Kansas City Royals – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-03-21T02:25:16Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Royals Agree To Terms With Clay Buchholz]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117436 2018-03-19T23:10:13Z 2018-03-19T21:36:20Z The Royals have agreed to a minor-league deal with righty Clay Buchholz, a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today indicates (Twitter links). If the deal is finalized, Buchholz can earn at a $1.5MM rate in the majors.

Buchholz can also reach up to $250K in incentives. He’d earn $25K apiece for making his tenth through 19th starts, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. The contract also includes an opt-out opportunity on May 1st.

Kansas City seems like a good spot for the veteran hurler to attempt a comeback. After all, the team’s rotation is not exactly overflowing with depth and the Royals have good cause to seek some low-risk upside after adding a few veterans on one-year deals.

[RELATED: Royals Depth Chart]

Buchholz, 33, missed virtually all of the 2017 season with a partially torn flexor pronator mass. The Phillies had acquired him from the Red Sox and assumed his $13.5MM salary. (Boston had picked up its club option over Buchholz in the final year of control under the extension the sides agreed to back in 2011.)

It’s tough to say what the Royals will get out of Buchholz, who had plenty of ups and downs even before his injury. He compiled 113 1/3 innings of 3.26 ERA ball in 2015, then struggled for much of the ensuing season while showing declines in strikeouts (6.0 K/9) and groundball induction (41.2% groundball rate). Yet Buchholz also finished the 2016 season on a tear, running up 44 frames of 2.86 ERA ball to close out the year.

First, though, the veteran starter will need to earn his way back to the majors. Presumably, he won’t be a candidate for the Opening Day roster, given that he has missed almost all of camp. But Buchholz could present an option if and when a rotation need arises.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Wade Davis Helped Lead Justin Grimm To KC]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117317 2018-03-18T21:58:03Z 2018-03-18T21:57:51Z
  • Before reliever Justin Grimm signed with the Royals on Sunday, he consulted with his friend, former Cubs teammate and ex-KC closer Wade Davis, per Maria Torres of the Kansas City Star. Davis, a Royal from 2013-16 (and a World Series champion in ’15), offered glowing reviews for the franchise and the city, which helped the Royals reel in Grimm. “He had really nice things to say about the city of Kansas City, the organization, the training staff, the coaches, from the top down,” Grimm said. “That’s one guy that I look up to … It definitely swayed my decision.”
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Royals Sign Justin Grimm, Designate Sam Gaviglio]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117293 2018-03-18T20:05:16Z 2018-03-18T16:52:09Z 12:52pm: Grimm’s deal comes with a $1.25MM salary and up to $300K in performance bonuses, Rustin Dodd of The Athletic tweets. Those bonuses start at 30 games and max out at 55, per Jon Heyman of FanRag.

    12:25pm: The Royals have signed right-handed reliever Justin Grimm to a one-year, major league contract and designated fellow righty Sam Gaviglio for assignment, Maria Torres of the Kansas City Star reports. Grimm is a client of the Bledsoe Agency.

    It wasn’t a long stay in free agency for Grimm, whom the Cubs released on Thursday. The 29-year-old had been in line to collect a $2.2MM salary, but the Cubs saved most of that money (minus $541K in termination pay) in cutting him. They deemed Grimm expendable in the wake of a rough 2017 that saw him pitch to a 5.53 ERA/5.36 FIP with 9.6 K/9, 4.39 BB/9 and a 43.1 percent groundball rate across 55 1/3 innings. Grimm’s run prevention issues were thanks largely to a 22.2 percent home run-to-fly ball rate, more than twice the mark he logged in Texas and Chicago from 2012-16 (10.5).

    When Grimm was able to limit homers earlier in his career, he was a useful cog with the Cubs, particularly when he recorded a 1.99 with 12.14 K/9 during a 49 2/3-inning 2015 campaign. The Royals surely aren’t expecting that type of production on the heels of his ugly 2017, but last year’s version of Grimm still offered good velocity and an 11.4 percent swinging-strike rate. That mark fell right in line with the overall figure he put up during his four-year Cubs tenure (11.9). He’ll now be part of a Royals bullpen that’s set to feature a couple other established relievers seeking bounce-back years in Kelvin Herrera and Brandon Maurer.

    Gaviglio, 27, joined the Royals on a waiver claim from the Mariners last September. He closed the season by throwing 12 decent innings in Kansas City, where he allowed four earned runs on 13 hits and five walks, with nine strikeouts. Between KC and Seattle last season, his first in the majors, Gaviglio tossed 74 1/3 innings (16 appearances, 13 starts) and registered a 4.36 ERA/5.81 FIP with 5.93 K/9, 3.15 BB/9 and a 49.4 percent grounder rate.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Royals Set To Utilize Hunter Dozier At First Base At Triple-A]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117007 2018-03-15T21:17:51Z 2018-03-15T03:34:30Z
  • At one point, Hunter Dozier of the Royals had that kind of lofty billing. But the eighth overall pick of the 2013 draft has seen his star fade over the years. As MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan writes, the organization now seems to see Dozier mostly as a first baseman, which doesn’t necessarily boost his long-term value outlook as he prepares to open the season at Triple-A. That said, the organization is obviously focused primarily on finding a path for Dozier to contribute to the majors. That won’t happen out of camp, but the 26-year-old remains one of the Royals’ better-regarded prospects. Injuries robbed him of a full 2017 season, though he did impress with a .296/.366/.533 overall slash in the upper minors in the prior campaign.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Royals Still Interested In Adding Pitching]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116867 2018-03-13T02:21:23Z 2018-03-13T00:32:51Z The Royals would still like to add help in either the rotation or the bullpen, tweets USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, but their payroll is elevated to the point where they have very little room for further additions. As such, a reunion with still-lingering free agent Greg Holland seems “extremely remote,” Nightengale adds. Over the past couple of weeks, the Royals have signed Lucas Duda ($3.5MM), Jon Jay ($3MM) and Mike Moustakas ($6.5MM) in a late trio of additions, pushing their payroll up into the $122MM range.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Ned Yost: Royals Could Try Mike Moustakas At First This Spring]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116727 2018-03-11T17:41:46Z 2018-03-11T16:48:17Z
  • Royals manager Ned Yost told reporters Sunday that he’s considering giving third baseman Mike Moustakas some looks at first base this spring, though he hasn’t talked to the player about it yet (Twitter links via Rustin Dodd of The Athletic and Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com). If Moustakas actually does see action at first during the season, it could open up playing time for third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, Dodd points out. The re-signing of Moustakas figures to lead to a smaller-than-expected role for Cuthbert, though Yost said this week (via Dodd) that he’d like for Cuthbert to rack up at least 400 at-bats this season. Cuthbert encouraged as a rookie back in 2016, when he amassed 510 trips to the plate and hit .274/.318/.413, before experiencing a massive drop in PAs (153) and production (.231/.275/.322) last year.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Royals Notes: Moose, Duffy]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116672 2018-03-11T02:18:58Z 2018-03-11T01:00:48Z Before he re-signed with the Royals on Thursday, third baseman Mike Moustakas did not receive any other offers during his lengthy stay on the free agent market, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. The Angels reportedly offered Moustakas a three-year, $45MM contract, but that’s not the case, according to Buster Olney of ESPN (Twitter link). It was an especially difficult trip to free agency for the 29-year-old Moustakas, who will make $5.5MM – $3.2MM less than last season – despite enjoying one of his best campaigns in 2017. Moustakas discussed his time on the market Saturday, telling Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com and other reporters that it was “frustrating.” Nevertheless, “it feels great” to be back with the Royals, he said.

    • There has been “brisk” trade interest in left-hander Danny Duffy, a Royals official tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo expects interest in Duffy to increase, though he writes that Kansas City wants “major prospects” back for the 29-year-old. That’s not surprising from Kansas City’s perspective, as Duffy is arguably its best trade chip. Duffy, whom the Royals extended in 2017, is under contract through 2021 at a reasonable total ($60MM), including $14MM in 2018. He tossed 146 1/3 innings of 3.81 ERA/3.46 FIP ball with 8.0 K/9 against 2.52 BB/9 in 2017.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Royals’ Jorge Bonifacio Gets 80-Game Suspension]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116674 2018-03-18T21:33:34Z 2018-03-10T23:27:45Z Major League Baseball has announced an 80-game suspension without pay for Royals outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, Joel Sherman of the New York Post was among those to report (Twitter link). Bonifacio tested positive for Boldenone, a performance-enhancing substance. His ban will open up roster space for third baseman Mike Moustakas, whom the Royals just re-signed.

    In response to Bonifacio’s suspension, Royals general manager Dayton Moore said (via Rustin Dodd of The Athletic): “This obviously [is] a very disappointing situation for the Royals, our fans and Jorge. He is an incredible person who simple made a mistake. Jorge will have our full support as he deals with the consequences.”

    The 24-year-old Bonifacio, formerly a well-regarded prospect, is coming off his first major league season. Across 422 plate appearances, the right-handed hitter slashed .255/.320/.432 with 17 home runs to essentially grade as a league-average offensive performer (99 wRC+). He also saw 808 innings in the outfield, mostly in right (743), and ended up with minus-3 Defensive Runs Saved and a plus-o.3 Ultimate Zone Rating.

    Coming off a respectable rookie campaign, Bonifacio was the front-runner to start in right for the Royals on Opening Day, but the team will now have to make other plans for the first couple months of 2018. The club just signed veteran Jon Jay, who figures to join long-tenured Royal Alex Gordon in occupying starting spots. Other outfield options on the 40-man roster include Jorge Soler, Paulo Orlando, Hunter Dozier, former top prospect Bubba Starling (who’s dealing with an oblique injury) and perhaps second baseman Whit Merrifield, whom the Royals have tried in the grass in recent weeks. Kansas City also has Michael Saunders, Cody Asche and Tyler Collins on hand as experienced big leaguers who are in spring training as non-roster invitees.

    In the event they’re not content with their in-house selections, the Royals could once again venture to free agency, where they’ve been active recently with the signings of Moustakas, Jay and Lucas Duda. There are some proven (albeit flawed) outfield options available via that route, with ex-Royals Melky Cabrera and Brandon Moss, Seth Smith, Jose Bautista, Jayson Werth, Andre Ethier and Matt Holliday among them. Infielder Neil Walker is also unsigned, and although he’s not an outfielder, he’d upgrade the Royals’ position player group in the wake of Bonifacio’s ban. The Royals showed interest in Walker recently.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Royals Re-Sign Mike Moustakas]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116540 2018-03-10T18:14:04Z 2018-03-10T18:04:46Z FRIDAY: Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports tweets that Moustakas has passed his physical and is officially back with Kansas City.

    THURSDAY: The Royals have struck a one-year deal with third baseman Mike Moustakas, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links). Jon Heyman and Robert Murray of Fan Rag had reported earlier that the Scott Boras client was nearing a deal to return to Kansas City.

    The contract will guarantee Moustakas just $6.5MM — far shy of expectations heading into the winter. That comes in the way of a $5.5MM salary for the coming season and a $1MM buyout of a $15MM mutual option for the 2019 campaign. Moustakas can also earn up to $2.2MM via incentives for the coming season, per Passan. The bonuses begin at 225 plate appearances and would be maxed out at an achievable 450, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today and Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star (Twitter links).

    Clearly, Moustakas expected more when he turned down a $17.4MM qualifying offer from the Royals at the outset of the offseason. And for good reason: the 29-year-old was viewed by many as one of the best players on the open market. Indeed, MLBTR predicted the 29-year-old would secure an $85MM guarantee over a five-year term.

    As things turned out, the market just never developed for Moustakas. Potential landing spots dried up throughout the winter as organizations signed other players, found cheaper alternatives, or decided largely not to add to their MLB rosters.

    Meanwhile, the Royals spent much of their own offseason trimming costs and waiting to see if they could coax back Moustakas’s long-time corner infield mate, Eric Hosmer. That pursuit ended without a deal, seemingly leaving the Royals positioned to embark upon a full-blown rebuild.

    Bucking the leaguewide trend, though, Kansas City has elected to dedicate some cash to put a quality product on the field in 2018. It may not be enough to make for a clear-cut contender, but the Royals have certainly added a lot of productivity in signing Lucas Duda, Jon Jay, and now Moustakas in short succession.

    Better still, the team has improved its 2018 outlook quite a bit without tying its hands for the future. It still seems that a longer-term outlook will define the team’s approach, and it’s certainly possible that some of the new additions will end up being traded at some point in the coming season, but the Royals promise to be competitive for the coming season.

    Signing Moustakas does come with a cost beyond the payroll hit. Since he returned to Kansas City after declining a qualifying offer, the organization will not add a compensatory draft choice that it would have if he had joined Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain in heading elsewhere. The Royals will still add two selections after the conventional first-round of the draft for those departures. As for Moustakas, he’ll re-enter the market next winter (assuming the mutual option is not exercised) without the hindrance of any draft compensation, though he’ll also face stiff competition in an anticipated market full of stars.

    There’s plenty to digest about this signing, needless to say. Most broadly, it’s as clear a sign as any about the market’s valuation of power. As the ball flies out of the yard at record rates around the league, lofty dinger tallies just aren’t paying in free agency.

    It was bad timing, then, for Moustakas, whose power stroke is his chief attribute. He launched a career-high 38 long balls in 2017 and finished with steadily above-average overall offensive production. Despite tepid output earlier in his career, Moustakas has been a .275/.329/.496 hitter over the past three seasons.

    Of course, that’s something of the rosy version of his attributes as a hitter. Moustakas managed only a .314 OBP last year and carries an ugly .305 career mark. While he doesn’t strike out much, he also doesn’t draw many free passes; in 2017, he finished with a career-low 5.7% walk rate. And his 17.8% HR/FB rate from last year sits well above his career average of 10.6%. Any decline in that number could be problematic. Statcast suggests Moustakas was fortunate to fare as well as he did, crediting him with a .331 xwOBA that falls shy of the .355 wOBA he ended up posting.

    Teams certainly may also have been a bit wary of Moustakas’s abilities in the field and on the bases. Fangraphs’ total baserunning statistic marks him as one of the league’s worst baserunners, with -5.4 runs tallied in both 2017 and 2015 — suggesting that his intervening ACL tear wasn’t solely to blame. Defensive metrics panned his glovework, too, with DRS (-8 runs) and UZR (-3.1) both casting Moustakas as a below-average performer despite previously rating him at times as a quality defender at the hot corner.

    In any event, those facts and figures are of no real concern to the Royals, who are intimately familiar with a player they drafted (second overall in 2007) and developed into a productive big leaguer. Whatever qualms they may have about his long-term outlook are nullified in this agreement, anyway, and there’s no denying that Moustakas represents a remarkable bargain at this rate of pay for a single season’s commitment. (Compare to Pablo Sandoval (five years, $95MM) and Chase Headley (four years, $52MM).)

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[AL Central Notes: Escobar, Morrison, Robert, Merryweather, Mize]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116625 2018-03-10T17:00:21Z 2018-03-10T17:00:21Z Alcides Escobar returns to the Royals with a not-so-lofty goal in sight, Rustin Dodd writes in a piece for The Athletic. Kansas City’s long-time shortstop wants to finish the season with an on-base percentage above .300 for the first time since the 2014 season. He says that he’s working on “taking a lot of pitches each at-bat” and trying to avoid swinging at bad pitches, both of which seem like obvious things to work on. Escobar owns a career OBP of just .294, and his .272 figure last year was the second-lowest among qualified MLB hitters (Rougned Odor’s .252 was the lowest, for those keeping track). That .272 mark for “Esky” was the result of drawing just 15 walks, his lowest full-season total ever.

    A roundup of some other news items out of the AL Central…

    • Recent Twins signee Logan Morrison reportedly suffered a right glute strain while running the bases on Wednesday, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. He was held out of Friday’s game, and is expected to miss today’s matchup as well. However, the injury isn’t considered serious. Minnesota brought the former Tampa Bay first baseman into the fold with a $6.5MM guarantee that includes a vesting option. He hit .246/.353/.516 last season with the Rays while smacking a career-high 38 home runs.
    • The White Sox are dealing with a more significant injury. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribute tweets that farmhand Luis Robert has a moderate thumb sprain. Daryl Van Schouwen provides further details on the situation with his own tweet, adding that GM Rick Hahn expects the young outfielder to be immobilized in a cast for six weeks, and to be held out of game action for ten. Robert hit a phenomenal .310/.491/.536 in Rookie ball last season; Baseball Prospectus ranks him as the South Siders’ fifth best prospect, and number 55 overall.
    • Continuing with injury news, Indians prospect Julian Merryweather will officially undergo Tommy John surgery after recently being diagnosed with a UCL sprain in his throwing elbow, according to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. The right-hander was a fifth-round pick by the Tribe during a 2014 draft in which the club also landed Bradley Zimmer, Triston McKenzie and Bobby Bradley. Merryweather had been solid at all levels of the minors before struggling to a 6.58 ERA across 16 starts at Triple-A Columbus last season, though his 3.89 xFIP suggests he dealt with some unfortunate homer/fly ball luck.
    • Auburn right-hander Casey Mize is “the name to watch” for the Tigers as we approach the 2018 June amateur draft, says Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. After skidding to a 68-94 record last season, Detroit owns the number one overall pick in the draft, and as Passan notes, the club loves big college arms. Mize threw a no-hitter last night and was throwing 96 MPH up through the ninth inning. Scouts in attendance say he was throwing a “filthy split” as well.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Royals Nearing Deal With Mike Moustakas]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116527 2018-03-09T13:42:43Z 2018-03-09T01:20:04Z 7:47pm: Moustakas and the Royals are “close” to hammering out a reunion, per Heyman and his colleague, Robert Murray (Twitter link).

    7:33pm: The sides are “working toward an agreement,” per MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan (via Twitter). It’s expected to be for a short term, he notes, with the likelihood being that it would cover just a single season.

    7:20pm: The Royals have re-opened talks with free agent Mike Moustakas, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. There’s said to be “some hope” that talks will lead to an agreement, with Heyman adding on Twitter that K.C. has issued an offer.

    There has been little prior indication that Kansas City would be a likely landing spot for its long-time third baseman. Moustakas, who had been with the Royals since they took him with the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, declined a qualifying offer at the end of the 2017 season. Thus far, however, he has yet to find a new home after encountering a market that was not been as welcoming as expected.

    Perhaps the most interesting question is just what kind of contract scenario the sides might be discussing. While Moustakas obviously set out seeking a multi-year arrangement with a hefty guarantee, the Royals are surely uninterested in a massive commitment. Indeed, GM Dayton Moore recently told Rustin Dodd of The Athletic (subscription link) that the organization intends “to be pretty consistent” with not doling out multi-year contracts this winter.

    The Royals, of course, recently struck reasonably-priced, one-year arrangements with Lucas Duda and Jon Jay, signaling that the club is still interested in boosting its on-field product for 2018. But signing Moustakas would also mean losing the ability to recoup a compensatory draft pick were he to sign elsewhere, and it’s at least fair to wonder whether the team would actually be better-suited attempting to secure a player of his talents on a lower-AAV, multi-year pact. Then again, Moustakas himself may prefer to take what he can get for a single season and re-enter the market again next winter, despite the attendant risks.

    At 29 years of age, Moustakas is still youthful enough to be of interest to organizations that aren’t fully committed to competing in the near-term. Of course, he also isn’t particularly youthful and carries a skillset that is no longer commanding top dollar. Moustakas smashed 38 long balls last year, but also managed only a .314 on-base percentage that sits only slightly higher than his marginal .305 career rate. His once-sparkling defensive metrics at third base have also declined of late.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Royals Sign Ricky Nolasco To Minor League Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116454 2018-03-08T02:07:20Z 2018-03-08T01:55:26Z 7:55pm: The Royals announced the signing.

    USA Today’s Bob Nightengale provides a more in-depth breakdown of Nolasco’s incentive structure (Twitter link). The veteran righty would unlock a $25K bonus for making his 10th start of the season, and he’d earn an additional $25K for each start up through his 19th of the year. For a pitcher with Nolasco’s recent durability, that’s a highly attainable set of bonuses, though he’s obviously far from a lock to even make the big league roster.

    5:15pm: The Royals and Nolasco are in agreement on a minor league contract, reports FanRag’s Jon Heyman (Twitter links). He’ll earn a $1.5MM base salary if he makes the Major League roster and has another $250K of incentives available to him. Nolasco’s deal also has a March 24th out clause.

    3:54pm: The two sides are discussing a minor league contract, reports MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan (via Twitter), though he cautions that the deal is not yet complete.

    3:32pm: The Royals are closing in on an agreement with free-agent right-hander Ricky Nolasco, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). Nolasco, a client of Sosnick, Cobbe & Karon, will provide some depth for a thin group of rotation candidates with the Royals, who recently lost righty Jesse Hahn to the 60-day DL due to a sprained ulnar collateral ligament.

    Last season, the 35-year-old Nolasco wrapped up a four-year, $49MM deal initially signed with the Twins, though he played out the final season of that contract with the Angels after being flipped to them at the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline. Signed to serve as a durable innings eater in the middle of the Twins’ rotation, Nolasco lost much of his first two years of that deal to injury.

    He bounced back to make 65 starts from 2016-17, though the results in that time weren’t what either the Twins or Halos would’ve hoped; over the past two seasons, Nolasco has soaked up 378 2/3 innings between the two clubs but struggled to a 4.66 ERA and averaged 1.4 homers per nine innings pitched.

    To his credit, Nolasco has managed to keep his velocity steady, sitting in the 90-91 mph range into his mid-30s, and he posted a career-best 10.9 percent swinging-strike rate with the Angels in 2017. That said, he was still far too hittable — 205 hits in 181 innings — and yielded a 37.6 percent hard-contact rate that ranked as the fourth-highest among all qualified starters.

    With the Royals, Nolasco will vie for a spot in a rotation that will include Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel. Jake Junis and Nate Karns are both candidates for the final two spots, with Junis turning in a solid rookie effort in 2017 and Karns looking for a comeback following surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome. Wily Peralta, Eric Skoglund, Sam Gaviglio and Trevor Oaks are among the other rotation candidates on the 40-man roster.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Royals Notes: Hahn, Jay]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116408 2018-03-07T03:31:46Z 2018-03-07T03:00:21Z
  • The UCL sprain that landed Jesse Hahn on the 60-day disabled list may not wind up requiring surgery, reports MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Hahn, acquired by the Royals in the trade that sent Brandon Moss and Ryan Buchter to Oakland, felt a “twinge” in his arm during his last Cactus League outing and will be shut down for “several” weeks. Rather, Hahn will be re-evaluated after his shutdown and could then begin a throwing program. Hahn says he’s actually encountered a similar issue in the past but tried to pitch through it for five to six starts and wound up missing significant time. This time around, he raised the issue immediately.
  • Newly signed Royals outfielder Jon Jay spoke with reporters following the announcement of his one-year deal, voicing a willingness to play all over the outfield and, a bit more surprisingly, in the infield as well (link via Maria Torres and Pete Grahoff of the Kansas City Star). “I’m prepared to play all three outfield spots,” said Jay. “And you can sprinkle me in at first base if you need to. For me it’s simple: I’ll be ready to work.” Jay has exactly four innings of professional experience at first base and hasn’t played there since a two-inning appearance with the Cardinals’ Triple-A club back in 2010. With Lucas Duda on board, Jay certainly wouldn’t be viewed as any kind of regular option there, but his willingness to do so is at least of mild interest. Torres and Grahoff note that Jay could log some occasional innings at DH as well to get Jorge Soler and Jorge Bonifacio additional reps in the outfield.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Royals Sign Jon Jay, Place Jesse Hahn On 60-Day DL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116383 2018-03-06T23:50:23Z 2018-03-06T23:49:45Z 5:49pm: Jay’s incentives kick in with a $100K bonus for reaching 250 plate appearances, tweets Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. From there, he’ll receive an additional $100K bonus for every 25 PAs up through 600. Jay hasn’t reached 600 PAs in a season since 2013, so it’s perhaps unlikely that he’ll earn the full $1.5MM of incentives, but he should be able to unlock a decent share of his bonuses if he remains healthy

    2:33pm: The Royals have signed outfielder Jon Jay to a one-year deal, per a club announcement. It’s a $3MM guarantee with as much as $1.5MM in incentives, per Rustin Dodd of The Athletic (via Twitter).

    Jon Jay | Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    The bonuses are based upon plate appearances and can begin to be earned at Jay’s 250th trip to the dish, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter), who adds that the CAA Sports client is expected to be given a shot at an everyday job. In a corresponding move, the team placed recently acquired righty Jesse Hahn on the 60-day DL due to a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

    [RELATED: Updated Royals Depth Chart]

    In an offseason of change, the Kansas City organization has now acted to fill the shoes left by departing stars Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain. The former will turn his job over to Lucas Duda. And the latter will now be replaced, at least in part, by Jay.

    It seems the Royals have made another interesting value play here. After landing Duda for just a single-season, $3.5MM commitment, the club has added another quality veteran player without constricting future financial flexibility.

    Of course, the club won’t get quite the anticipated productivity that walked away in the form of Hosmer and Cain, as is reflected in the purchase prices. The departing stars, each of whom profile as first-division regulars, commanded a total combined guarantee of $224MM — not a minimal premium over the $6.5MM total that Kansas City has promised to Duda and Jay.

    It’s far from clear that these moves will spur a winning product in 2018, but it’s certainly fascinating to see the Royals making such investments when the organization could instead have embarked upon a more dramatic rebuilding effort. The ensuing signings put something of a different spin on the earlier salary-cutting trades that allowed the club to move some of the obligations owed to Brandon Moss and Joakim Soria.

    Jay, who’ll soon turn 33, is fresh off of another solid season. He has not been as productive of late as he was earlier in his career with the Cardinals, but gave the Cubs 433 plate appearances of .296/.374/.375 hitting in 2017. A quality baserunner who is at least a near-average center fielder, Jay would optimally function as a fourth outfielder at this stage of his career.

    Even if he’s a bit extended as a regular, Jay seems a good bet to perform up to and beyond his new salary. He has traditionally carried minimal platoon splits, so the left-handed hitter ought to be a flexible asset for the Royals to utilize. With plenty of uncertainty in the remaining mix of outfielders, among other areas of the roster, the signing will help stabilize the unit.

    As for Hahn, the injury is the latest in a long line of health troubles for the 28-year-old righty. Acquired from the A’s alongside prospect Heath Fillmyer in exchange for reliever Ryan Buchter and Brandon Moss (who was included more for financial purposes), Hahn entered camp with the hope of vying for a rotation spot or, at least, a bullpen gig with his new organization.

    The former sixth-round pick (Rays, 2010) displayed plenty of promise with a 3.23 ERA, 7.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 through his first 170 MLB innings between the Padres and the A’s. However, injuries have hit him hard since that time, and Hahn has struggled to a 5.59 ERA in 116 innings over the past two seasons while battling triceps and forearm injuries. He’s out of minor league options but will be able to work a minor league rehab assignment to get up to speed later this season if he is deemed healthy enough to take the ball once again.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Extension Candidate: Whit Merrifield]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116351 2018-03-06T16:57:53Z 2018-03-06T16:24:18Z The Royals front office is in an interesting spot as it attempts to engineer a soft landing after multiple seasons of contention from a roster whose core is no longer fully intact. Despite the obvious challenges, GM Dayton Moore says he’s as optimistic as ever about the organization’s outlook.

    Perhaps no single player embodies that hope and this team’s unique approach more than infielder Whit Merrifield, a late-bloomer who quietly became one of the team’s best players. Given their current stance, the Royals shouldn’t be opposed to considering long-term deals with key players. But is Merrifield a worthwhile target?

    As is often the case for teams that push for a World Series in — in this case, successfully — there’s a dent to the future outlook. That frequently shows up in the form of lost prospects, missed opportunities to swap veterans for younger talent, and ongoing commitments to expensive, older veterans. In this case, Alex Gordon and Ian Kennedy stand out as underperforming contracts.

    At the same time, the Kansas City organization does have some valuable deals on the books — namely, the extensions agreed to with lefty Danny Duffy and catcher Salvador Perez. There’s still potential for those agreements to sour, but at present they seem to represent appealing commitments. And they both run through 2021. It’s worth remembering, too, that the club pursued star first baseman Eric Hosmer. Though it’s clear the Royals will be increasingly attentive to drawing down salary commitments, they did not force deals for players such as Duffy, Perez, or even pending free-agent closer Kelvin Herrera this winter. While Kansas City did give up talent to move some salaries (see here and here), those swaps are nothing like the full-throated efforts we’ve seen some other clubs take after a downturn in fortunes.

    Unlike some small-market organizations that find themselves in this general situation, then, the Royals do not appear to be pursuing a strip-down rebuild. The retention (to this point) of Herrera and the signing of Lucas Duda confirm that the club isn’t just punting in the hopes of securing favorable draft position. Trying to remain at least somewhat competitive while undergoing a roster transition comes with quite a different blend of risk and benefit from a “tanking” strategy — which brings us back around to Merrifield, who deserves some consideration as a potential extension target after compiling 3.9 rWAR and 3.1 fWAR in his first full MLB campaign.

    In most cases, perhaps, a player who achieves that kind of value immediately upon reaching the majors would be a clear candidate for a long-term deal. Here, though, there’s no getting around the fact that Merrifield is already 29 years of age — older than Hosmer and just a smidge younger than Mike Moustakas. With just 1.101 years of MLB service to his credit, though, he won’t quality for arbitration until 2020 and can’t reach the open market until 2023, when he’ll be entering his age-34 season.

    Given that they already control him until he’s 33, the Royals need not be in any rush to secure Merrifield for the long haul. At the same time, though, the club ought to have ample leverage, so perhaps we shouldn’t immediately dismiss the merits of exploring a deal. While picking up control over Merrifield’s earliest-possible free agent campaigns might be a nice feather in the cap, the potential value for the team lies mostly in locking in future salaries at an appealing rate while announcing the presence of a new core piece to go with Duffy and Perez.

    Despite his late ascension to the majors, Merrifield showed good promise in a half-season of time in 2016, with decent hitting output along with high-end glovework and baserunning. Though he took a slight step back in the latter two areas on a rate basis last year, at least by the numbers we have to work with, Merrifield also took a step forward with the bat. His low walk rate (4.6% in 2017) means he’ll probably never be an OBP monster, but he made plenty of contact (14.0% strikeout rate), showed a sudden power outburst (19 home runs, .172 isolated slugging), and produced overall at about five percent better than league average. It doesn’t hurt that Merrifield can steal a bag, having recorded 34 swipes in his first full season in the big leagues.

    There’s some risk here, to be sure. Merrifield needs to hit at a high average to maintain a palatable on-base percentage. And he’s no sure thing to keep up the power surge — he never maintained an ISO that high over a full minor-league season — though perhaps Merrifield is one of those players who has benefited from a bouncier baseball. As Eno Sarris of The Athletic recently explained (subscription link), history suggests that Merrifield likely won’t have more than a few more quality seasons before the aging curve catches him.

    In the aggregate, though, there’s good reason to believe that Merrifield will at least continue to profile as an above-average regular for some time. His athleticism and background — he has plenty of professional time at second, third, and the corner outfield, and the team is trying him in center this spring — suggests he could move around the diamond as the team’s needs change, providing value even if he checks back into a reserve role.

    Merrifield may not be a face-of-the-franchise type, but taking an opportunity to lock in value on a player of his ilk is just the kind of move that can pay dividends for an organization that is already thinking about how it will compile a winning roster in the near future. To be sure, it would be a somewhat novel contract to negotiate. While players with non-star profiles and equally thin track records (and service time tallies) have certainly agreed to terms in the past — e.g., Juan Lagares (4 years, $23MM) and pre-breakout Jose Altuve (4 years, $12.5MM) — they were significantly younger. Perhaps the Yan Gomes contract, a six-year, $23MM pact that included two options at the end, would be a closer fit, but even he was just 26 years of age at signing.

    There are certainly some light shades of Ben Zobrist here, though it’s a stretch to draw any strong comparisons. As a quality player who can move around the diamond, Merrifield could be viewed as a much lesser version of the renowned utilityman, who commanded only a $18MM guarantee in an extension with the Rays back in 2010. Zobrist was 28 at the time but was already a Super Two. Of course, that deal was a ridiculous bargain; on the other hand, there’s nothing to suggest Merrifield will ever approach Zobrist in overall value.

    In truth, the Zobrist pact is tough to use as a comp for any purposes because it was so unique. The same might hold for a hypothetical Merrifield extension. My own thought is that Merrifield’s age/service status ought to make him much more amenable to taking a discount on his anticipated future earnings while also leaving the Royals with less incentive to give value for the right to control any prospective free-agent campaigns than they would for a more youthful player. (To be clear, that’s all speculation based on my outside observation of the circumstances.) Perhaps, then, the sides could explore a contract that includes a relatively limited overall guarantee for most or all of Merrifield’s pre-arb and arb-eligible seasons, with a range of possible options scenarios to be considered.

    At what price might this become attractive for the Royals? Merrifield is going to earn just over the league minimum for 2018 and 2019. His salary for the ensuing three campaigns will depend upon what he does in the meantime, of course, but there are some comps that give some idea of what Merrifield could earn if he continues playing at the same general level. Joe Panik just agreed to a $3.45MM first-year arb salary, for instance, while DJ LeMahieu started with $3.0MM and has taken down a total of $16.3MM in his three seasons of arbitration.

    Even if we peg Merrifield’s anticipated earnings through 2022 in the realm of $16MM or so — give or take a few million – that doesn’t mean the Royals should be willing to spend that much on an extension. Pre-committing isn’t necessary unless there’s some benefit to the club, yet the rights to free-agent years won’t have that much value for an older, non-star performer. Perhaps the Royals would promise Merrifield something in the realm of his likely arb earnings if he agrees to very low prices on two option years. Or maybe the team will pursue a discount on the arb seasons if the contract includes an option or two at higher prices (such that they likely won’t be exercised unless Merrifield succeeds beyond expectations, in which case he’d be rewarded). The most interesting scenario, though, may be a deal that only locks the sides in through the first two seasons of arbitration while leaving team options for the third arb year, at a discounted rate, along with one or two would-be free-agent years. That might give the late bloomer the security he needs while affording the team an appropriate blend of protection and expected cost savings.

    To reiterate: there’s no urgency here and likely not a huge amount of upside to be captured for K.C. But if this organization really does intend to remain competitive in the relatively near future while steadily building up a new core, it’ll require a whole lot of incremental moves that add value. Exploring a new deal with Merrifield offers just that sort of potential opportunity, but only in the right circumstances.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 3/4/2018]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116219 2018-03-04T20:19:44Z 2018-03-04T20:19:44Z Rounding up the latest minor moves from around the baseball world…

    • The Royals have outrighted Billy Burns to Triple-A after the outfielder cleared waivers, the team announced (via Twitter).  Burns was designated for assignment earlier this week but will now return to Kansas City’s big league Spring Training camp.  The 28-year-old finished fifth in AL Rookie Of The Year voting in 2015 after an impressive debut year with the Athletics, but has since hit just .233/.269/.293 over 338 plate appearances over the last two seasons.  Burns appeared in just seven games for the Royals last year, as he spent much of the season with Triple-A Omaha.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Royals Notes: Walker, Moore]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116173 2018-03-04T03:00:09Z 2018-03-04T02:08:13Z The Royals tried to bring in free agent second baseman Neil Walker on a minor league deal with an invitation to big league camp, but he wasn’t receptive to that, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. As a member of the Royals, Walker could have pushed for a role at second (they already have Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi as possibilities there, however) or even the corner infield, where the team has lost first baseman Eric Hosmer (though it recently signed a replacement in Lucas Duda) and is likely to see free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas depart. It’s not surprising that Walker’s holding out for a major league pact, though, considering the successful career he has enjoyed with the Pirates, Mets and Brewers. The switch-hitting 32-year-old is coming off his seventh straight season with at least 2.0 fWAR. Despite Walker’s quality resume, he’s one of many accomplished free agents still sitting on the open market as the regular season draws closer, as MLBTR’s Steve Adams pointed out earlier this week.

    • Since winning a World Series in 2015, the Royals have posted back-to-back non-playoff seasons. Now, thanks in part to the losses of Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Minor (and Moustakas’ potential exit), it appears they’ll be in for more lean years in the near future. Nevertheless, longtime general manager Dayton Moore explained to Joe Posnanski of MLB.com that he is bullish on the franchise’s direction “As an organization, you should know your players better than anyone else. We believe in our young players,” Moore said. “We have faith in our future. I know this may sound strange, but I have never felt more confident in what we are doing.” While the Royals’ next wave of talent isn’t highly regarded (Baseball America has their farm system 29th out of 30 in its latest organizational rankings), Moore isn’t fazed. “Nobody had [five-time All-Star] Salvador Perez on their Top 100 list,” he noted. “Nobody had Lorenzo Cain on their Top 100 list. Nobody had Greg Holland or Kelvin Herrera on their Top 100 list.”
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Royals Notes: Morrison, Duda, Dozier]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116020 2018-03-01T00:17:33Z 2018-03-01T00:17:33Z Newly signed Twins DH Logan Morrison received an offer from his hometown Royals before signing in Minnesota, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The 30-year-old slugger said earlier in the offseason that he’d love to suit up for his hometown club, though that was before Kansas City began selling off pieces and made clear signals of a rebuilding effort. Per Berardino, Morrison’s desire to play for a contending club took priority. Morrison will join the heart of a young Twins lineup on the upswing in hopes of reaching the postseason for the first time in his career, though the questions that permeate the Twins’ rotation still leave Cleveland as a the division favorite.

    • The Royals’ signing of Lucas Duda likely pushes Hunter Dozier to Triple-A, writes Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. However, GM Dayton Moore was “adamant” that the addition of Duda won’t serve as any type of long-term roadblock for any of the club’s prospects, instead viewing the signing as a means of adding depth and ensuring that young players such as Dozier are MLB-ready when the reach the Majors. “As I said before, we’re very encouraged about our first-base options going forward,” said Moore. “But it puts us in a position where we don’t have to rush the process. We’ve seen players like Whit Merrifield, we’ve seen players like Paulo Orlando, the importance of getting a lot of at-bats at the Minor League level as they mature, and then when they get to the Major League level and they’re much more productive.”
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Royals Designate Billy Burns, Announce Signing Of Lucas Duda]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115998 2018-02-28T17:05:47Z 2018-02-28T16:41:05Z The Royals have designated outfielder Billy Burns, per a club announcement. His roster spot will go to first baseman Lucas Duda, whose signing is now official.

    Burns, 28, has received only limited MLB opportunities since landing in Kansas City in a 2016 trade from the A’s. He had turned in a highly productive 2015 season, with a .294/.334/.392 slash and 26 steals to go with quality glovework in center, but fell off badly in the ensuing campaign.

    Last year, Burns primarily suited up for Triple-A Omaha. Despite an ongoing lack of power, the switch-hitter got on base at a .369 clip by drawing 44 walks against just sixty strikeouts over 413 plate appearances. On the bases, though, Burns was cut down in 11 of his 35 steal attempts.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Rangers Acquire International Bonus Money From Royals]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115991 2018-02-28T15:56:21Z 2018-02-28T15:48:22Z The Rangers have acquired international bonus pool money in a swap with the Royals, per an announcement from the Texas organization. Righty Domingo Pena is heading to Kansas City in return.

    While the precise value of the spending capacity being exchanged isn’t clear from the announcement, it seems likely to be $250K. That’s how much the Rangers could still add after last week’s similar trade, and is also the baseline increment that funds can be dealt in.

    All indications are that these funds are ticketed for Cuban prospect Julio Pablo Martinez, who is said to be working on a deal with the Rangers that will be finalized once he’s formally eligible to sign. There’s nothing new on that front, though Baseball America’s Ben Badler did recently report that Martinez faces an unusual $100K fine for providing incorrect information to MLB.

    Pena, 19, has played in the Rangers’ system for the past three years. He first came stateside last year and has yet to pitch beyond the Rookie level. In thirty total frames in 2017, Pena pitched to a 2.70 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Royals Sign Lucas Duda]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115984 2018-02-28T16:54:40Z 2018-02-28T15:18:28Z The Royals have officially struck a deal with free agent first baseman Lucas Duda, as Robert Murray of Fan Rag first reported (via Twitter). The deal promises the Beverly Hill Sports Council client $3.5MM, per Fan Rag’s Jon Heyman (Twitter links).

    Rather achievable incentives can also boost that salary. Per MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan, Duda will receive $100K upon reaching 300 plate appearances and can take down another $100K with every twenty-five trips to the dish thereafter, topping out at 600 plate appearances and a total potential $1.3MM in additional earnings.

    It seems, then, that the veteran Duda will function as the replacement for the departing Eric Hosmer. The 32-year-old Duda is significantly older, and wasn’t as productive as Hosmer in 2017, but has actually been a better offensive performer over the two players’ respective careers.

    Depending upon how one slices the numbers, it’s possible to paint a more pessimistic or optimistic picture of Duda’s track record and near-future outlook. He struggled through an injury-filled 2016 season and fell off down the stretch last year after a mid-season trade. On the other hand, he hit quite well at the outset of the 2017 campaign and slashed a robust .249/.350/.483 over the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

    Despite a less-than-exciting finish to the season after a mid-2017 deal from the Mets to the Rays, Duda still ended with a well-above-average .217/.322/.496 overall output with thirty home runs. That came in spite of posting only a .238 batting average on balls in play.

    Of course, Duda also reverted to struggling badly against left-handed pitching after having improved in that area in 2015. For his career, Duda carries an 84 wRC+ when hitting without the platoon advantage. Clearly, then, it’d be preferable for K.C. to give him a rest against southpaws.

    Despite the caveats, it’s a bargain rate for a player who has been quite productive at the plate while receiving approximately average grades for his glovework at first. Duda may not be an adequate replacement for Hosmer in the leadership or baserunning departments, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him out-hit the man he’ll replace.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Merrifield Getting A Look In Center Field]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115942 2018-02-27T23:54:24Z 2018-02-27T23:51:47Z
  • Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield got his first exposure to center field in roughly a half decade in yesterday’s Cactus League game, writes MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. The 29-year-old Merrifield played more than 600 innings of center in his first two years of pro ball but has been primarily playing infield in recent years. However, with Alcides Escobar back in the fold, the Royals will give Merrifield some looks in center field. If Merrifield proves capable in the outfield, he could fill that need while also potentially opening second base for prospect Adalberto Mondesi, who, it should be noted, will now be utilizing his middle name rather than his first name. Mondesi, who previously went by his first name, Raul, recently explained the decision to reporters (including Flanagan), noting that he’d long gone by his middle name before moving to pro ball. “Back home, everyone knows me by that,” said Mondesi, the son of former NL Rookie of the Year and All-Star Raul Mondesi.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Royals Sign Michael Saunders]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115593 2018-02-24T00:39:20Z 2018-02-24T00:38:44Z 6:38pm: Saunders can earn $1.5MM on the MLB roster with as much as $500K in available incentives, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com tweets.

    3:36pm: The Royals have announced the signing of outfielder Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal. It seems that the recent agreement between Saunders and the Pirates has been torn up.

    When Saunders put pen to paper with Pittsburgh, he was slated to battle with Daniel Nava and others for a spot in the outfield mix. But the Bucs’ recent acquisition of Corey Dickerson left Saunders without much of a path to the MLB roster.

    Saunders’s agent, Barry Meister, says the Pirates allowed his client to pursue other opportunities after the new development, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). Meister says the team “should be commended for their player-friendly, honest and transparent behavior.”

    At the end of the day, then, Saunders will enter a different but perhaps even more promising situation in Kansas City. He’ll still need to earn his way onto the roster, but there’s a solid chance he can do so with a good performance this spring. Outside of Alex Gordon, the Royals are thin in terms of lefty outfield bats; Saunders will presumably compete with non-roster invitees Cody Asche and Tyler Collins in camp for a chance at a role in the majors.

    Saunders is coming off of a miserable 2017 season and has a long history of injury troubles. But he has had some quality campaigns in the majors, including a 2016 effort with the Blue Jays in which he posted a .253/.338/.478 batting line over 558 plate appearances. At his best, he has also graded well in the field and on the bases, so it could be that the 31-year-old still has some productive seasons ahead of him.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Royals Unlikely To Pursue Morrison, Moustakas]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115325 2018-02-21T05:47:38Z 2018-02-20T21:55:22Z For the Royals, replacing Eric Hosmer likely won’t mean paying another veteran significant dollars to line up at first base. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star writes, the current expectation is that Logan Morrison is an “unlikely” target. GM Dayton Moore tells Dodd that while the organization has long “admired” Morrison’s ability, the “economic part of it … is very real to us.”

    It also does not seem that the Royals will pivot from Hosmer to fellow former K.C. star Mike Moustakas. Dodd runs down some of the team’s internal options at the infield corners and the organization’s current thinking as it bids adieu to Hosmer. While it’s largely of historical interest at this point, it’s also worth noting a recent report from Robert Murray of Fan Rag suggesting that Kansas City never dangled more than five years and around $100MM to Hosmer. While multiple prior reports had pegged the organization’s interest in the seven-year range, that lesser price point would certainly have left Hosmer with an easier decision.

    • Notably, too, the Royals seem inclined to give an opportunity at third base to Cheslor Cuthbert, as MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan writes. GM Dayton Moore says the organization values Cuthbert “a great deal,” though the 25-year-old will need to turn things around after a tepid 2017 season. To be fair, he did miss quite a lot of time due to injuries and hit at close to a league-average rate over 128 MLB games in 2016, when he carried a .274/.318/.413 slash line. Moore also cited Hunter Dozier as a candidate to see action at the corner spots.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[AL Central Notes: Abreu, Kipnis, Moustakas, Cuthbert, Sano]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115196 2018-02-19T05:45:08Z 2018-02-19T05:45:08Z White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu shed over ten pounds already this offseason, James Fegan of The Athletic writes. The weight loss comes thanks in part to a diet with a lot more fish and white meat. But aside from eating healthier, the Cuban native has another, more surprising goal: to steal more bases. Abreu said he’ll be asking for the green light from manager Rick Renteria more often. “Just because I think I can do it,” he added. “I really believe I can do it and I like the challenge. I like to challenge myself and I think that’s a good challenge for me and I’m ready for it.” Renteria laughed a bit at the idea, but he did say that if Abreu ends up being able to take a base, “that would be awesome.” However, the skipper suggested that he’s more concerned about making sure his first baseman can swing the bat and catch a ball first. A full read of the piece provides some insight not only into the plans of Abreu and Renteria headed into 2018, but into their personalities as well.

    More notes about American League’s midwestern teams…

    • Indians manager Terry Francona held his individual meetings with position players on Sunday morning, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports. One of those meetings was with Jason Kipnis, who’s faced a lot of uncertainty this offseason as to what position he’ll play in 2018 and which team he’ll be playing it for. Kipnis apparently told Francona he’d do whatever he was told to do, but Francona felt it was better for the two to make the decision together. Because of who he is and what he’s accomplished, and what he can accomplish, I think it’s better if we do it together.” Francona said. “Asking somebody to do something they don’t think they can do isn’t going to help us.” It was reported earlier this offseason that the Tribe planned to move Kipnis back to second base, and Francona confirmed those intentions on Sunday by telling reporters that “he’s a second baseman… the idea is for him to play second.”
    • In line with reports from earlier today, it seems as though the Royals are prepared to move on from Mike MoustakasJeffrey Flannagan of MLB.com shares some eye opening notes from an impromptu news conference with GM Dayton Moore this afternoon, including a quote about third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert. “We like [Cuthbert] a great deal,” Moore said. “We feel it’s his time to become a consistently producing player. We also have Hunter Dozier, who can play third and corner outfield, and first base — he has some versatility.” Moore also expressed a desire to build the club’s farm system back to what it was in 2010-2011, also noting that “That period of time [of high payrolls], that phase of who we are, is over.” All of these points cast extreme doubt on any chance of Moose coming back to Kansas City.
    • Twins slugger Miguel Sano appears healthy, as Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports that he’s working out in the Dominican Republic and “doing all baseball activities.” He’ll reportedly be eased into games, however, and there’s one more unresolved item that could affect Sano’s ability to take the field: he has yet to be interviewed by MLB about his alleged sexual assault of a photographer. Sano has vehemently denied the accusations, and there’s been little in the way of public updates on the situation. Still, there could yet be ramifications depending on the findings from a potential interview or investigation.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Reactions To And Effects Of The Eric Hosmer Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115189 2018-02-19T00:13:58Z 2018-02-19T00:13:58Z Though the Royals reportedly made Eric Hosmer a contract offer that would’ve stood as the largest in franchise history, GM Dayton Moore says that the club’s long time first baseman and fan favorite “took the better offer” in choosing the Padres (via Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star). One big difference between the two offers was that Kansas City never included an opt-out clause; Hosmer’s deal with the Padres contains one after his fifth season with them. Of course, that contract is also believed to guarantee him more years and overall dollars than the offers he reportedly received from the Royals. In addition, the offer from the Royals was apparently more “back-loaded”. Moore adds that he had a “pretty good sense about four days ago” that Hosmer wouldn’t be returning. Though he still held out hope, it was at that point that he began to “develop a mindset” that the club was probably going in a different direction.

    More rumblings around the league following last night’s big news…

    • Now that Hosmer has officially signed elsewhere, the Royals are saying that they plan to move forward with a rebuild, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports. The club also says that they don’t plan to pursue any more marquee free agents. Rumors in the past 24 hours have connected the Royals with outgoing third baseman Mike Moustakas (at least in theory), but Nightengale’s sources would seem to throw some cold water on the idea of a reunion between the two. A similar report from ESPN’s Buster Olney runs parallel with that of Nightengale.
    • Manager Ned Yost texted Hosmer multiple times over the offseason, reports Jeffrey Flannagan of MLB.com. Yost never heard back, and jokingly says that he didn’t get a response even when he was “on [his] death bed.” Dodd reports that Yost (and Moore) really wanted Hosmer back, and believed that his legacy would be “cemented” in Kansas City.
    • Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star argues that fans are missing the point by focusing on Hosmer’s departure, when they should be focused on the moments he created during his tenure in Kansas City. Mellinger describes Hosmer as having “something like the perfect Royals career.” He cites myriad memorable moments from Hosmer’s time with the club, including his call up and playoff contributions.
    • The Padres are “more than a player away” from being a good baseball team, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports argues. However, he also makes the case that Hosmer may still be around when the team is able to “get it right”. Eight years is a long time, after all, and the Friars have players like Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe and Fernando Tatis Jr. who could be on the cusp of greatness. In addition, they have a strong farm system that can produce yet more great players. Brown makes the case that the signing makes some level of sense because Hosmer is simply a really good baseball player, and adds that this contract is the story Padres fans will be hearing “until the Padres are good again or until it’s clear they won’t be.”
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Braves Working To Sign Peter Moylan; Royals Remain Interested]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115106 2018-02-18T17:21:07Z 2018-02-18T17:20:08Z 11:20am: Moylan to the Braves might not be a foregone conclusion. The Royals remain interested in re-signing him, per Bowman (Twitter link).

    8:37am: The Braves are attempting to complete a deal with free agent reliever Peter Moylan, Mark Bowman of MLB.com tweets. It’s unclear whether it’ll be a major league pact for the 39-year-old Moylan, who already has two stints with the Braves under his belt (2006-12 and 2015).

    The right-handed Moylan spent the previous two seasons in Kansas City and combined for a 3.46 ERA with 6.92 K/9 and 3.55 BB/9 across 104 innings, including 59 1/3 (his most since 2010) in 2017, when he led all pitchers in appearances (79). The sinker- and slider-throwing Moylan notched a superb 61.3 percent groundball rate to rank eighth among qualified relievers during that two-year span.

    Moylan’s success with the Royals was particularly surprising after he combined to throw fewer than 40 big league innings with the Braves and Dodgers from 2011-15, owing to a laundry list of injuries. The Australia native dealt with back, shoulder and elbow problems at various points during that stretch, and he missed all of 2014 after undergoing the second Tommy John surgery of his career. Moylan then rejoined the Braves prior to the 2015 campaign on an unconventional deal, one in which they picked him up as a player/coach.

    If he’s able to catch on with the Braves for a third time, Moylan will become the elder statesman of a bullpen that hasn’t added any other proven commodities since finishing last season 26th in ERA (4.58) and 27th in fWAR (1.1). Braves relievers especially struggled versus right-handed hitters, who slashed .264/.339/.450 against them. Moylan, meanwhile, limited righties to a meager .161/.244/.236 mark and has held them in check throughout his career (.204/.269/.295). Although lefty-swingers have roughed up Moylan (.296/.422/.430), he has nonetheless managed a 3.00 ERA during his 390 1/3-inning career.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Heyman: Royals, Moustakas Reunion Still Possible]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115104 2018-02-22T03:29:20Z 2018-02-18T15:51:40Z The Eric Hosmer era is over in Kansas City, and free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas could become the next Royals cornerstone to head elsewhere. Although general manager Dayton Moore said earlier this month that Moustakas hasn’t prioritized re-signing with the Royals this offseason, it’s still possible he’ll re-up with KC, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag (Twitter link). Now that the Royals are out of the running for Hosmer, they have the funds to bring back Moustakas, Heyman notes. There hasn’t been a strong market for the 29-year-old Moustakas’ services this offseason, but if the qualifying offer recipient does leave the Royals, they would net a compensatory pick in this year’s draft. They’re already in line to receive two, thanks to the departures of Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Royals Win Arbitration Hearing Against Brandon Maurer]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114923 2018-02-16T18:46:12Z 2018-02-16T18:19:42Z The Royals have won their arbitration hearing against right-hander Brandon Maurer, tweets FanRag’s Jon Heyman. He’ll earn a $2.95MM salary as opposed to the $3.5MM sought by Maurer and his agents at Frye McCann Sports (link to MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker). Maurer still takes home a raise of $1.05MM in his second trip through the arbitration process, and he can be controlled through 2019 before reaching free agency.

    The 27-year-old Maurer was facing an uphill battle in an arbitration hearing, given the 6.52 ERA he sported on the season — including an 8.10 mark with the Royals after being traded over from the Padres. However, the arbitration process rewards saves and holds, and Maurer did lock down 22 saves while serving as the Padres’ closer in addition to six holds on the year. He also remained healthy, taking the ball in 68 games, and he averaged roughly a strikeout per inning as well. All of those components were undoubtedly considered by the arbitration panel, but ultimately Maurer’s run-prevention numbers appear to have been too much to overcome.

    That said, there’s reason for optimism and a turnaround in 2018. Maurer’s 59-to-19 K/BB ratio in 59 1/3 innings was strong, he averaged 96.6 mph on his fastball, and he was plagued both by a bloated BABIP (.361) and an abnormally low strand rate (61.1 percent). Maurer has long had problems in stranding runners, but the 2017 season was an extreme case even by his standards. Clearly, the Royals believe there’s a decent chance for him to right the ship as well, or they could have simply non-tendered him in December or found a trade partner for him in recent months.

    Maurer will return to a bullpen that has had its share of turnover this offseason, as Joakim Soria, Scott Alexander and Ryan Buchter have all been traded elsewhere. Closer Kelvin Herrera remains a trade candidate even as Spring Training gets underway, though perhaps the Royals would prefer to see him rebuild some value and shop him this summer, considering his lackluster 2017 campaign.

    Who will fill in the relief ranks behind Herrera and Maurer is almost impossible to determine with any certainty at this juncture. Candidates include Wily Peralta, Jesse Hahn, Brian Flynn, Kevin McCarthy and Rule 5 picks Burch Smith and Brad Keller, in addition to non-roster veterans Blaine Boyer and Seth Maness.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Royals Thin On First Base Options]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114756 2018-02-15T03:01:07Z 2018-02-15T03:01:07Z
  • Hunter Dozier will mostly be used as a first baseman in the opening days of the Royals’ Spring Training camp, manager Ned Yost tells the Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd and other reporters.  Dozier, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Whit Merrifield are the most viable first base options in camp, which Dodd notes is representative of the lack of depth at the position.  Dozier, picked eighth overall by K.C. in the 2013 draft, has played just 12 games at first base over his five-year pro career.  All of the uncertainty around the Royals’ first base spot would of course disappear if Eric Hosmer was re-signed, though not much seems to be developing on that front as Kansas City and San Diego continue to be perhaps the only two teams vying for Hosmer’s services.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Eric Hosmer]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114566 2018-02-12T20:23:12Z 2018-02-12T20:14:25Z The Padres and agent Scott Boras have “engaged in regular dialogue” regarding Eric Hosmer over the past few days, reports Dennis Lin of The Athletic. That’s a change from recent weeks, per Lin, when neither side was showing much in the way of urgency.

    Lin goes on to report that both the Padres and the Royals have “suggested flexibility” beyond their initial seven-year bids, though it’s not clear whether that’s in reference to annual value, length of contract, inclusion of opt-out provisions or some combination of the above. As he has in the past, Lin notes that the Padres’ offer to Hosmer was for less than $140MM in total. Regardless, it still seems as if the Hosmer market is a two-horse race for the time being, barring the emergence of a surprise suitor as Spring Training kicks off in both Arizona and Florida.

    As for the other horse in that race, the Royals are remaining fairly quiet on the subject. The Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd writes that he asked GM Dayton Moore about the matter, and while Moore confirmed that he remains in touch with Boras, he declined to delve into any further specifics. “I’ve been fairly transparent throughout this process,” Moore told Dodd. “At this point, we just have to let it play out.” The GM did note in a radio appearance with 810 AM’s The Program last week that Hosmer “is the player that fits us for the future.”

    Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, though, wrote recently that Hosmer’s camp has been holding out to try to extract a nine-year deal from the Royals. Even if that may be a mere negotiation tactic to “settle” on a midpoint of eight years (that’s my own speculation, to be clear), a seven-year offer doesn’t seem likely to suffice at present. If the Padres and Royals do have some willingness for “flexibility” in their offers, as Lin suggested, then perhaps the first team to push its offer forward by another year will secure a deal.

    With Spring Training kicking off this week, Boras/Hosmer can also hold out a bit longer to see if injuries create any new opportunities. After all, they do have the luxury of knowing that the Padres and Royals, two clubs that are interested in Hosmer despite their status as rebuilding/retooling organizations, aren’t likely to spend that money elsewhere or add a more affordable first baseman because their interest is more in Hosmer himself than in upgrading at the position. However, if Spring Training wears on and no obvious alternative emerges, one has to imagine that the current seven-year proposals would hold increasing appeal.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Logan Morrison Would Like To Engage With Royals]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114362 2018-02-10T06:34:17Z 2018-02-10T03:07:35Z
  • We’ve long heard of the Royals as an interesting possibility for LoMo, as Morrison hails from the Kansas City area and the team may well have a notable opening if Eric Hosmer departs. Of course, the Royals are still hoping to land Hosmer at the moment. But if that changes, sources suggest to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link), Morrison would be very interested in talking with his hometown team. From an outside perspective, it seems unlikely that the Royals will dedicate a huge amount of cash for any non-Hosmer free agent. Then again, there could be a nice value opportunity here, particularly since Morrison ought to be an easy player to market at an opportune moment for the franchise.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Royals Sign Blaine Boyer To Minor League Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114232 2018-02-07T23:05:11Z 2018-02-07T23:05:11Z The Royals announced Wednesday that they’ve signed veteran right-hander Blaine Boyer to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. The Moye Sports client will vie for a bullpen spot in Kansas City.

    Boyer, 36, had walked away from baseball for nearly three full seasons before making a 2014 comeback with the Padres and reestablishing himself as a solid big league arm. Since returning to the bigs, he’s pitched for the Padres, Twins, Brewers and Red Sox on a series of minor league deals — making the roster in each instance and ultimately performing well at each stop along the way. Over the past four seasons, he’s pitched to a combined 3.51 ERA with 5.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9 and a 44.7 percent ground-ball rate.

    Despite the quality bottom-line results, Boyer has attracted minor league offers only in each season since his return. The lack of strikeouts may contribute to that relatively tepid level of interest, though it’s also worth noting that Boyer has compensated for the lack of whiffs by limiting hard contact against him. Only 28 of the 299 pitchers that have logged 200+ innings since 2014 have turned in a lower hard-contact rate than Boyer’s 26.2 percent, per Fangraphs.

    With the Royals, Boyer will compete for a spot in a new-look relief corps. Right-hander Joakim Soria and left-handers Scott Alexander and Ryan Buchter have already been traded away by the Royals this winter, and it stands to reason that GM Dayton Moore and his staff will continue entertaining offers on higher-priced members of the bullpen such as Kelvin Herrera and Brandon Maurer.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Royals GM Dayton Moore On Hosmer, Moustakas]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114076 2018-02-05T23:52:50Z 2018-02-05T23:52:50Z Of the four longtime Royals regulars that hit the open market this winter, Alcides Escobar has re-upped with the team on a one-year deal while Lorenzo Cain has gone back to the organization that drafted him (the Brewers) on a five-year pact — the largest of the offseason to date. The other two, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, remain available for anyone to sign, and Kansas City GM Dayton Moore spoke about the reunion possibilities in an interview with Soren Petro of 810 AM’s The Program (all links to Twitter).

    Hosmer, of course, has been a priority for the Royals all offseason. Moore made no effort to hide the fact that a long-term deal with Hosmer remains at the top of the team’s wishlist, with the two sides continuing to try to work out a deal. “We’ve had a lot of discussion over the last week,” said Moore of his talks with Hosmer’s camp. “I can’t say we’ve made much progress, but whenever you’re talking that not a bad thing.”

    Kansas City’s offer was reported last week to be larger than the only other known seven-year offer received by Hosmer, which came from San Diego. And, much like Padres chairman Ron Fowler did last month, Moore suggested that there’s some hesitation from his own organization to push the envelope further.

    “We’ve exchanged contract numbers,” the GM stated. “It doesn’t make sense for a team like us to set the market on a player like Hosmer.”

    The Padres and Royals, to this point, essentially are the market for Hosmer, it seems — at least as far as teams willing to commit seven years. Both have made offers to the 28-year-old, and while it’s certainly possible that other teams would jump into the mix should Hosmer’s camp pivot and seek a shorter deal at a larger annual value, Hosmer’s agent Scott Boras is reportedly still pushing for a larger and longer offer than those presented to this point.

    Despite the lack of movement on the Hosmer front, it doesn’t seem as if the Royals have a strong desire to change trajectory and re-engage with Moustakas — at least not until the Hosmer situation has been resolved one way or another. Moore made it clear that Hosmer is the team’s priority, while suggesting also that the feeling is somewhat mutual.

    “We have options at third,” said Moore. “I wouldn’t say absolutely not. We want to make it clear that Hos is the player that fits us for the future. I want to get through the Hosmer negotiations before we work on Moustakas. … Moustakas had some expectations that were a little different, places he wanted to play. It was clear from the beginning that we weren’t a high priority.”

    Indeed, the Royals do have players such as Cheslor Cuthbert and Hunter Dozier as options at the hot corner, to say nothing of some potential action there for Whit Merrifield or Raul Mondesi Jr., depending on how the organization decides to divide up infield time now that Escobar has been re-signed to handle the bulk of the playing time at shortstop. In theory, either Cuthbert or Dozier could play first base as well should Hosmer sign elsewhere, as assistant GM J.J. Piccolo has already suggested as much this offseason. But, the Royals reportedly relish the idea of keeping Hosmer in Kansas City and leveraging his leadership skills as a mentor for the next wave of young Royals talent.

    For Moustakas, that marks the second time a general manager has gone on record in the past week to somewhat downplay the possibility of signing him — Mets GM Sandy Alderson did so last week — in addition to last night’s report that the Cardinals don’t seem to be a likely landing spot. While many free agents are struggling to find deals to their liking, many of the top names have at least received fairly lucrative offers, it seems. In addition to Hosmer’s pair of seven-year offers, Yu Darvish has reportedly received at least one five-year offer. The same holds true for J.D. Martinez, while Alex Cobb reportedly turned down a three-year offer from the Cubs worth about $42MM.

    So far as has been reported publicly, Moustakas has not yet drawn clear interest or significant offers over the course of the offseason. Several on-paper fits for his services simply don’t have much in the way of financial flexibility, have addressed their needs via trade, or are in the midst of a rebuilding phase and may not be keen on the idea of parting with the requisite draft picks to sign him. Market forces haven’t helped, either. In particular, the Angels signed Zack Cozart to play third — occupying one plausible landing spot — while other teams may prefer the idea of pursuing the older Todd Frazier on a shorter contract.

    If Moustakas elects to drop his asking price, it’s possible that his market could accelerate, and there’s certainly the possibility that a Spring Training injury to an established third baseman (especially on a contending club) could open the door for a new destination. For now, though, it still seems to be a waiting game.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Jorge Soler Working Diligently To Bounce Back From 2017]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114003 2018-02-04T17:32:17Z 2018-02-04T17:31:22Z
  • When the Royals acquired outfielder Jorge Soler from the Cubs last year for closer Wade Davis, their hope was that the former top prospect would develop into a long-term building block. Soler, 25, still has a chance to do that, but Year 1 with the Royals saw him limp to a .144/.245/.258 showing in 110 PAs and, according to Maria Torres of the Kansas City Star, begin to believe that his major league career was over. Reflecting on 2017, most of which he spent in the minors, Soler told Torres: “I had an awful season. Things went fine in the minor leagues but not in the big leagues. Obviously there were things I was doing wrong. I needed to make adjustments. … I don’t know how it’ll translate to the field but in the cage there’s an incredible change. I’ve never felt this way.” Hoping to avoid a repeat this year, Soler has spent the offseason reshaping himself mentally and physically, having lost 20 pounds, and revamping his swing, as Torres details. Since October, Soler has been in Miami working with Dodgers international scout Mike Tosar, who helped Yonder Alonso break out last season. The results of their sessions have encouraged not only Soler and Tosar, but also members of Royals’ front office. General manager Dayton Moore suggested that Soler will be an everyday player for the Royals this year, adding that “the talent is there” and “we believe in him a great deal.”
  • ]]>
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Royals Notes: Hosmer, Melky]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113819 2018-02-01T23:02:56Z 2018-02-01T23:02:56Z
  • Royals ownership was more than willing to move on” from Eric Hosmer, though GM Dayton Moore is trying to do what he can to retain the core members of their 2014-15 pennant winners.  Moore is still hoping that Hosmer can be re-signed, though some cuts may need to be made to the K.C. payroll to facilitate the first baseman’s return.
  • Melky Cabrera has drawn some interest from the Marlins, Royals, and Pirates.  There hasn’t been much news on the veteran outfielder this winter, with only the Orioles (also mentioned here by Heyman) previously reported to have discussed Cabrera’s services.

  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Starling Nearly Walked Away From Baseball In 2017]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113772 2018-02-01T05:24:28Z 2018-02-01T05:02:24Z
  • A reinvigorated Bubba Starling tells MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that he believes he can compete for an outfield job with the Royals this spring. Starling, a former first-round pick and lauded top prospect, candidly tells Flanagan that he nearly walked away from baseball entirely in 2017 after getting off to a brutal start to the season, hitting .121/.205/.182 through his first 21 games (a slump that came on the heels of a .534 OPS the year prior). Starling struck out at a 30 percent clip through those 21 games, but he stuck with it at the urging of his family and soon made some mechanical alterations after a chat with hitting coach Tommy Gregg. The tweaks paid dividends, as Starling slashed .288/.335/.443 with just an 18.5 percent strikeout rate over his next 230 PAs before an oblique injury cut his season short in August.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Royals Rumors: Hosmer, Hahn, Escobar, Mondesi]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113581 2018-01-30T14:49:07Z 2018-01-30T14:49:07Z The Royals took a second cost-cutting step last night and added a pair of controllable right-handers, acquiring Jesse Hahn and minor leaguer Heath Fillmyer from the Athletics in a trade that sent lefty Ryan Buchter, first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss and a reported $3.25MM in salary relief to help cover some of Moss’ contract. It’s the second cost-cutting measure of the winter for the rebuilding Royals, who’ve also traded Joakim Soria and controllable lefty Scott Alexander in a three-team deal with the White Sox and Dodgers.

    Here’s the latest out of Kansas City in the wake of last night’s deal…

    • “The economic part of it is very real to us,” GM Dayton Moore tells Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. Dodd notes that the cost savings could be put toward a contract to bring Eric Hosmer back to Kansas City — a notion to which the Royals are reportedly very open in spite of their rebuilding initiatives. The Royals, according to Dodd, hope to open the season with a payroll in the $105-110MM range. That’s a tall order, considering they’re still still projected for a $113.7MM payroll even after shedding some of the Moss contract. Dodd notes that further salary-cutting trades could be on the horizon, though Moore stressed that no such move was close. (Nor, the GM said, is a free-agent signing.) The Royals could still jettison Jason Hammel’s remaining $9MM salary (plus a $2MM option buyout) or market Kelvin Herrera and his $7.9375MM contract for the 2018 season.
    • Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports that the Royals’ offer to Hosmer is believed to already be larger than the one made by the Padres, and freeing up some cash in the Moss trade only further benefits the Royals’ chances. The Padres would consider “tweaking” their offer if negotiations came down to a slim margin, he adds, but to date the Friars haven’t shown much of a willingness to substantially increase their bid.
    • With Hahn out of minor league options, he’ll compete for a rotation job this coming spring, Moore told Dodd (in the previously-linked column). The righty has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, but he showed plenty of promise in 2014-15 with the Padres and A’s. He’ll vie for a rotation spot alongside Wily Peralta and Nate Karns (returning from TOS surgery). Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy are locked into spots, of course, while Hammel (if he’s not traded) and Jake Junis figure to lock down spots as well. Fillmyer and Oaks are also on the 40-man roster, with other 40-man options including Sam Gaviglio, Eric Skoglund, Scott Barlow and Miguel Almonte.
    • Alcides Escobar said yesterday after his one-year deal was announced that he had offers from other clubs but jumped at the chance to return to the Royals (link via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan). “I’ve been here for seven years, and I feel like I belong here in Kansas City,” said Escobar. “I got some offers outside. For me, I came back because I think it’s better here, that’s why I’m coming back.” Moore was noncommittal when it came to what the Escobar signing meant for young Raul Mondesi Jr., though he suggested that it might be tough for Mondesi to get everyday at-bats in the Majors. Mondesi is still in the team’s plans, though, the GM added, noting that he could play second base and is “good enough to play center field” as well.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Royals Re-Sign Alcides Escobar]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113283 2018-01-30T15:18:42Z 2018-01-30T02:47:12Z 8:47pm: Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports tweets that Escobar will earn $75K for making 125 plate appearances, and confirms that his incentives will top out at 600 PA. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports adds that the shortstop will earn $75K for every 25 plate appearances after the first 125, up until the 600 mark.

    2:13pm: The Royals aren’t completely breaking up their long-term core, as they announced on Monday that they’ve re-signed shortstop Alcides Escobar to a one-year deal for the 2019 season. Escobar, a client of the Legacy Agency, reportedly receives a $2.5MM base salary and can earn another $1.5MM via plate appearance incentives (topping out at 600 PAs).

    Alcides Escobar | Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

    Escobar, 31, has been among the game’s most durable players over the life of his seven-year tenure with the Royals, appearing in 1105 of the team’s 1134 games in that stretch — including consecutive 162-game seasons in 2016-17 (and a third such effort in 2014). While Escobar has managed just a .262/.293/.348 slash line in his seven seasons with the Royals, he comes with an excellent defensive reputation and ranks sixth among Major League shortstops in Ultimate Zone Rating (+18.5) over the past seven seasons.

    For the Royals, the question raised by the re-signing of Escobar centers around the future of Raul Mondesi Jr. The 22-year-old has long been considered one of the organization’s top prospects, and while he’s yet to deliver in a tiny sample of 209 MLB plate appearances, he did slash a healthy .305/.340/.539 with 13 homers and 21 steals through 85 games for Triple-A Omaha in 2017. Obviously, the Royals would like to see more plate discipline out of Mondesi, who walked in just five percent of his Triple-A plate appearances, but there’s plenty to like about the second-generation talent.

    Royals GM Dayton Moore told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan last week that, if the deal were to be completed, Escobar would play “a lot” of shortstop. Flanagan notes that Mondesi would either rotate around the diamond or open the season in Triple-A Omaha.

    [Related: Updated Kansas City Royals depth chart & Kansas City Royals payroll]

    A full-time move to second base doesn’t seem particularly likely for Mondesi, given the presence of Whit Merrifield, though he could see occasional time there, at third base and even in the outfield if moved to a utility role. There was also some chatter earlier this offseason about the possibility of Merrifield being available in trade talks, though there’s been little since that time indicate that the Royals have had anything in the way of serious negotiations with other clubs on the matter. In fact, Kansas City has been surprisingly quiet on the trade front all together, shedding Joakim Soria’s contract and trading Scott Alexander but hanging onto other movable assets (e.g. Kelvin Herrera, Danny Duffy) despite an expectation that they’d embark on a lengthy rebuild.

    Clearly, a reunion with Escobar on a small-scale deal doesn’t signal a change of trajectory for the club, so perhaps the hope is that some veterans that underperformed in 2017 (Herrera, Jason Hammel, Brandon Moss) will boost their stock with a solid showing in 2018, thus building stronger interest heading into the non-waiver deadline. Given his excellent glove, solid baserunning skills and now eminently affordable contract, it’s certainly possible that Escobar himself will emerge as a trade commodity for a team looking to bolster its defense this summer.

    FanRag’s Jon Heyman first reported that the two sides were in talks. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted that the deal was official. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted Escobar’s base salary. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan and the Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd added details on the incentives package (Twitter links).

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[A’s Acquire Ryan Buchter, Brandon Moss From Royals For Jesse Hahn, Heath Fillmyer]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113557 2018-01-30T14:48:28Z 2018-01-30T00:25:32Z The Royals and Athletics have agreed to a four-player swap. Left-hander Ryan Buchter and first base/DH-type Brandon Moss will head to Oakland in the deal, while right-hander Jesse Hahn and minor-league righty Heath Fillmyer are ticketed for Kansas City. The Royals also included $3.25MM in cash as part of the deal. Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com was first with the news.

    Though Moss is certainly the biggest name of the four, Buchter is actually the prize for the Athletics in this deal. In fact, the inclusion of Moss in the deal is probably more related to financial implications. Indeed, Royals GM Dayton Moore told Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star that “The economic part of it is very real to us,” which has in turn led to some speculation throughout the industry that the Royals are attempting to clear salary in order to make re-signing Eric Hosmer more feasible. Moore responded to an inquiry from Flanagan on the subject, telling him that it would be “inappropriate” for him to comment on a free agent right now. However, he did add that he’s been “very clear” about what the team’s thoughts are on Hosmer.

    Turning away from speculation and rumors and focusing on the here-and-now of the deal, the A’s will fill a bullpen need by getting a much-needed lefty. Prior to this trade, the only southpaw reliever in their projected bullpen was Daniel Coulombe. Buchter will serve as a long-term piece for the budding A’s (perhaps into their next window of contention), as he’s under team control through the end of the 2021 season. The Royals, meanwhile, will add a new potential candidate to their rotation. Per Moore’s conversation with Dodd, Hahn will compete during spring training for a spot in Kansas City’s rotation.

    Ryan Buchter | Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

    Buchter’s a rare type of pitcher who’s been able to consistently out-perform his peripheral statistics. The soon-to-be 31-year-old has a career 2.85 ERA against a 4.68 xFIP. The latter statistic normalizes a pitcher’s homer/fly ball ratio as a method of estimating a pitcher’s true run-prevention skills, but it doesn’t account for the fact that many of Buchter’s fly balls are actually infield pop-ups, which go for outs nearly 100% of the time. Over the past two seasons combined, Buchter’s 16.7% infield fly ball rate (IFFB) ranks 10th in the majors among qualified relievers. He also ranks 14th during that span with a 26% soft contact rate against.

    Buchter is even tougher against lefties, limiting them to a .160/.255/.306 batting line during his MLB career. The late-blooming Buchter spent a whopping eight seasons in the minors before finally making his debut with the Braves in 2014, and was shuffled through the Triple-A affiliates of the Dodgers and Cubs before finally latching on in the majors with the Padres in 2016. Interestingly, the A’s were reportedly competing with the Padres for his services as a MiLB free agent.

    As for Moss, 34, he’ll return to the team with which he broke out in 2012. That’s just about the only clarity surrounding his presence in Oakland, however. Athletics GM David Forst has already told him that it’s not clear how he fits on the roster (per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle). With young phenom Matt Olson earmarked for the first base job and Khris Davis likely to assume full-time DH duties, the declining Moss doesn’t have a clear path to everyday at-bats. His sub-replacement-level 2017 performance (.207/.279/.428) was a far cry from his peak years in Oakland during which he slugged 76 homers and put up a .844 OPS across 1,381 plate appearances.

    Hahn’s had a roller coaster career. The right-hander showed great promise early on, posting a 3.07 ERA and 3.59 xFIP across 12 starts following his major-league debut with the Padres in 2014. Prior to the 2015 season, he was shipped to Oakland in the Derek Norris trade, and continued to impress with a 3.35 ERA and 52.6% ground ball rate through the first day of July. However, a flexor tendon injury sidelined him for the rest of the season, and although he’s shown flashes of brilliance since, he’s not yet been able to maintain good numbers over the course of a full season. Hahn’s posted a 5.59 ERA with a 6.05 K/9 and 3.57 BB/9 across 23 games (22 starts) across the past two years while battling a number of injuries.

    Fillmyer, 23, started 29 games for Oakland’s Double-A affiliate last season while pitching to a 3.49 ERA. MLB Pipeline considered him to be the team’s 18th-best prospect in 2017, noting his quick arm and a fastball that can reach 96MPH with good sinking action. Though his control and command took a step backwards last season, their report suggests that he can become a back-end starter at the MLB level. Fillmyer was selected by the A’s in the fifth round of the 2014 draft.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Royals Still View Mondesi As Key Piece]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113351 2018-01-27T15:44:39Z 2018-01-27T15:43:58Z
  • With Alcides Escobar on the verge of re-signing with the Royals, GM Dayton Moore still sees Raul Mondesi Jr. as a notable piece of the team’s future, Moore told reporters (including Maria Torres and Pete Grathoff of the Kansas City Star).  Mondesi had been expected to take on a larger role as the everyday shortstop this season, though the additions of Escobar and Ryan Goins as shortstop depth could see Mondesi spend time at other positions.  “[Mondesi] can play second base, he can play short, he’s good enough to play center field. We’ll see how that emerges,” Moore said.  “We don’t have a clear vision of that right now, other than to simply say that he is a talent that we expect to develop.”  It still seems as though K.C. plans to see quite a lot of Mondesi this season, as Moore said that Mondesi’s development is best helped by appearing in “five of six, five of seven” games per week.
  • On the flip side, Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen wonders if the Royals may have moved on from Mondesi and are now looking at prospect Nicky Lopez as their shortstop of the future.  Some scouts and executives from around the league are troubled by Mondesi’s bat control and lack of plate discipline, as well as concerns about his off-the-field preparation and focus issues.  Longenhagen feels that teams with an interest in Mondesi’s potential should be calling the Royals in case Kansas City would be open to trading the shortstop.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Royals, Alcides Escobar Discussing Reunion]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113279 2018-01-26T15:10:40Z 2018-01-26T15:10:40Z The Royals and free agent shortstop Alcides Escobar are “working toward an agreement” that would bring Escobar back to Kansas City, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports (Twitter link).

    Escobar, 31, has been a mainstay at shortstop for the Royals since coming over from the Brewers alongside Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi in the blockbuster trade that sent Zack Greinke to Milwaukee. Of the 1134 games the Royals have played since acquiring him, Escobar has played in 1105 of them at the shortstop position.

    A standout defender, Escobar’s bat has never really matched the value presented by his glove. He just .250/.272/.357 last season, which roughly matches the .262/.293/.348 slash he’s posted overall in 4481 plate appearances as a Royal. His Ultimate Zone Rating of 18.5 over that seven-year span, though, ranks sixth among qualified shortstops.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Royals Sign Ryan Goins To Minor League Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113184 2018-01-24T21:45:47Z 2018-01-24T21:44:24Z 3:44pm: ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that Goins’ contract has a $1MM base salary if he makes the big league roster. The infielder can also earn an additional $825K of incentives.

    3:18pm: The Royals announced that they’ve signed infielder Ryan Goins to a minor league contract and invited him to Major League Spring Training. Goins is a client of Octagon.

    Goins, 29, has spent the past half decade as a reserve infielder for the Blue Jays, appearing in 449 contests and coming to the plate a total of 1397 times at the big league level. He’s never been much of an asset at the plate, however, batting a combined .228/.275/.335 with 20 homers and six steals in that time. To Goins’ credit, he did hit a career-best nine homers last year, though that small spike in a power came during a historically high home-run environment for Major League Baseball.

    While Goins isn’t a big threat at the plate, he’s been an asset in the field over his first five big league campaigns. Defensive Runs Saved credits him as an above-average shortstop and a superlative defender at second base (+6 in 1362 innings and +24 in 1870 innings, respectively). Ultimate Zone Rating, meanwhile, feels he’s been roughly average at shortstop and nine runs above average at second base. Goins also has limited big league experience at third base, first base and in both outfield corners, though he’s totaled fewer than 50 innings at each of those positions.

    Toronto non-tendered Goins earlier this winter in his first offseason of arbitration eligibility. If he makes the Royals’ roster and the team likes what it sees, he can be retained for at least the 2019 and 2020 campaigns via arbitration.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Royals' Duffy Throwing Pain Free]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113164 2018-01-24T16:18:32Z 2018-01-24T14:22:14Z
  • Royals lefty Danny Duffy says he is throwing pain free after an offseason elbow clean-up, as MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports“Honestly, I had forgotten what it felt like to throw without any pain or discomfort,” says Duffy. That’s good news for Kansas City, as the organization will expect the southpaw to lead an uncertain staff in 2018 and beyond — unless, that is, he isn’t traded at some point. Other organizations would no doubt have interest in Duffy’s reasonable contract ($61MM through 2021), though we haven’t seen any indication that the Royals are likely to move the 29-year-old this winter.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Predicting The Royals' 2018]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113035 2018-01-22T04:21:01Z 2018-01-22T04:21:01Z
  • In a set of 18 predictions about the 2018 Royals, Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star opines that Eric Hosmer will re-sign with his former club due to a lack of clear rival suitors for the free agent first baseman.  There is maybe only a 30-40 percent chance of a reunion between the two sides, “but for now, that might make the Royals the favorite” in Dodd’s view.  Other predictions include Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas signing elsewhere, and the Royals suffering a 90-loss season as they begin a rebuilding phase.
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