal to the Royals, some candidates that are “in the mix,” per Heyman, include former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, former Marlins general manager Dan Jennings and current Nationals assistant GM Doug Harris.
- Royals catching instructor Pedro Grifol is an early candidate to become the Tigers’ next manager, Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweets. Grifol has served in that position since 2014. He also has experience as a major league hitting coach (Royals, 2013-14) and a minor league manager (with low-level Mariners affiliates from 2003-05 and in 2012)
Here’s the latest baseball news from the Show Me State…
- Of all the Royals’ big free agents this winter, Eric Hosmer seems to be the team’s top priority, and Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star looks at what would need to happen for the team to re-sign the star first baseman. In short, Hosmer’s market would need to be much softer than expected, which would allow the Royals to stay in the bidding — the scenario would be akin to how K.C. was able to bring back another homegrown star in Alex Gordon two years ago. Realistically, the Royals need both Hosmer to find a thin market and for him to be willing to accept a slight discount on his asking price, and “even internally, club officials acknowledge this is unlikely,” Mellinger writes.
- Should Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas all leave in free agency, the club “would effectively be admitting a rebuild” by having to rely on internal options or lower-tier free agents to fill the holes, Mellinger notes. On the other hand, GM Dayton Moore “would never commit to a virtual tank” in the fashion of the Astros, Cubs, or White Sox. Instead, Mellinger suggests that the Royals could try to stay competitive enough in 2018 to take advantage of a weakened AL Central, such as how the Twins gained a surprise wild card berth this season.
- If the Royals are hoping for a cooler market for Hosmer, they could be helped by the fact that so many big-market teams are already set at first base, ESPN’s Buster Olney observes in his latest subscription-only column. The Red Sox and Yankees could use upgrades at first but are both looking to get under the luxury tax threshold, while the Angels would probably only be in the Hosmer mix if Justin Upton opted out of his deal. One intriguing scenario Olney floats (based on just his own speculation) is the Cardinals trading Matt Carpenter and signing Hosmer as the everyday first baseman. This move would, on paper, address the Cards’ wish to be more athletic and better defensively, though it should be noted that the Defensive Runs Saved and UZR/150 metrics have actually presented Hosmer as a below-average defender over the last two seasons.
- “Whether it’s the bullpen or the lineup, the Cardinals stated goals for 2018 are fortify and simplify,” Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes in an overview of the team’s offseason plans. The roster was often in flux last season thanks to injuries, some unexpected dropoffs in performance and some new faces earning increased playing time, so the Cardinals are planning on more lineup stability next year. There hasn’t been any consideration given to a rebuild, as the Cards feel they have both the money and farm system depth to stay competitive while remaking the roster at the same time.
- Clubhouse issues and a lack of fundamentals plagued the Cards all season, as Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch argues that the team needs to re-commit to its Cardinal Way mantra. Some players were annoyed by a “lackadaisical atmosphere” inside the clubhouse throughout the season, though a players-only dinner arranged by Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright in early August served as a good wakeup call for the team.
- Royals GM Dayton Moore will only head to Atlanta if the Braves give him complete control, according to Cafardo. That jibes with a previous report from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale and suggests that president John Hart would have to exit for a Moore-Braves union to come to fruition. Hart isn’t planning on leaving, however, Cafardo reports. Two members of the Nationals’ front office – assistant GM Doug Harris and the previously reported Dan Jennings – as well as ex-Red Sox GM Ben Cherington (now in Toronto) are on Hart’s radar as he seeks a replacement for John Coppolella, Cafardo relays.
Via Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, Royals GM Dayton Moore details the elements of an uncertain offseason for Kansas City. The organization will go “one of two ways”, according to Moore. The first option is obvious; the club could choose to “gut the team” in a complete teardown, saving money and going for high draft picks. But Moore does detail an ambitious alternative: trying to retain their free agent stars. “Everybody assumes that we are just going to just get blown away in free agency, and we don’t have a chance,” he tells Dodd. “They may be right, but I think everybody felt that way about Alex Gordon at the time. That fell back to us. You just never really know.” Indeed, there are rumblings that one of the Royals’ biggest offseason priorities will be to retain star first baseman Eric Hosmer. But with the 2017 Royals’ payroll setting a franchise record for the fifth consecutive year while delivering a losing season, Moore does make one blunt concession. “It’s very clear to us that we need to get younger and more athletic. We’re going to continue with that mindset as we go forward into the future.”
More from baseball’s central divisions…
- Ken Rosenthal details the elements of a bittersweet postseason for Reds scouting director Chris Buckley in a piece for The Athletic (subscription required and recommended). Seven players originally signed by the Reds are currently playing October baseball with the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, including infielders Didi Gregorius and Justin Turner. While the presence of former Cincinnati signees gives Buckley a clear rooting interest, it also evokes painful memories of the two scouts he lost to cancer in recent years.
- David Waldstein of the New York Times tells the fascinating story of how superstar infielder Jose Ramirez first came to the Indians. According to Waldstein, Ramon Pena (then an international scout for Cleveland) attended a three-game showcase in the Dominican Republic largely to gawk at invitees Jorge Alfaro and Martin Peguero, but noticed Ramirez playing with surprising confidence and determination. During a subsequent telephone call with a local trainer who represented the players, Pena was focused on trying to sign Alfaro. When he learned that Alfaro was asking for $1.5 million, the conversation shifted to Ramirez. Pena eventually talked the trainer down from $300,000 all the way to $50,000. After an agreement was in place, however, Pena was unable to gather the papers required for Ramirez to play in the United States, so he sat out the 2010 season and instead spent the year working out at the Indians’ facility in Boca Chica. The team managed to get Ramirez’ papers in order in time for the 2011 season, and Ramirez sped through the minor leagues, making his MLB debut just two years later.
In a strongly worded piece, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports hammers the Red Sox ownership for being too strict regarding the luxury tax threshold. According to Drellich, many in Boston believed that Edwin Encarnacion would be the replacement for franchise icon David Ortiz. Instead, the Indians got him on a contract that many consider to be a bargain. Meanwhile the Red Sox finished 27th of 30 major league teams in total home runs, and 20th in wOBA. That hasn’t changed in the postseason, as they’ve been outscored by the surging Astros 16-4 so far in the ALDS. Now the Red Sox are in an 0-2 hole heading back to Boston for Game 3, and their offense faces a daunting task in trying to defeat Houston in three straight games. “The Sox’ greatest stumble this year might have been over a pile of cash,” Drellich writes. The article provides a harsh criticism of the Red Sox ownership and is certainly an interesting read.
More from around the AL…
- The Baseball America Twitter account took us back in time this morning by tweeting out an article J.J. Cooper wrote about the Royals back in 2011. With Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas all set to hit free agency (among others), it’s fair to wonder whether Kansas City’s window of contention has closed, so it’s certainly fun to take a nostalgic look back at BA’s assessment of a farm system that was stacked with so much talent. The Royals, of course, ended up going to the World Series in both 2014 and 2015, coming away with a title in the latter year.
- Twins center fielder Byron Buxton left the Wild Card game early with an injury that was initially described as “upper back tightness”. But according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, Buxton was trying to play through a cracked rib. Berardino’s source tells him that the injury is unlikely to affect Buxton’s offseason training program. Buxton hit .300/.347/.546 with 11 homers and 13 stolen bases in the second half, and is under team control through the 2021 season.
- The seven-year, $161MM contract given to Chris Davis has been disappointing for Orioles fans so far, Rich Dubroff of pressboxonline.com writes. Indeed, Davis missed significant time in 2017 with an oblique strain and was barely above replacement level when he was in the lineup. Dubroff points out some absolutely horrific stats, such as Davis’ 42.8% strikeout rate and that he went 1-for-53 after reaching an 0-2 count, striking out in 42 of those at-bats. A resurgent Davis would certainly be helpful to a Baltimore club that plans to contend next year, so the O’s will surely be hoping he can return something closer to his 2013 and 2015 production.