May 17, 2008 - Joakim Soria signs a 3-year, $8.75M contract (plus three club options)
January 26, 2009 - Zack Greinke signs a 4-year, $38M contract
Dayton Moore and David Glass have shown a willingness to lock down two of the Royals best young players to long-term deals which include some years of free agency. I have no idea how far that willingness extends, but I'm curious if any other players are on Moore's to-do list in either short-term of the long-term. Let's look at the candidates
2007 OPS .725
2008 OPS .783
2007 WAR 2.1 ($8.7M)
2008 WAR 2.6 ($11.5M)
Team control: Four years (1 pre-arb, 3 arb)
Gordon was baseball's top prospect a couple of years ago and was said to be a future star, but has developed slower than expected. So that's a bit of a disappointment, but the reality is that he's good right now, and he still has the upside potential to become much better.
Verdict: Do it if possible. This would be a great time to buy low on Gordon. But Gordon and his agent also know that this would be a sell low moment for them. So they might prefer to wait until Gordon has put up a better season before seriously negotiating. But if I were Dayton Moore, I'd be talking. While there's some real risk in it, I'd offer a six-year deal, covering the four years of team control, plus two years of free agency. That would give Gordon some good guaranteed money, but would likely be a bargain for the Royals over the entire term of the contract.
2007 OPS .794
2008 OPS .724
2007 WAR 0.5 ($2.0M)
2008 WAR 0.0 ($0M)
Team control: Five years (two pre-arb, three arb) [not clear but this is likely given the amount of time he spent in the minors in both 2007 and 2008]
Verdict: Not yet. Butler still has tremendous upside as a hitter, but we still don't know if he'll realize that potential. He could become a great hitter, a good one, or perhaps top out at a below average hitter for 1B/DH, the positions he's locked into. And we still don't know if he'll ever be able to handle anything more than DH. All of these things affect his value greatly. It would be too soon to give him a bunch of guaranteed money. Let him prove himself for a year or two. If he starts to blossom, then it might be time for Moore to pounce.
2007 ERA/FIP 2.13/5.13
2008 ERA/FIP 5.51/4.43
2007 WAR 0.0 ($0.1M)
2008 WAR 1.7 ($7.8M)
Team control: Five years (two pre-arb, three arb)
Verdict: Not quite yet. I see Hochevar developing into anywhere from a #2-#4 quality starting pitcher. Quite frankly, he was close to #3 level in 2008. And even if he ends up being only a #4, as an extreme groundball pitcher, he'd likely be a fairly valuable 200+ innings eater. So I think Hochevar has some real value even if he doesn't develop much from here, which I think is unlikely. But giving him a long-term deal when he's this far from free agency just doesn't make sense. In order to get any FA years, the Royals would have to give him at least a six-year contract. Pitchers are just too much of any injury risk to give a pre-arb pitcher that many guaranteed years. Let him prove himself to at least average and healthy for another year or two. Of course, since his agent is Scott Boras, this discussion might be moot. Boras and his clients rarely sign pre-FA contracts which include any FA years.
2008 OPS .833
2008 WAR 4.3 ($19.3M)
Team control: Six years (two pre-arb, four arb) [the Royals likely bought another year of team control by not calling him up until the end of May]
Verdict: Never. While I was skeptical of Aviles early on, he really won me over. His defense is at least ok and his bat is legit. Even with significant regression (which is likely), he's still going to be an asset to the Royals at shortstop for years to come. But the Royals are going to get 6 2/3 years out of Aviles from ages 27-33. That covers his peak, plateau and likely the start of his decline. This is a case where the team control years cover just about all you should want from a player and by the time they have run out, you happily let him go and hopefully scoop up a compensatory draft pick.
No one else is even really worthy of consideration. Buck, Teahen and Bannister are all decent players and still pretty good values, but they are into arbitration and pretty soon they are going to be due enough money that they might be non-tender candidates. Right now none of them should be considered for long-term deals.