The Royals are prepared to keep reliever Kelvin Herrera if someone doesn’t offer “a huge haul” for him, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. Kansas City seems poised to begin a rebuild in 2018, which is Herrera’s last year of team control – two factors that make him a potential trade chip. Now doesn’t seem to be the ideal time to demand a major return for Herrera, though, considering his numbers trended in the wrong direction in 2017. After recording a 2.75 ERA with 10.75 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 in 72 innings in 2016, Herrera pitched to a 4.25 ERA and posted 8.49 K/9 against 3.03 BB/9 across 59 1/3 frames last season. The 28-year-old also saw his swinging-strike percentage plummet from 15.2 to 11.5, even though he continued to offer imposing velocity.
We’ve covered a whole lot of arbitration deals today, many of them reached before today’s deadline to exchange filing figures. Some other agreements have come together after team and player submitted their numbers. It’s still possible, of course, that these situations will be resolved before an arbitration hearing becomes necessary. (At this point, we seem to lack full clarity on teams’ approaches to negotiations after the filing deadline. And most organizations make exceptions for multi-year deals even if they have a file-and-trial stance.)
Some situations could even be dealt with in short order. As things stand, though, these unresolved arbitration cases could turn into significant hearings. (As always, MLBTR’s 2018 arbitration projections can be found here; you will also want to reference MLBTR’s 2018 arbitration tracker.)
- Mookie Betts, Red Sox: expected to go to hearing, per Alex Speier of the Boston Globe; Betts filed at $10.5MM, Boston countered at $7.5MM (per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag, via Twitter)
- George Springer, Astros: did not settle, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter); Springer filed at $10.5MM, Houston countered at $8.5MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Ken Giles, Astros: did not settle, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter); Giles filed at $4.6MM, Houston countered at $4.2MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Collin McHugh, Astros: did not settle, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter); McHugh filed at $5.0MM, Houston countered at $4.55MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Jonathan Schoop, Orioles: Schoop filed at $9MM, Baltimore countered at $7.5MM (per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, via Twitter)
- Kevin Gausman, Orioles: Gausman filed at $6.225MM, Baltimore countered at $5.3MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays: Stroman filed at $6.9MM, Toronto countered at $6.5MM (per Nightengale, via Twitter)
- Roberto Osuna, Blue Jays: Osuna filed at $5.8MM, Toronto countered at $5.3MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Jose Iglesias, Tigers: Iglesias filed at $6.8MM, Detroit countered at $5.6MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Avisail Garcia, White Sox: Garcia filed at $6.7MM, Chicago countered at $5.85MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Trevor Bauer, Indians: Bauer filed at $6.525MM, Cleveland countered at $5.3MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Jake Odorizzi, Rays: Odorizzi filed at $6.3MM, Tampa Bay countered at $6.05MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Adeiny Hechavarria, Rays: Hechavarria filed at $5.9MM, Tampa Bay countered at $5.35MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Scooter Gennett, Reds: expected to go to hearing, per Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer; Gennett filed at $5.7MM, Cincinnati countered at $5.1MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Eugenio Suarez, Reds: expected to go to hearing, per Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer; Suarez filed at $4.2MM, Cincinnati countered at $3.75MM (per MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, via Twitter)
- Shelby Miller, Diamondbacks: Miller filed at $4.9MM, Arizona countered $4.7MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Kyle Gibson, Twins: Gibson filed at $4.55MM, Minnesota countered at $4.2MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- J.T. Realmuto, Marlins: have not agreed to terms, per team announcement; Realmuto filed at $3.5MM, Miami countered at 2.9MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Dan Straily, Marlins: have not agreed to terms, per team announcement; Straily filed at $3.55MM, Miami countered at $3.37MM (per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, via Twitter)
- Justin Bour, Marlins: have not agreed to terms, per team announcement; Bour filed at $3.4MM, Miami countered at $3MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Brandon Maurer, Royals: have hit stalemate, per Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com (via Twitter); Maurer filed at $3.5MM, Kansas City countered at $2.95MM (per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, via Twitter)
- Felipe Rivero, Pirates: Rivero filed at $2.9MM, Pittsburgh countered at $2.4MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Kendall Graveman, Athletics: Graveman filed at $2.6MM, Oakland countered at $2.36MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Justin Grimm, Cubs: Grimm filed at $2.475MM, Chicago countered at $2.2MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Mike Foltynewicz, Braves: Foltynewicz filed at $2.3MM, Atlanta countered at $2.2MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Zack Wheeler, Mets: Wheeler filed at $1.9MM, New York countered at $1.5MM (per Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, via Twitter)
- Other tendered players who have not yet reportedly agreed to terms: Yolmer Sanchez, White Sox; Brad Hand, Padres
The deadline for MLB teams to exchange salary arbitration figures with their arbitration-eligible players is today at 1pm ET. As such, there will be a veritable flood of arb agreements piling up in the next few hours — especially in light of a more universal approach to the “file and trial” method for teams. (That is to say, those teams will no longer negotiate one-year deals after arb figures are exchanged and will instead head to a hearing with those players, barring an agreemenr on a multi-year deal.)
Note that you can keep an eye on all of today’s deals using MLBTR’s 2018 Arbitration Tracker, which can be filtered to show only the results of the team you follow and is also sortable by service time and dollar value of the agreement. All projections that are referenced come from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz’s annual compilation of projected arbitration salarie
American League West
- The Astros and Evan Gattis agreed to a $6.7MM deal for 2018, per FanRag’s Robert Murray (Twitter link). A free agent next season, Gattis lands within $100K of his $6.6MM projection. The club also has deals (for values unknown) with starters Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., and Brad Peacock, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle tweets.
- The Rangers agreed to a $1.05MM deal with infielder Jurickson Profar, tweets Murray. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, meanwhile, tweets that lefty Jake Diekman landed a $2.7125MM deal and righty Keone Kela will earn $1.2MM. Profar had been projected at $1.1MM and is controllable another three seasons. Diekman, a free agent next winter, was projected at $2.8MM. And Kela, still controlled for three more years, matched his $1.2MM projection on the dot.
- The Athletics and closer Blake Treinen agreed to a $2.15MM deal for next year, tweets Murray. The A’s can control Treinen for another three years. He was projected at $2.3MM. Shortstop Marcus Semien has settled for $3.125MM, Heyman tweets; his $3.2MM projection was nearly spot-on. Oakland has announced that it has avoided arbitration with Liam Hendriks and Josh Phegley as well, but their salaries have yet to be reported.
- The Angels have a one-year, $7.3MM agreement in place with right-hander Garrett Richards, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter link). Richards, a free agent next offseason, tops his $7MM projection by a margin of $300K. The Halos have also avoided arb with first baseman C.J. Cron ($2.3MM) and left-hander Tyler Skaggs ($1.875MM), tweets USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. Cron’s total falls a ways shy of his $2.8MM projection, while Skaggs comes in just $25K south of his $1.9MM projection. Both are controllable through the 2020 season. Lastly, Murray tweets that Matt Shoemaker agreed to a $4.125MM deal. He’s controlled through 2020 and projected at $4.4MM. Fletcher also tweets that the club has agreed with righty J.C. Ramirez ($1.9MM salary vs. $2.6MM projection) and lefty Jose Alvarez ($1.05MM salary vs. $1.1MM projection). Finally, righty Cam Bedrosian has agreed at $1.1MM, Flecher tweets, which represents a payday close to his projection of $1.2MM.
- Left-hander James Paxton will earn $4.9MM with the Mariners in 2018, tweets Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. Murray tweets that the Mariners and David Phelps agreed to a $5.55MM deal. Paxton, controlled through 2020, projected to earn $5.6MM, while Phelps was pegged at $5.8MM. He’s a free agent next winter. Righty Erasmo Ramirez took a $4.2MM deal, MLB.com’s Greg Johns reports. That’s half a million shy of what the model suggested. Fellow right-hander Nick Vincent also has an agreement, but the terms aren’t yet known.
American League Central
- New lefty Luis Avilan has agreed to a $2.45MM deal with the White Sox, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports via Twitter. The recent trade acquisition came with a projected $2.3MM price tag. Fellow southpaw Carlos Rodon will receive $2.3MM, a bit of a bump over the $2MM he projected to receive. Also, utilityman Leury Garcia gets $1.175MM, which is just $25K short of his projected value.
- The Royals and righty Nate Karns agreed to a $1.375MM deal for 2018, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reports (on Twitter). That lands within $25K of his $1.4MM projection for the coming season. Kansas City controls Karns through 2020. Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports (via Twitter) that Kelvin Herrera will earn $7.9375MM in 2018, landing a bit shy of his $8.3MM projection. Herrera is a free agent next winter.
- The Indians have a $5MM agreement with righty Danny Salazar, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets. He had projected to earn just $200K more, this falls right in line with expectations. Cleveland also agreed with Lonnie Chisenhall on a $5.5875MM deal, tweets Nightengale. The third baseman-turned-outfielder, who was projected to earn $5.8MM, will be a free agent following the 2018 season.
- Trevor May has a $650K agreement with the Twins for the 2018 season, according to Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. May, who missed the entire season due to Tommy John surgery (and did some writing for MLBTR during his rehab process), had been projected at $600K. The Twins also agreed to a $1MM deal with infielder Ehire Adrianza, per La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune. Meanwhile, righty Ryan Pressly has agreed to a $1.6MM deal, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Both deals are identical matches with their projections. Adrianza has three years of team control remaining, while Pressly has two. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets that outfielder Robbie Grossman settled at $2MM, leaving him $400K shy of his projection. Grossman is controlled for another three seasons.
- Tigers third baseman/outfielder Nick Castellanos will earn $6.05MM, per Heyman (via Twitter). He had projected at a much heftier $7.6MM in his second-to-last season of arb eligibility. MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports (Twitter links) that the Tigers and right-handed reliever Alex Wilson settled at $1.925MM, while fellow righty Shane Greene will earn $1.95MM. Wilson was projected to earn $2.1MM, while Greene was at $1.7MM. Wilson is controlled through 2019, while Greene is under control through 2020.
American League East
- The Yankees have knocked out some of their biggest arb cases, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (Twitter links). Shortstop Didi Gregorius receives $8.25MM and righty Sonny Gray checks in at $6.5MM. The former had projected to earn $9.0MM while the algorithm was just $100K high on the latter.Backstop Austin Romine will earn $1.1MM, Heyman also tweets, which is also $100K below the projection. Righty Adam Warren and the Yankees have a $3.315MM deal, per Murray (Twitter link). This is Warren’s final season of eligibility before hitting the open market next winter. He’d been projected at $3.1MM. Meanwhile, fellow right-hander Dellin Betances has agreed to a $5.1MM deal, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). That’s just $100K more than Betances had sought last year, when he took his case to a hearing that he ultimately lost. But it’s quite a bit more than the $4.4MM he projected to receive after a subpar season in which he played at a $3MM salary.
- The Red Sox have agreed to pay $8.5MM to southpaw Drew Pomeranz, per Alex Speier of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). That’s short of the $9.1MM that had been projected after Pomeranz turned in a productive 2017 season. Boston and Jackie Bradley Jr. settled at $6.1MM, tweets Murray. That’s a bit north of the $5.9MM at which he’d been projected for the upcoming season. Bradley Jr., a Super Two player, has another three seasons of club control remaining. Nightengale tweets that righty Joe Kelly ($3.6MM projection) agreed to a $3.825MM deal. He’ll be a free agent next winter. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez ($2.375MM salary vs. $2.7MM projection) and righty Brandon Workman ($835K salary vs. $900K projection) are two other Sox hurlers that have agreed to terms, Speier reports (Twitter links). On the position player side, catcher Sandy Leon falls a bit under his projection $1.95MM (via Speier, on Twitter) while utilityman Brock Holt just beats expectations at $2.225MM (per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, on Twitter). The team also agreed with shortstop Xander Bogaerts for $7.05MM, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston tweets, which comes in a bit shy of his $7.6MM projection. Boston also announced agreement with backstop Christian Vazquez, who’ll earn $1.425MM, per MLB.com’s Ian Browne (via Twitter). That’s just under the projection of $1.5MM.
- The Blue Jays and righty Aaron Sanchez agreed to a $2.7MM deal for 2018, according to Nightengale (Twitter link). That crushes his $1.9MM projection, which was likely suppressed due Sanchez’s lack of innings (just 36) in 2017. He’s under Jays control through 2020. Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, meanwhile, tweets that second baseman Devon Travis will make $1.45MM next year, falling a bit shy of his $1.7MM forecast. Other Toronto players agreeing to terms include Kevin Pillar ($3.25MM vs. $4.0MM projection) and Dominic Leone ($1.085MM vs. $1.2MM projection), MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm tweets.
- The Rays and closer Alex Colome settled at $5.3M, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (on Twitter). He’d been projected at $5.5MM and is controllable for three more years. They also settled at $5.95MM with outfielder/DH Corey Dickerson ($6.4MM projection) and $4.5MM with infielder Brad Miller ($4.4MM projection), per Murray (all Twitter links). Steven Souza, according to Murray will earn $3.55MM, placing him right in line with his $3.6MM projection. Dickerson and Miller are controlled through 2019. Souza is controlled through 2020.
Meanwhile, Kansas City will pick up righty Trevor Oaks and infielder Erick Mejia in the deal. The White Sox will end up with veteran relievers Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan, the former from the Royals and the latter from the Dodgers. Kansas City is sending $1MM to the White Sox, the Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd tweets. Chicago will also receive $2MM from the Dodgers, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter).
For the Royals, meanwhile, this is mostly about shedding salary obligations. The club will move all of Soria’s $9MM salary for 2018, while covering the $1MM buyout on a 2019 mutual option. While doing so will entail parting with a quality, affordable young reliever, the team will at least pick up some prospect assets as well.
[RELATED: Updated Royals Depth Chart]
9:43am: Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star reports that the Royals have not made an offer worth $147MM over seven years to Hosmer, though they remain interested in re-signing him. Mellinger’s report doesn’t specifically refute the length of the offer or that one has been made. Nightengale did stress in yesterday’s report that the length of the offer was confirmed by at least one “high-ranking” member of the Royals, though it’s certainly possible that the overall guarantee has been overstated.
Jan. 4, 9:20am: Boras dismissed Nightengale’s numbers as “inaccurate” when speaking to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required and highly recommended), though he offered no further detail beyond that point. Rosenthal agrees with Nightengale’s assessment that Hosmer is seeking a larger contract both in length and total guarantee, noting that Hosmer is younger than the bulk of free agents that have received contracts of seven or more years in length.
Jan. 3, 1:25pm: San Diego’s offer is at seven years but has not reached $140MM, a source tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (via Twitter).
8:25am: The market for Eric Hosmer appears to be heating up, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today. He cites sources “close to Hosmer” that say the first baseman has received nine-figure offers from both the Padres and the Royals.
San Diego, per the report, has dangled a seven-year deal at a healthy $140MM price tag — about $20MM more than had previously been suggested. But the incumbent Kansas City club is said to have topped that bid with a contract that would include a $147MM guarantee. Notably, Nightengale says he was able to confirm the length of the proposed contract terms with both organizations.
Entering the offseason, MLBTR predicted that Hosmer would only be able to secure a six-year guarantee at a $132MM price tag. That said, we noted that the 28-year-old was seeking more and could drive bidding northward if he found a few organizations that placed a particularly high value on his services.
It seems that’s just what has happened, as Hosmer is now evidently sitting on two appealing offers from two small-market teams that aren’t even expected to contend in 2018. The Royals, of course, are quite familiar with the first baseman and obviously feel his value outstrips the assessment of measures such as wins above replacement. And it seems that’s an opinion shared by the Pads, who must see Hosmer as a potential building block for a young roster that’s expected to bloom in the coming seasons.
For Kansas City, bringing back the team’s core star would not necessarily mean pushing the pedal down for 2018. Rather, the club has indicated throughout the winter that it’ll be drawing back payroll and looking to reload. But such a move would surely impact the team’s overall planning for the coming seasons and might impact its willingness to trade longer-term assets such as Danny Duffy.
Meanwhile, the Padres — whose interest has long been known — would clearly need to bump Wil Myers back into the outfield to make room for Hosmer. Making this deal might also mean dealing away some other assets to make the roster work, though again a signing wouldn’t necessarily be accompanied by other win-now moves. San Diego did recently pick up a short-term veteran at shortstop in Freddy Galvis, though that move is hardly a committing one and the team has mostly endeavored to fill its gaps with low-cost signings. It’s doubtful the organization would drastically alter its timeline in other areas, though certainly adding such a significant salary to the payroll would have a major impact on the options moving forward.
Notably, Hosmer is not just assessing which of these two contracts to take at this point. Rather, Nightengale says that Hosmer and his agent, Scott Boras, are “seeking at least an eight-year or nine-year deal.” Whether or not there’s further room for those offers to grow is not immediately clear, and it’s not entirely evident whether any other teams will enter the bidding in earnest. (The Cardinals have recently been suggested as having ongoing interest, though.) Regardless, it seems that Hosmer is in position to secure a massive contract that meets or exceeds most expectations.
After an extended run at or near the top of the American League Central, the Royals have watched much of their vaunted core hit the open market. What remains in Kansas City, beyond the everlasting title of 2015 World Series champions, is a collection of fairly expensive veterans and a larger group of unproven young assets. The Royals appear destined for a rebuild, joining their AL Central brethren in Detroit and on the south side of Chicago in that regard.
While there aren’t all that many top-shelf trade chips, GM Dayton Moore and his staff do have some commodities that they can market to other clubs as an alternative to the stagnant free-agent market.
Kelvin Herrera, RHRP (projected arbitration salary of $8.3MM): Herrera is coming off the worst season of his career, having struggled to a 4.25 ERA as he watched his K/9 (8.5), BB/9 (3.0) and HR/9 (1.37) all trend in the wrong direction. That said, Herrera’s average fastball checked in at 97.5 mph, tying him for 10th among all qualified relievers in the game. His 11.5 percent swinging-strike rate and 34 percent chase rate on pitches out of the zone were both down from recent seasons but comfortably above the league average. He’s still just 28 years old, as well.
Joakim Soria, RHRP ($10MM through 2018, including buyout of a 2019 mutual option): Unlike Herrera, Soria saw virtually all of his rate stats improve in 2017. While his 3.70 ERA looks fairly pedestrian, his 2.23 FIP and 3.16 SIERA are more indicative of the success he enjoyed as his K/9 (10.3), BB/9 (3.2), HR/9 (0.16), ground-ball rate (54.8 percent) and swinging-strike rate (13.2 percent) all looked better than they did in a lackluster 2016 season. Soria will turn 34 in May, and he’s not cheap at $10MM, but he can help the back of a contender’s bullpen.
Jason Hammel, SP ($11MM through 2018, including buyout of a 2019 mutual option): Hammel is 35 years old and registered an ERA north of 5.00 last year, but his 4.37 FIP, 7.2 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 are all at least somewhat encouraging. He’s made at least 29 starts in each of the past four seasons, so a team looking for durable innings in the fifth slot of its rotation could do worse than lining up a deal for Hammel. It shouldn’t require much more than simply picking up the tab on his $11MM remaining salary.
Brandon Moss, 1B/OF/DH ($8.25MM through 2018, including buyout of a 2019 mutual option): Moss, 34, saw his production crater in 2017. The slugger hit just .207/.279/.428 and struck out in nearly a third of his plate appearances, though he did connect on 22 homers and walk at a solid 9.2 percent clip. Still, his struggles in ’17 make him a difficult piece to move right now — especially in a market that is once again rife with first basemen who come with longstanding platoon issues. If he rebounds in the first half, Kansas City shouldn’t have much trouble dealing him to a contender in need of a bench bat come July.
Two Years of Control
Brandon Maurer, RHRP (projected arbitration salary of $3.8MM): Maurer, 27, posted a sky-high 6.52 ERA last year, continuing a trend of delivering questionable bottom-line numbers despite more promising underlying metrics. Maurer averaged 96.6 mph on his heater and racked up a strikeout per inning with solid control. His 1.21 HR/9 mark was a bit high but not extraordinarily so — especially when considering the leaguewide uptick in long balls. But, Maurer stranded just 61.1 percent of the baserunners he allowed, and his career 64.9 percent mark in that category is demonstrably worse than the league average.
Danny Duffy, SP ($60MM through 2021): One of Kansas City’s most marketable assets, Duffy would be an upgrade for any rotation in the league. The 29-year-old has never crossed the 180-inning threshold in the Majors due to previous injuries and a stint in the K.C. bullpen, but he’s been very good since moving to the rotation on a full-time basis.
Over a span of 50 starts dating back to May 15, 2016, Duffy has worked to a 3.68 ERA with 8.7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 1.14 HR/9 and a 37.8 percent ground-ball rate. He’s signed affordably for another four years, and his contract only runs through his age-32 campaign, so interested parties needn’t worry about signing up for too many decline years. He’s not a Jose Quintana or Chris Archer style bargain, but Duffy should command a fairly substantial return in a trade.
Salvador Perez, C ($43.5MM through 2021): The notion of trading Perez likely causes most Kansas City fans to recoil, as the beloved backstop has emerged as one of the faces of the franchise. Few teams are actively looking for a new starting catcher, though Perez would be the type of player that clubs would make other moves to accommodate. That said, the Royals probably relish the notion of keeping Perez on hand to work with a wave of inexperienced young arms, and a trade doesn’t seem especially likely even if they do take off on a large-scale rebuild.
Whit Merrifield, 2B (pre-arbitration, controlled through 2022): Merrifield has enough club control remaining that there’s no urgency to move him, as he could very well be a part of the next contending Royals roster. The late bloomer broke out with a .288/.324/.460 slash in 2017 and led the AL with 34 stolen bases. He’ll turn 29 this month, though, so the Royals could be wary that he’ll be entering a decline once they’re closer to contending again. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal has reported that the Royals are willing to listen to offers on Merrifield.
Scott Alexander, LHRP (pre-arbitration, controlled through 2022): Rosenthal also noted that Alexander could potentially be had even though he, too, has five years of club control remaining. Alexander, 28, turned in an excellent 2.48 ERA in 69 innings last season, averaging 7.7 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and 0.39 HR/9 along the way. Lefties hit .240/.313/.317 against him, while righties mustered just a .250/.333/.347 line.
Ryan Buchter, LHRP (pre-arbitration, controlled through 2021): Buchter’s strikeout rate plummeted following a trade from the Royals to the Padres, as he began to throw fewer four-seamers and curveballs while substantially increasing his use of a cut fastball. The 30-year-old Buchter averaged better than 11 strikeouts per nine innings in a season and a half with the Padres, albeit with shaky control and extreme fly-ball tendencies. He’s been terrific against both lefties (.160/.255/.306) and righties (.179/.284/.339) to this point in his MLB career.
Jorge Soler, OF/DH ($12MM through 2020, may opt into arbitration once eligible): Acquired from the Cubs last offseason, Soler didn’t seize the limited opportunity he has in Kansas City last year. In 110 plate appearances, he batted just .144/.245/.258 with a pair of homers. However, Soler raked at a .267/.388/.564 clip in the minors, leaving some room for optimism that the former top prospect can still realize some of his potential at the big league level. There’s little reason for the Royals to sell low on him, given his affordable nature and relative youth (26 in February).
Salary Dump Candidates
Moving either Kennedy or Gordon would be a tall order and would almost certainly require the Royals to take on a similarly undesirable contract in exchange. Kennedy remains a durable source of innings — he’s made at least 30 starts in each of the past eight seasons — but his penchant for giving up home runs expanded to new heights in 2017 (1.99 HR/9, 5.38 ERA). Finding a taker for Gordon’s contract would be difficult enough in and of itself, but the Royals would also be wrestling with the notion of dumping the contract of a player that has long served as the face of the franchise. And, as a player with 10-and-5 rights (10 years of MLB service, the past five with the same team), he has full no-trade protection.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- The Royals went into the offseason hoping to re-sign maybe one of Eric Hosmer (their top choice), Lorenzo Cain, and Mike Moustakas, though the Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd wonders if the team could re-assess its plans given the unexpectedly slow free agent market. All three players are still available as the calendar turns to January, and in the cases of Hosmer and Moustakas, they seem to be running short on viable landing spots. Re-signing any of those free agents, however, would cost the Royals compensation draft picks, which are valuable assets for a team that is looking at a rebuild. Dodd notes that K.C. was able to re-sign Alex Gordon when his free agent market proved to be quieter than expected, though given how Gordon has struggled over the last two years, the Royals probably aren’t thrilled with that comp.
- There isn’t much action in Alcides Escobar’s market, leading MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan to write that the Royals could consider re-signing the shortstop as veteran depth behind Raul Mondesi. The Padres were the only team known to be interested in Escobar this offseason, and they’re now seemingly out of the shortstop market after acquiring Freddy Galvis. It would’ve been a tall order for Escobar to find a starting gig anywhere given his lack of offensive production, and if he did go anywhere as a backup, a familiar locale like Kansas City makes as much sense as any other destination.
- Also from Flanagan’s mailbag piece, the Royals have some uncertainty whether or not Luke Hochevar will continue his career. Hochevar missed all of 2017 after recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, and he also missed the entire 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery. Royals GM Dayton Moore said during the Winter Meetings that he hadn’t recently spoken to Hochevar about a possible reunion, though Flanagan wrote that the Royals would have interest in bringing him back. Hochevar just turned 34 last September and posted excellent numbers as a reliever in his last three active seasons.
Signing Mitch Moreland doesn’t take the Red Sox out of the market for hitting, president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski told reporters including Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. And adding another stick wouldn’t necessarily mean trading away from the current roster to create space, the club’s top baseball decisionmaker added. But it surely does not seem that Boston will sign another first baseman; rather, a DH/corner outfield bat seems the likeliest possibility.
- Boston’s decision seems to take it out of the market for Eric Hosmer, which has raised some eyebrows in Royals country. As Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star writes, there are still many barriers remaining to a return to Kansas City for Hosmer, including the possibility that agent Scott Boras will find a way to bring some new suitors into the picture. But keeping Hosmer in Royals blue for the future now seems more plausible than might have been expected when the organization began giving indication it would rebuild. Of course, even if that comes to pass, the general rebuilding plan will remain, the Star’s Rustin Dodd notes on Twitter.
- The Cardinals appear to be showing more interest in veteran Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson than in Manny Machado of the Orioles, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Nightengale posits that the club may believe it’s better situated to pursue a long-term deal with Donaldson — who’s much older than Machado, though both will hit the open market at the same time — which would increase his appeal. Of course, it’s important to bear in mind there’s still no real indication that Toronto will move Donaldson and the St. Louis front office has suggested recently that it’s not all that keen on giving up significant assets for a rental.
- While there has been some chatter recently connecting the Mets to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post says that possibility is not as likely as it has come to seem. Especially with Carlos Santana moving on, says Davidoff, the Indians are not particularly inclined to part with Kipnis’s contract for a marginal return. New York is trying to thread the needle in finding an upgrade at the position, with the organization concerned with giving up too much in salary or prospect value to make a deal. As the Post’s Joel Sherman writes, the Mets’ lack of top-end, marketable pre-MLB talent has posed an under-appreciated barrier to its winter activity.
- The Mets, of course, are also eyeing the addition of another option at the first base position. New York had some interest in Moreland, per the above-cited Cafardo piece. And as James Wagner of the New York Times tweets, the Mets intend at least to take a look at the newest entrant onto the open market: Adrian Gonzalez. The veteran will be looking to bounce back after a rough, injury-plagued 2017 season, though he could conceivably bring some upside at a very appealing price.