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Dollars and Sense

I'm beginning to like Luis Mendoza, but he's not the answer to the Royals' starting pitching woes.
I'm beginning to like Luis Mendoza, but he's not the answer to the Royals' starting pitching woes.

Dayton Moore may not be a talented General Manager, but he's not a complete idiot, either. Back in March, he knew his starting rotation was, at best, a collection of question marks and, at worst, just awful. All that before Danny Duffy caught Tommy John disease and before we knew that Felipe Paulino would battle to get healthy and not stay healthy once he finally got there.

While Moore early on went into spin control by announcing that 2012 was probably not the Royals' year, I don't think he really believed it. He would not have spent $4 million to sign Jonathan Broxton in hopes of building the Super Bullpen, nor would he have horrifically overspent to bring in a backup catcher who would be DFA'd just three and one-half months later.

Moore thought his young offense just might be able to score enough runs to take a lead to the Super Pen and that his organization had enough releivers to pitch three and four innings every night. Basically, Moore was counting on leading 6-4 after five innings and holding on from there. That's a tough way to get to respectability, but it had a chance (more than a Dumb and Dumber chance, less than the chance that someone will take the 'he's not a complete idiot' comment above and run with it in the comments section).

Now, down went Salvador Perez and down went Lorenzo Cain and Joakim Soria. Eric Hosmer didn't (and really still had not) hit and neither did Jeff Francoeur. Whatever chance Moore's plan had of working went up in smoke and with it, the $4 million spent on Broxton, the million on Jose Mijares and the trading of Melky Cabrera all came ot the forefront.

I think it has to be a blast to be a baseball GM, as long as you don't mind most everyone thinking you are a complete idiot.

The Kansas City Royals have $64 million dollar payroll this year, close to $25 million more than in 2011 and little to show for it. They also have an owner who 'can't see spending more than $75 million on payroll' and who has shown no evidence of 'banking' money from seasons when his team was well under that $75 million number for future years. Wouldn't it be nice to suddenly hear that the $30 million 'saved' on payroll expenses in 2011 was sitting in a money market account somewhere to be used in 2013, 14 or 15?

The big offense and super pen theory was a longshot to begin with and the Royals would be foolish to hit April 2013 still believing in it. They need starting pitching. They need high end starting pitching and it does not appear that the farm system is going to give them that.

The questions are all the same: Will the Royals spend big money? Will a big money free agent even consider them? And, can the Royals really afford to dive in to that market?

The Royals are already committed to paying $34.9 million in salaries next year to Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, Jeff Francoeur (that doesn't taste good, does it?), Bruce Chen and, gulp, Noel Arguelles. Luke Hochevar, Brayan Pena, Jose Mijares, Chris Getz and Felipe Paulino are arbitration eligible (so are Jason Bourgeois and Blake Wood, but who cares?).

Let's paint with a broad brush and say the Royals end up settling with all five of those arb eligibles mentioned - I think there may be a non-tender and maybe even a Mijares trade yet - but I would think you could bring all five of those in for a total of $12 million.

Now, you have to pay for all the young guys as well. From Aaron Crow (who will be the most expensive - he earns $1.6 million this year, can't negotiate, isn't arb eligible, but will still make something similar) down to Louis Coleman you are probably talking another $10 to $11 million.

Now, you're at $58 million and your starting rotation is Chen, Mendoza, Hochevar, Jake Odorizzi and Will Smith. You have Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino coming back in July, but truthfully isn't it 2014 before you can expect them to be back to full strength and let's keep in mind, they were not exactly established major league starters before they were hurt.

Down the road, the Royals already are committed to $24.4 million in payroll in 2014 and, if you exercise Billy Butler's option, over $30 million in 2015 and NONE of that (other than Noel Arguelles - ugh) is for pitching. Kansas City also runs into arbitration clocks for Hosmer, Duffy and a fair portion of the bullpen in 2014 and Moustakas and Cain in 2015. Safe to say, the Royals are going to have a base payroll number of $55 to $60 million for the next three seasons, before they add any major free agents.

So, now what boys and girls?

Probably without a lot of pain and angst, the Royals could afford $17 million in free agents in 2013 and even 2014. That number might get a little painful by 2015. They could also cut loose some guys (Getz, Mijares for example) and free up another couple million in the next few years.

Now, you have something like $20 million to spend before it gets tight three years from now. So, do you spend $20 million on a ace or near ace pitcher? Or do you split it? Or save it? Of course, if you save the money, does that help? David Glass might just say 'Thanks for being under budget, but you still only get $75 million in 2014'.

Frankly, does five years and $100 million even get you in the discussion for a number one type starter these days? As I write this, the feeling comes over me that the Royals might well be stuck into waiting and hoping that a 2014 combination of Kyle Zimmer, Danny Duffy, Jake Odorizzi, John Lamb and Yordano Ventura (okay, Mike Montgomery maybe as well) yields a 1-2-3 top of the rotation good enough to compete.

That's not exactly a rose colored scenario, is it?