I think the Royals can be much better and even a contender in 2013. But it would take the right combination of moves. So I put together a plan which is both realistic and affordable. Give it a read and tell me what's wrong with it.
I'm going to make this simple and just list the steps and then the resulting 2013 roster and payroll.
- Arbitration-eligibles. Non-tender Luke Hochevar, Chris Getz and Brayan Pena. Tender Felipe Paulino (approx. $2.4M) and Blake Wood (approx. $700K). The non-tenders free up money which will help with other acquisitions and their production would not be difficult to replace.
- Trade Jeff Francoeur and $4M to anyone for a marginal prospect. For the purpose of this plan, the quality of the prospect is irrelevant. I'd take anyone for him. And I think some team would be willing to acquire him if the Royals ate $3-4M.
- Promote Wil Myers to KC on about April 16, 2013 and make him the everyday RFer.
- Sign one good free agent starting pitcher. Good, but not Greinke good. Someone from the group of Haren, Peavy, McCarthy, A. Sanchez, Jackson, Kuroda, Marcum, Dempster or Lohse. For this, I'm estimating about $15M.
- Acquire another good starting pitcher. This could be done either by free agency or trade. For this, I'm estimating about $13M.
- Acquire a decent, inexpensive infielder who can play a decent second base who hits from the left side. Probably to be used either as the everyday second baseman or as a platoon partner for Giavotella or Falu. For this, I'm estimating $3M.
- [Optional] Acquire another decent starting pitcher to upgrade the back end of the rotation. This would be an additional $5M.
The lineup would be:
2B New 2B/Giavotella/Falu
RF Wil Myers
The rotation to start the season would be: [UPDATED]
SP1 New SP
SP2 New SP
SP5 Mendoza (with the #7 option included, Smith is replaced by a third new SP)
After Duffy and Paulino return, the rotation would be: [UPDATED]
SP1 New SP
SP2 New SP
SP5 Odorizzi/Chen/Mendoza (or optional third new SP)
I plugged this into the Royals payroll, including all of their commitments (Soria's buyout, Arguelles's guaranteed MLB contract, the money in my proposed Franceour trade, the MLB salary Duffy will make, even though on the DL for half of the season). I filled in the rest of the roster with $500K salaries for everyone else (Hosmer, Moustakas, etc.) to make up a 25-man roster. This is what I got:
Without the #7 option: $73.3M
With the #7 option: $78.8M
That team doesn't definitely contend. The rotation for the first half of the season would likely not be good. And the quality of the rotation in the second half of the season would depend on how close to 100% Paulino and Duffy are. And of course a number of things would have to go right, such as decent team health, and better performances from Hosmer and Moustakas. But I think this would be a good improvement for 2013 and something that provides a good foundation for greater success in 2014 and 2015.