Dayton Moore is preparing for an important off-season, but there are already some indications as to how the Royals will play their hand on some important decisions, according to reporter Jon Heyman. Heyman reports the Royals are “unlikely” to make a Qualifying Offer to designated hitter Kendyrs Morales, despite a fine season where the slugger hit a team-high 30 home runs.
The Qualifying Offer is expected to be set at $17.2 million this winter, so if Morales accepts that, the Royals would be on the hook for an awfully high salary for a designated hitter that had a 108 OPS+ last season. With the Royals talking about the need for payroll to “regress” a bit next year, it seems unlikely they can take that gamble.
Without a Qualifying Offer, the Royals will not receive draft pick compensation for Morales if he departs next season. Morales does have a $10 million mutual option next season, but is expected to decline that. The Royals are also expected to decline the $10 million option on Edinson Volquez, which likely means he will not get a Qualifying Offer either. They are still free to re-sign those players to contracts.
Heyman also reports the Royals will likely pick up the $6.5 million club option on shortstop Alcides Escobar, retaining his services for the 2017 season. Escobar played in all 162 games for the Royals last season, hitting .261/.292/.350 with 7 HR 55 RBI. Over the last four seasons, he has been one of the worst hitters in baseball, although he did win ALCS MVP in 2015. He also won a Gold Glove that season, but his defensive metrics fell this year. There were why the Royals may not want to keep Escobar for next season, but with Raul Mondesi likely needing more experience in the minor leagues, and with Whit Merrifield or Christian Colon unable to play shortstop well defensively, picking up the option makes sense.
Reliever Wade Davis is also attracting a lot of attention on the trade market, according to Heyman. The bullpen implosions this post-season have only highlighted the need for elite relievers. Davis drew a lot of attention at the July trade deadline, but one team was scared off by a spin rate that foretold an injury, and sure enough Davis was placed on the disabled list in late July. Davis gave up three runs in 9 2⁄3 innings after his return from the disabled list with a 15-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but his forearm injury may give teams pause. The Giants, Dodgers, Nationals, Tigers, and Red Sox are just a few of the many teams that will be seeking bullpen upgrades this winter.
Heyman also says the Royals would consider trading the high salaries of Alex Gordon or Ian Kennedy, although a rival executive says the Royals would have to eat some money to move those deals. Gordon is set to make $16 million in the second year of a four-year, $72 million deal, while Kennedy will make $13.5 million in the second year of a five-year, $70 million deal. He can exercise an opt-out after next season and receive $6 million.
Owner David Glass insists that next year’s budget has not yet been set, although there are rumors the Royals will cut back from the franchise-record $144 million they spent on payroll last year. Right now, the Royals are projected to have about a $150 million payroll without Morales, Volquez, or Luke Hochevar, who has a $7 million mutual option.