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Looking to the Offseason

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Fire up the Hot Stove! Dayton previews how the Royals will approach the offseason after feeling like they've won the World Series.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Well, unfortunately the offseason is upon us. Which means its time to fire up the ol' Hot Stove! The Royals had their best record since 1989, but despite feeling in a sense that they won the World Series, the Royals actually fell short of a playoff appearance for the 28th straight season. The team has some obvious holes to fill, and Dayton Moore gave us the first peek at his plan in his end-of-the-season press conference.

First of all, Dayton seemed to indicate the payroll, despite a huge influx of new revenue this winter, will be about what it was this year, at $82 million. So let's take a look at what the payroll situation looks like under those constraints:

Royals Payroll





James Shields


Free Agent

$1 million buyout

Jeremy Guthrie



Free Agent

Alex Gordon




Billy Butler



Free Agent

$1 million buyout

Luke Hochevar


Free Agent

Wade Davis




Greg Holland


Emilio Bonifacio


Free Agent

Alcides Escobar




$500,000 buyout

Aaron Crow


Felipe Paulino


Free Agent

Jamey Carroll


Free Agent

$250,000 buyout

Chris Getz


Free Agent

George Kottaras


Free Agent

Tim Collins


Salvador Perez




Luis Mendoza


Noel Arguelles


Justin Maxwell


Eric Hosmer


Lorenzo Cain


Mike Moustakas


Kelvin Herrera


Jarrod Dyson


Danny Duffy


David Lough


Payroll total

$ 89,617,014

$ 46,502,015

$ 27,752,016

Likely payroll total

$ 74,817,014

Club option

Player option

Free Agent

Arbitration Estimate

Likely non-tender/
decline option

EDIT: I originally had Hosmer as a non-arbitration eligible player, but Scott McKinney wisely points out that Hosmer likely will be a Super-Two arbitration-eligible player and should make about $3 million.

As you can see, if they non-tender or decline the options on all the players in gray, they would have a little bit of breathing room to add an impact pitcher or bat, but probably not both. That's also probably not enough room to re-sign Santana.

But let's stop kidding ourselves. They're not going to let all those players go. Luke Hochevar and Emilio Bonifacio played well enough in small samples that they will almost certainly be retained. That gets us up to $80 million pretty fast, and we still have a hole in our rotation, a glaring hole at second base, and a patchwork of David Lough and Justin Maxwell in rightfield.

“It’s more about who the players are than the actual payroll itself,” Moore answered. “I’ve never felt restricted in a way that we couldn’t make a decision, make a trade, acquire a player that made sense for us.”

This suggests to me that Dayton can go over $82 million if he has to, but probably not much more. I would not expect him to get into a bidding war.
“I have no idea where negotiations will end up with players,” Moore admitted. “I have no idea what the market will bring and how salaries will escalate. It usually doesn’t get cheaper to sign players.

Yea, you've made it pretty clear you don't know much about the market.
“We’re going to look internally first. Then we’re going to look for trades, and then we’ll focus on the free-agent market. We’re not an organization that is going to be excited to go real long term with older players.”

On the one hand, this makes sense. Free agents are generally players on the decline. Free agents are often overpaid for the value they provide. And the Royals aren't willing to give Dayton the financial leeway to pursue top-tier free agents.

On the other hand, trades require giving up talent. It would be nice to see Dayton plucking undervalued or blocked promising players in other organizations without having to give up much like so many other small market clubs have done, but those types of deals have been few and far between in Dayton's tenure. I think what is more likely is Dayton doubles down and trades some more of his pitching prospects for a young bat.
Moore previously indicated the Royals will make a qualifying offer to Santana, which is mandated to be a one-year contract for the average value of the top 125 salaries throughout the game — estimated at $14 million.

This is a no-brainer, but good to see nonetheless.
The likeliest course, if Santana and/or Chen depart, would be to seek another trade for a bounce-back candidate, preferably one entering a contract year to avoid a long-term commitment.

Hmmm. Ervin Santana worked out, Jonathan Sanchez did not. Its not a terrible strategy for a team looking to build assets that isn't planning on competing yet, but for a team looking to contend, it could be terrible. You may not have to give up much in trade value or even necessarily payroll to pick up someone else's trash, but you are giving up opportunity cost. And when its July and we're watching our reclamation project give up dingers with a 6.00 ERA, its going to cost us any shot we had at contention.

Later this week I'll take a look at some possible trade candidates that are either young players blocked in other organizations, or reclamation projects worth considering. But if you have any ideas, please feel free to post them. But be quick, Dayton will almost certainly try to make a trade as quick as possible. The early bird gets the worm!