It is that time of year again, when "anonymous high-ranking executives" have a lot to say about where players will sign and every baseball fan clamors for the latest Ken Rosenthal tweet. Its the hot stove season, and this could be one of the more interesting off-seasons in recent Royals history. Our sources can confirm that the Royals Review writing staff convened to discuss the Royals off-season.
The hot stove is heating up and priority #1 is re-signing Alex Gordon. He is looking for a five-year contract worth around $90-100 million or more. How confident are you that Alex will be in a Royals uniform come Opening Day?
Shaun Newkirk: Almost 0% confident. So let's just say less than 1%. I think the Royals are ready to collect their draft pick and move on.
Kevin Ruprecht: I am not very confident. That's asking the Royals to spend about double what they have spent in the past on a player (at least in terms of raw dollars - I'd like to see inflation adjusted dollars to compare the Ewing Kauffman years to now). Alex Gordon is great, but I don't think he's the player for whom they open up David Glass' vault.
Max Rieper: My heart wants to say he'll stay, but my head says he's gone. The Royals seem very reluctant to go five years with anyone and I don't get the impression they value Alex Gordon as much as the market does. They see a great defender who isn't a big time power hitter or RBI producer and strikes out a lot. The market sees a great defender who gets on base at a terrific rate with good gap power and can be a home run threat away from Kauffman Stadium. Gordon will easily get $100 million in this market, baseball is awash in cash. The Royals won't come close to matching that.
Matthew LaMar: I am confident the Royals will re-sign Gordon or Zobrist, but I am not confident as to which one it will be. I'm leaning towards them retaining Gordon; Zobrist's many suitors and likeliness of a four-year deal (which takes him through age 39) might give the Royals cause to pause.
Josh Duggan: It seems unlikely that Glass and Moore are willing to venture over the $90M mark to sign Gordon. As he could easily sign for somewhere in the neighborhood of five years and $105M, it seems most likely that he'll land with some team like the Orioles, Cubs, Padres, or Mariners--a mid-tier team financially with a hole in the outfield and contention a possibility.
Ben Zobrist has perhaps had the most suitors on the market, since he can help out anywhere on the field. Where do you think he ends up and for how much?
Shaun Newkirk: I think he ends up at a large market club. Not sure which one (Mets?) but for something like 4-years $70-80M with maybe the 4th year being an option of some sort.
Max Rieper: I still think he ends up in Kansas City with the Royals offering that fourth year, around $60 million total. I think the Royals seem him as a cheaper alternative to Gordon and they like his character and versatility. I wouldn't rule out the Cubs or even the Dodgers getting heavily involved, and in that case it will be difficult for the Royals to top any offer. But if I had to guess, I'd put it at around 50/50 that he comes back.
If he does come back, he supposedly wants to play second base, so it will be interesting to see what the Royals do with Omar Infante. My guess is Zobrist comes back initially as a left-fielder, but with the promise that if Omar proves he still cannot hit, the starting gig is Zobrist's.
Kevin Ruprecht: I think he ends up with the Royals for something like four years, $60 million. The Mets have been heavily rumored to be involved with Zobrist, but I find it hard to believe he goes there.
Josh Duggan: If they don't bring back Gordon, it would be great to see Zobrist come back to Kansas City. If he could be had for three years and $42M, a deal like that would make a lot of sense for the Royals, but I'm guessing someone adds a fourth year and another $1M a year, bumping it to four and $60M. With as many suitors as have been rumored, it doesn't make much sense to guess where he'll end up next year.
Matthew LaMar: Not Kansas City, though a KC reunion would not surprise me. I think somebody (Mets? Cubs?) splurges on him at 4 years, $70-$80 million.
The Royals have a hole to fill in right-field and possibly left-field as well. What outfielders would you like the Royals to pursue either through free agency or a trade?
Shaun Newkirk: They need to go the platoon route. I liked Chris Young (the outfielder, who actually signed earlier this week with Boston) and anyone who can hit left handed pitchers. Thankfully we only need someone on the short side of the split to pair with Dyson. For the other hole...I don't know? But somebody who won't cost a draft pick and $50+ million.
Matthew LaMar: How crazy are we getting here? If we're thinking free agency, Gordon and Zobrist is the ideal. Otherwise, I like Denard Span or Dexter Fowler. If we're thinking trade, getting Wil Myers or Yasiel Puig would be ideal. Otherwise, Marcell Ozuna is a good target. If it were purely up to me, I would re-sign Gordon, re-sign Zobrist for second base and swap bad contracts to get rid of Infante, and do a Dyson/Eibner RF platoon. That won't happen.
Kevin Ruprecht: I'd like to see what the Jarrod Dyson/Paulo Orlando platoon could do. A guy like Gerardo Parra could be a nice buy-low candidate. Will Venable, Chris Denorfia, and Justin Ruggiano are all out there somewhere, which is "better" than being...expensive.
Josh Duggan: For one of the spots, the Royals should employ a platoon with Dyson getting 75-80% of the playing time. A guy like Justin Ruggiano, Chris Denorfia, Matt Joyce, or John Mayberry Jr. would make sense to fill that role. It would cost almost nothing to fill out one of those outfield spots, leaving more to sign Zobrist or Gordon. If Zobrist and Gordon are out for the other full-time spot, a free agent like Denard Span or Nori Aoki [note: Aoki signed with Seattle earlier this week] could make a lot of sense, as both would probably come at a better bang-for-buck rate than the bigger names like Jason Heyward or Justin Upton, both of whom are out of the Royals' price range.
Max Rieper: I know a lot of fans would disagree, but I like Aoki as well and I think he's pretty underrated and a good fit for what the Royals do. I doubt either he or the Royals are looking for a reunion. I liked Korean free agent Ah Seop Son, but no teams bid on him, so clubs must feel like his game will not translate to MLB well.
I like Dexter Fowler a lot but if Zobrist is out of their price range, Fowler almost certainly is as well. If Gordon and Zobrist are gone, I like Rajai Davis on a one-year deal with a combination of different players - Davis, Jarrod Dyson, Paulo Orlando, Brett Eibner in both corners. There aren't many outfielders in the cheaper free agent bin that I care for much. Perhaps they could trade a reliever and a mid-range prospect for an outfielder with upside who has fallen out of favor in his organization. I haven't heard of any trade rumors of anyone that would interest me that the Royals could actually realistically acquire without giving up Raul Mondesi and/or Kyle Zimmer.
Kansas City Star beat writer Andy McCullough seems to think the Royals would look to add a starting pitcher this winter. Do you agree, and who would you like them to pursue?
Matthew LaMar: Sure, but I disagree that the Royals should try to get anyone outside the bargain bin. We've seen multiple mid-tier starting free agent signings by Moore go to waste because of injury (Meche, Vargas). Chris Young would be fantastic, as would Mat Latos.
Kevin Ruprecht: I don't believe it because Andy is not going to be here anymore. I am sad. Anyway, guys like Mat Latos, Ian Kennedy, and Chris Young are available. They need at least one more starting pitcher to account for injury and ineffectiveness.
Shaun Newkirk: I like Scott Kazmir if the Royals want to spend some money. I also like Mat Latos, AJ Burnett, and Bartolo Colon. Again...nobody attached to a Qualifying Offer.
Max Rieper: I'm not concerned much by the Qualifying Offer. The Royals will get a sandwich pick if Gordon leaves, and any draft pick they forfeit would be late in the first round anyway. They're in win-now mode, fielding another contender for the next two seasons should be more important than a late first round pick. I like Ian Kennedy a lot if they feel like he can fit in their budget. Mat Latos is young enough to have upside, would seem to fit Kauffman Stadium pretty well, and would likely be available on a short-term deal to revive his career.
Josh Duggan: It seems unlikely that they wouldn't pursue a starting pitcher on the open market. Chris Young is gone, Johnny Cueto is gone, and Jason Vargas is out for the year. Kris Medlen presumptively being healthy balances one of those gaps out, but the quartet of Ventura, Volquez, Medlen, and Duffy needs a fifth, and it could reasonably be argued that Duffy may be best suited for the pen going forward. Chris Young should be pursued, as his unique skill-set is suited for this team and it's an undervalued one.
In a world in which money didn't matter, Zack Greinke would look great in a Royals' uniform again. That clearly won't happen, so it is probably to the mid-tier or worse for a starter. This means guys like Doug Fister, Scott Kazmir, Hisashi Iwakuma, or Ian Kennedy should be the targets of such a search. Iwakuma is the sexiest of those options.
Dayton Moore's deals last year seemed to work, despite our skepticism. Do you have more confidence in him this winter?
Josh Duggan: In the past two years, he signed Omar Infante, Jason Vargas, and Alex Rios. Caution is warranted.
Shaun Newkirk: Eh not really. I think minor league deals that pay out are a little more luck than a talent in identifying a breakout (otherwise why hasn't Dayton hit on this previously)? He still signed Alex Rios, Omar Infante, Jeremy Guthrie, Jose Guillen, etc... What's Dayton's best signing pre-2015?
Kevin Ruprecht: A bit. There was Alex Rios to balance out Kendrys Morales, but Kris Medlen and Chris Young were good pickups.
Max Rieper: He has earned a bit more leeway in my opinion. But I think his track record shows free agency is not really his forte. Some of that has been because he's had to shop in the mid-tier range of free agents due to market size. But it has not been a particularly efficient allocation of resources for him. He has seemed to impose a limit on the length of free agent contracts he is willing to give out recently, which I think in general is a good idea. However the team is in win-now mode, and with pretty much everyone on the team eligible for free agency in 2018, I don't see the harm in signing someone to a four- or five-year deal at this point. 2018-2019 are probably rebuilding years anyway, so why not go all in for next year again and worry about the future later?
He has done better at the trade market, but unless he gets super-creative, its hard to see what assets he could package together to land anyone meaningful. The Royals are woefully short on prospects to deal, and they obviously don't want to break up the nucleus of a championship-winning ballclub. He has been quite good at the lower-stakes deals like Chris Young and Ryan Madson, but those are generally more complimentary players.
Matthew LaMar: Since baseball's last expansion to 30 teams in 1998, 10 teams have won the World Series, eight have appeared in at least two World Series, and four have appeared in back-to-back World Series. Considering the short shelf life of most General Managers, that kind of success cannot be lucked into. Individually, Moore's moves have sometimes proven odd, but he has earned the benefit of the doubt. It is, of course, important to remember that both the best and worst GMs make personnel mistakes.
What do you think the Royals end up doing this winter?
Matthew LaMar: They'll get either Gordon or Zobrist, try and probably fail to get rid of Infante's contract, sign a low-to-mid tier guy like Edinson Volquez to a short multi-year deal, and overpay for a bullpen piece. If they don't get Gordon or Zobrist, though, there could be a lot more moves.
Shaun Newkirk: I'd imagine Dayton overpays for a starter and signs two lackluster, lower value outfielders (for better or for worst) and hope it all works again in 2016.
Kevin Ruprecht: Hopefully re-signing one of Alex Gordon or Ben Zobrist and filling out the rest of the roster with buy-low rebound candidates.
Max Rieper: I think they will land one of Zobrist or Gordon, most likely Zobrist in my opinion. They'll sign an aging vet on his last contract to a one-year deal to play right-field (Marlon Byrd? Shane Victorino?) I can see them signing a starting pitcher, but not in the mid-tier class of free agents, more towards the bargain bin like a Mat Latos or Colby Lewis on a short term deal. There is a lot of noise about them adding a reliever, but I can't imagine they add anyone expensive.
Josh Duggan: Probably not a whole lot. They'll fill in the back of the bullpen. They'll add a starter or two. They'll address the outfield and in the process will likely shove Dyson back on the bench. If Moore can get rid of Infante, I'll kiss him.