Who Is Next In Line For A Long-Term Deal?

Alcides Escobar got paid. Who's next? - Jason Miller

The Royals have signed some of their best players to long contracts the last couple of winters. Is anyone going to step forward and commit this time around?

While we have been preoccupied with a blockbuster "all-in" trade that overshadowed everything, this has otherwise been a calm winter for the Royals. Sure, Dayton Moore has swung the inevitable deal for the overpriced starting pitcher in Ervin Santana and overcommitted to last season's salvage project Jeremy Guthrie. Yes, it's a new-look rotation for 2013. This year, they're trying to win! However, it feels like we've been lacking one thing this winter:

Extensions.

Sifting through past transactions, we've seen GMDM sign Billy Butler to a four-year deal with a club option almost two years ago. The following year, he went on an extension bender, signing Alex Gordon to a four-year contract with a player option, Alcides Escobar to a four year deal with two club options and finally, the infamous Salvador Perez contract: A five-year pact with three club options. And two years before the extensions rush started, GMDM signed Zack Greinke to a four-year deal.

(Throw newcomer Wade Davis into the extension pile and you have five players on the current roster signed to long-term deals that bought out arbitration and/or free agent years.)

Clearly, GMDM isn't shy about signing players to long-term deals. And so far, he's signed the right players. All this begs the question: Who could get the gift of an extension ahead of this year?

Here are some candidates:

Eric Hosmer

Hosmer will likely qualify as a super-two after this season and will become eligible for arbitration which basically means he's going to get expensive a year earlier. He's already banked a $6 million signing bonus and will earn around $510,000 for his trouble in 2013. After taking a huge step back last summer, this becomes a pivotal year in his development, saying nothing about his future bank account. While the temptation may be for the Royals to attempt to lock him in at a buyer's market, we don't need to be reminded he's represented by Scott Boras.

Hosmer did some things as a 21 year old that still have the Royals believing. Although after six months of struggle, it's not an easy sell. Boras is smart enough to know the Royals will try to lowball any offer based on 2012. He's also smart enough to know a bounceback season is possible which would only serve to drive the price higher.

Odds of extension: Low

Mike Moustakas

Another client of The Boras Corp, Moustakas faded in the second half with the bat, but played solid - and at times spectacular - defense at the hot corner. I think the Royals love Moose's fiery personality - he's the antithesis of Myers in that he's never been shy about getting in a teammate's face who wasn't giving full effort. But they may decide to wait and see how he adapts to another full year of the major league lifestyle.

The temptation is to think of Moustakas and Hosmer as a pair. That hardly ever happens anymore. We're a few decades removed from Trammell and Whitaker. It's possible they get one extended (at a Boras premium) and let the other walk. I see Moustakas as the more likely of the two to sign an extension, but I don't think this issue resolved for either player this off season.

Odds of extension: Moderately Low

Greg Holland

The Royals and Dayton Moore love themselves closers. Especially Proven ones. And after last year, Holland has shown he can handle the chores of the ninth inning.

Holland hits arbitration next year, so I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear they bought out the next three seasons, plus his first free agent year. If anyone is signing a long-term deal in the next couple of months, my money is on Holland.

Odds of extension: Moderate

James Shields

It would be costly, but maybe this is the salve of the Wil Myers wound. I know Shields made mention of this as a possibility, but I write that off as a new guy saying the right things. Give him a summer. He'll see. Still a possibility. Just not a good one.

Odds of extension: Low

The lack of extensions this winter again points to where we are in The Process. The pipeline is dry for the time being. The next two seasons are absolutely critical for this team if we are going to see meaningful baseball. Because after 2014, it's back to the drawing board.

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