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Royals free agent landmines to avoid

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Royals should be concerned about these players

Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday I wrote about the Royals living within their constraints. In summary I pleaded for Kansas City to spend wisely both in dollar value and draft pick compensation. In continuation of that I wanted to identify players that I think are landmines. These players are landmines for the Royals, not necessarily every baseball team. While I don't subscribe to the idea that the Yankees can overpay for a player or that the Dodgers can't be hurt by a bad contract, I do agree that of course $1 for the Yankees is different than $1 for the Royals.

Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo might be number one with a bullet for me. Sure he just put up back-to-back career best ERA seasons but it's the peripherals I'm extremely worried about.

First, his average velocity last year was at an all time low. This is to be expected as pitchers age but it's not just that. When you couple the velocity decline with his precipitous strike drop, that spells extreme trouble.

That's not just a small decline too, that's a slope to rival the most frightening roller coasters in the world. Now Gallardo's strikeout rate is expected to rebound a bit next year according to Steamer, but it's still not the prettiest projection:

Year K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP WAR
2015 5.91 3.32 3.42 4.00 2.5
2016 6.33 2.90 4.22 4.20 1.7

Yovani is expecting/predicted to receive a deal in the 4-5 year range. However PECOTA is even more bearish on Gallardo over a course of four years:

Year Age K/9 BB/9 ERA WARP
2016 30 7.6 2.8 4.36 0.1
2017 31 7.6 2.8 4.2 0.4
2018 32 7.2 2.7 4.5 -0.1
2019 33 7.3 2.6 4.39 0.0

Not only does Gallardo have less than rosy projections but whatever team signs him is going to give up a draft pick for the right to give him $40-50M.

Gerrardo Parra

Parra has played for four teams over the past two years and hasn't had a good season since 2013 when he had an outlier of a defensive season.

Year FLD
2009 -1.4
2010 13.7
2011 10.3
2012 7.6
2013 31.1
2014 0.1
2015 -18.1

Parra probably isn't as bad as the metrics said last year but he's not as good as the numbers said in 2013. Instead he's probably an average or slightly above defensive right fielder.

The problem here is that Jarrod Dyson is better, period. Dyson is a better outfielder, better baserunner, and not that much worse of a hitter than Parra. Both are left handed and both should never face a left-handed pitcher. So why spend $20M on Parra when you've got a better player already in house?

Marco Estrada

Estrada was absolutely miserable for the Brewers in 2014 before the Blue Jays swapped him for Adam Lind. 2015 had the makings for disaster too. Estrada is one of the most home run prone pitchers in baseball and he was moving to the launch pad that in Rogers Centre.

By ERA standards though he was excellent, but still gave up home runs and got by on a lot of BABIP luck (.216 BABIP in 2015). There's no reason really to expect Estrada to put up a sub-3.20 ERA in 2016.

Like Gallardo, Estrada has a declining strikeout rate and he pairs that with a 88 MPH average fastball, among the slowest in baseball. Bartolo Colon is 42 years old (Estrada 31) yet both have an equal fastball velocity.

Year K/9
2012 9.30
2013 8.3
2014 7.59
2015 6.51

Both Steamer and PECOTA are bearish on Estrada for 2016:

K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA FIP WAR
2015 6.51 2.73 1.19 3.13 4.4 1.8
Steamer 6.94 2.74 1.44 4.28 4.67 0.8
PECOTA 7.2 2.3 1.5 4.36 N/A 0.5

You can make your qualms about projection systems, but I think it's foolhardy to believe that Estrada is going to get better or stay the same from his post-30 breakout over his age 32, 33, 34, and 35 seasons depending on the contract length. Also of course you're giving up a draft pick to make that bet.

Brett Anderson

Anderson could actually be a decent deal as long as the contract is 3 years or less. As you likely know, Anderson may be the least healthiest player in baseball in terms of staying on the field.

By my count Anderson has missed 689 days due to injury since 2009 including:

54 days in 2014 for a back injury

91 days in 2014 for a finger injury

120 days in 2013 for a foot fracture

160 days in 2012 from Tommy John

115 days in 2011 from Tommy John

56 days in 2010 from elbow inflammation

34 days in 2010 from an elbow strain

Elbow, foot, back, finger, head (concussion in the minor leagues)...there might not be a part of the body Anderson hasn't hurt.

For a team with a protected pick you won't have to cough up a first round pick, but the Royals would. They would be giving up pick/pool money for a 2-year deal on a pitcher that just had his first healthy season since 2009.

Dexter Fowler/Denard Span

This one isn't so much the players themselves, but the problem of giving up a draft pick (in the case of Fowler) $10M+ a year when the Royals have a viable in house option already in Jarrod Dyson.

We know that Ned and company seem to have zero inclination to platoon Jarrod Dyson, but that isn't going to stop myself and others from bemoaning about it. The Royals should bring in an outfielder who hits left-handed hitters to share time with Dyson who'll bat against righties. Why spend $10-15M for ~2 wins in value when you can spend half of that for equivalent value? Especially when the Royals don't have bottomless pockets with only a slot or two to fill.

Also as Scott McKinney pointed out yesterday, Span comes with a recent injury history.

2014-04-12 placed on 7-day DL with concussion
2015-04-05 placed on 15-day DL with right core muscle surgery
2015-06-17 back spasms (DTD)
2015-06-26 back spasms (DTD)
2015-07-07 back spasms (DTD)
2015-07-10 placed on 15-day DL with back spasms/tightness
2015-08-28 placed on 15-day DL with hip left inflammation
2015-09-26 transferred to 60-day DL with hip left inflammation

As witnessed by Alex Rios this year, player usually don't get healthier as they get older. For any player though back injuries tend to linger (like it did with Span) and eventually he succumbed to a hip injury.