After taking the first few weeks off, the Royals are making some moves, first by inking designated hitter Kendrys Morales last week, then signing right-fielder Alex Rios to a one-year deal last night. The internet had REACTIONS.
At least the Royals filled one of their major holes this off-season.
I didn't know Alex Rios was a starting pitcher... — Becky G (@salvy4prez) December 16, 2014
Ah yea, about that.
Alex Rios may give the #Royals a nice season in 2015, but anyone who predicts it is predicting it off hope and not real evidence.— David Lesky (@DBLesky) December 16, 2014
Alex Rios ZiPS. Yes, compared to Steamer, this is the *optimistic* one. pic.twitter.com/jbkE6yqfvf— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) December 16, 2014
Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales are projected to put up a combined 1.3 fWAR in 2014. James Shields: 3.0 fWAR— Beyond the Box Score (@BtBScore) December 16, 2014
And it only costs us $17.5 million this year!
It's risky having a $20 bill in your wallet. You're putting all your eggs in one basket! Better trade it for 7 $1 bills. /Royals— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) December 16, 2014
Sam Mellinger thinks Alex Rios is a "fine consolation prize", but a necessity considering the Royals long-term financial obligations.
The immediate fan reaction will be to call owner David Glass cheap, but if the Royals end up boosting payroll by 15 percent or so the truth is a bit more complicated.
Barring a payroll hike of 25 percent or so, the Royals are in many ways limited by the need to keep their own players in Kansas City. They have a lot of bills coming due.
Wade Davis, Alcides Escobar, Luke Hochevar and Morales will make around $8.5 million more in 2016 than 2015. That doesn’t include significant raises in arbitration for Greg Holland, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Danny Duffy and Kelvin Herrera — all together, that’s at least $20 million or so in raises.
That makes long-term and big-money deals with free agents such as Santana or Cabrera more complicated, particularly if those players are hesitant to backload contracts.
Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs writes signing Alex Rios as a bounce-back candidate is a gamble not likely to pay off.
Because it’s a one-year contract, it can be only so bad. Rios isn’t a great defender, but he’s not a bad one. He can add some value on the bases, and he still hits for an above-average contact clip, so in those ways Rios isn’t a lousy fit for the roster model. Used properly, he can help what’s already an athletic and capable outfield, and it’s not like the market left Dayton Moore an infinite supply of options. Also, note that Rios signed for one year and $11 million the same day Brett Anderson signed somewhere for one year and $10 million, with incentives. Cheap fliers aren’t so cheap anymore. But as good as Rios was once, he presumably will be no longer so good. And if Rios and Morales don’t bounce back, the Royals will have spent some of their windfall on players who weren’t good the very season before they became Royals. That would be ripe for mockery in hindsight, which is the best and worst kind of mockery.
Here's what Adam Morris at Lone Star Ball had to say about Rios when I spoke to him in June about the Royals trade interest in him.
Alex Rios is an interesting player, an enigma, a guy who seems to be surprisingly good while also being, in some ways, somewhat disappointing. He looks like the Platonic Form of an outfielder -- he just LOOKS the part of an athletic five-tool guy. He doesn't have any real glaring weaknesses in his game, he hits for power, and he's got speed (although, for whatever reason, he's been an awful percentage basestealer this year). He's a guy who is a solid starting right fielder on a championship team...
One of the writers for the Dallas Morning News calls him a "one gait player," someone who only has one speed, which is less than full speed, and says that scouts question his effort level. He's also not someone who seems to have good situational awareness -- he's a likely candidate to miss the cutoff man at the wrong time, or get thrown out going to third with two outs. I think the perception is that he's less valuable than the stats would indicate.
Craig Brown at Royals Authority doesn't like the move, but doesn't see any other good options
But here’s the money question: What should Moore have done to fill his Aoki-sized hole in right field? They scouted Yasmani Tomas, but didn’t win his services. They were in on Melky Cabrera, but he went to the South Side on a three-year deal. I never heard they were interested in Nick Markakis. There just weren’t many free agent options in this market.
Give us some optimism, Rany.
Ooof.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) December 16, 2014
In the long run, what matters is whether KC can keep developing top prospects without Top-5 picks. I dislike both moves; they're not fatal.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) December 16, 2014
Well at least we finally ditched Nori Aoki and got that big power hitter we wanted.
Home runs hit in Arlington, 2014: Alex Rios - 1 (251 PA) Billy Butler - 2 (13 PA)— Brandon H. (@BHIndepMO) December 16, 2014
Rios went homerless in 124 ABs after hurting his ankle in July. But he hit only 4 HRs in 368 ABs before the injury. #royals— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 16, 2014
Scott Boras did well with #royals, getting $17M over 2 yrs for Kendrys Morales and $11M for Rios off a 4-HR, .709 .OPS season.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 16, 2014
Does Dayton Moore own stock in a Scott Boras company?
Also, source says #Royals believe Rios could have "huge bounce-back year and fills a great need. We have to stay up" with Central contenders— Jeffrey Flanagan (@jflanagankc) December 16, 2014
Scared yet, Detroit?
With the Rios deal, I have the #Royals payroll a shade above $103 million.— Craig Brown (@royalsauthority) December 16, 2014
So, we're pretty much done.
The best part of signing Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales for 2015? The Royals won the AL pennant in 2014.And nothing they do will change that.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) December 16, 2014
And I will cling to that throughout this cold, cold winter.