With seven remaining Royals unsigned and eligible for arbitration, the front office has some work to do if they want to keep their streak of zero arbitration cases under the Dayton Moore era alive. Arbitration cases can be unpleasant things, where the team has to argue the player is a worthless bum, and the player has to argue he brings value to the team because he had the fourth most RBI in the league road divisional games in the month of August.
So many teams and players seek to avoid the process altogether, which is why we saw many players around baseball agree to terms last Friday, including Tim Collins and Louis Coleman. Sometimes, teams will look to avoid arbitration for several years by negotiating a long-term deal with a young player, as the Cardinals did with pitcher Lance Lynn last week. Sometimes they may even agree to buy out a year of free agency with a deal. What current arbitration-eligible Royals players should the front office seek to negotiate a long-term deal with? Let's look at the options, in reverse order of who should be signed to a long-term deal.
Dyson is still set to be a part-time player, despite evidence he is more valuable than the starting right-fielder. There is little reason to lock up a part-time player like Dyson, seeing as he will never be too expensive so long as he does not get to play regularly. The Royals perhaps could look to lock Dyson up while he's still rather cheap, but Dyson is already 30 years old and probably on the decline, so its probably best to go year-to-year on him.
Moose's awful 2014 offensive performance would probably leave him as a non-tender candidate in a lot of other organizations. But here in Kansas City, they're considering moving their top hitting prospect to right-field to make room for Moustakas. Moustakas has been pretty dreadful with the bat for two and a half seasons now, and there is little reason to think he'll ever be league average as a hitter. His defense is still quite valuable, but there is no reason to lock him up for his glove alone. A school of thought might be that inking Moustakas to a deal now is buying low, in case he ever unleashes the potential that made him the #2 overall pick in the draft. However with nearly 2,000 big league plate appearances and a .290 career on-base percentage, I feel confident that Moustakas is what he is - a player not worth signing to a long-term deal.
You might be surprised to see Cain this low considering his career season and ALCS MVP performance. However Cain appeared in more than 120 games in a season for the first time this year, and still appeared in just 133 games. Cain is coming off career highs in nearly every offensive category, had a career high 5.0 WAR this year, and was considered one of the best defenders in baseball this year, so a long-term deal would not be cheap. Cain is also already 28 years old, with three years left before free agency, so buying out a year or two may not really be worth it. The Royals may want to sign Cain to a 2-3 year deal to avoid arbitration the next few seasons, but they'd be buying high on Cain and he's still a huge injury risk.
Duffy had a terrific season in ERA despite a significant drop in strikeouts. This is just one of many red flags surrounding the talented, yet enigmatic southpaw. Duffy drastically outperformed his FIP last year, suggesting he was very lucky on balls hit in play (BABIP). Duffy is also a Tommy John surgery survivor, had a medical scare last year when he missed a few starts in September, then later revealed he pitched in the post-season with a cracked rib. Duffy would have to show that 2014 was not a fluke, and prove he can be healthy before I'd feel comfortable having the team lock him up to a long-term deal.
Hos is a Scott Boras client, so a long-term deal is probably out of the question anyway. Boras had this to say about Hosmer back in 2011 when then-beat writer Bob Dutton suggested the rookie could sign a long-term deal like Evan Longoria.
"Athletes have to know that you have to look at the market you're in,' Boras said. "You can't look at the markets of the past. For players like Hosmer, as you go back and look, as (Mark) Teixeira had his own market and (Prince) Fielder had his own market, Hosmer will have his own.
"And something tells me it's going to be a rather eventful one."
Hosmer is not nearly the player that Fielder or Tex were at this age, but Boras is likely banking that Hosmer will still turn into that kind of player. Hosmer has showed flashes of brilliance in his four-year career, but has never put it all together for more than a 3.6 fWAR season. This might just be what Hosmer is, a useful high-average first baseman with moderate power, moderate plate discipline, and good, not great, defense. He's Wally Joyner. There's nothing wrong with that, but its not worth paying Mark Teixeira money over.
Jon Heyman suggested the Royals could be looking to sign Herrera to a long-term deal and Josh Duggan looked at what he might be a reasonable deal. A four-year $13 million deal might be pretty reasonable, and could actually be quite valuable should Herrera slide into a closer role once Greg Holland and Wade Davis have left as free agents. Still, I'm wary of reliever performance, and Herrera's significant decline in strikeout rate is a bit worrying, as is the tightness he experienced in his forearm last fall. I think the $13 million deal is probably appropriate and wouldn't kill the Royals should Herrera implode, but I'd be reluctant to agree to a deal much more than that.
Yordano burst onto the season this year with his 100 mph fastball and electrified Royals fans. The 23-year old posted 14 wins, a 3.20 ERA and 3.2 fWAR in his rookie campaign, one of the best rookie seasons from a Royals hurler. Connor Moylan looked at what a possible Yordano Ventura extension might look like back in May, suggesting a six-year $30-35 million deal close to what Madison Bumgarner received after his first full season. Ventura is still an injury risk - his slight frame and terrific velocity will ensure he is always an injury risk. However he showed he could stay relatively healthy (save for an overloaded valgus) for a full season. Locking him up early would help drive down the cost of a long-term deal, and a six-year deal would even buy out a year of free agency. If Ventura is amenable, the Royals should absolutely take the risk of locking up Ventura and his electric fastball for years to come at Kauffman Stadium.
Who would you most like to see signed to a long-term deal?