The Royals will likely not be making a Qualifying Offer to designated hitter Kendrys Morales, according to reporter Jon Heyman. This just means they won’t be receiving draft pick compensation for him if he departs. They can still bring back the slugger if they are able to work out a deal with him. Heyman has previously speculated Morales should expect a two-year, $16 million deal, but with his 30 home run season he could garner up to $20 million on a two-year deal.
However from the end-of-the-year press conference, Dayton Moore sounded like the Royals would be prepared to move on if need be. They mentioned the possibility of going with internal options in a revolving door at designated hitter, to rest veterans. But there should be quite a market for designated hitters if the Royals decide to go in a different direction. On the free agent market, while sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo will likely be out of the Royals’ price range, there are other options that may fit in well in the middle of their lineup.
The Royals made a strong push for Beltran after the 2013 season, ultimately losing out to the Yankees. The switch-hitter put up his best OPS since 2011, although he slumped late in the year and ended at .295/.337/.513 with 29 HR 93 RBI. He did hit 14 of his home runs in 50 games at Yankee Stadium, which may have inflated his numbers a bit. Heyman speculates Beltran could land a two year, $32 million deal, but with Carlos coming up on age 40 next April, I would be surprised if he gets more than a one-year deal at around $15-17 million, which likely prices him out of Dayton Moore’s budget.
The 34-year old right-hander smacked a career-high 34 home runs, but hit just .239/.335/.465 for the Indians. He seems like a decent bet to return to Cleveland after a fine season, and he has played for popular manager Terry Francona in two stints now. Heyman thinks Napoli will command a one-year, $12 million deal, although at his age, a two-year deal is certainly not out of the question. If the Royals cannot afford Morales, they likely won’t be able to bring on Napoli.
Moss certainly has the ability to drive the ball out of Kauffman Stadium, as Royals fans saw when he drilled two home runs in the 2014 Wild Card Game for Oakland. He smacked 28 home runs for the Cardinals last year, hitting .225/.300/.484 with 141 strikeouts. He would give the Royals a bit more positional versatility as he can still competently play right field. He loses most of his power against left-handed pitchers, however, so that limits his value quite a bit. Heyman predicts Moss will command a one-year, $10 million deal, although the 33-year old could get a two-year deal.
The left-handed hitting Alvarez is one of the youngest options, as he will not turn 30 until February. He was non-tendered by the Pirates last winter, but resurrected his value a bit with a decent season in Baltimore, hitting .249/.322/.504 with 22 home runs in 109 games. He strikes out a ton, an approach anathema in Kansas City, but also led the league in home runs as recently as 2013. Alvarez would have to be platooned, and his defense is pretty terrible, limiting his value. Heyman guesses he could be signed to a one-year, $8 million deal.
The Royals have been down this road before, trading for Valencia before the 2014 season, but sending him out of town by mid-season. Valencia has hit very well since leaving Kansas City, including a line of .287/.346/.446 with 17 home runs in 130 games this year for Oakland. However he has earned a reputation for being an uncoachable player and he got into a scuffle with teammate Billy Butler this season. Valencia is a solid right-handed bat, can capably play the field, and is still just 32. However with his attitude, it seems unlikely the Royals will bring him into the mix, even if he can be had on a cheap one-year deal.
The seven-time All-Star has a $17 million club option with the Cardinals that will certainly be declined. Thumb surgery limited Holliday to just 110 games, but he managed 20 home runs with a line of .246/.322/.461. The 36-year old Holliday has seen his OPS fall in each of the last eight seasons, but he is still an above-average hitter who is capable of playing some outfield as needed. Holliday is considered a terrific clubhouse veteran and can probably be had on a one-year deal worth $7-10 million with incentives.
Pearce looks like a very attractive low-cost option. He does not have the 30-home run power of Morales, but his on-base percentage was almost 50 points higher. He hit .288/.374/.492 between the Rays and Orioles with 13 home runs in 85 games. His season was ended early due to forearm surgery that could raise some red flags going into next year. He is expected to be back during spring training, but at age 33 may not recover as fast as expected. Pearce is a lefty-masher which could fit in well in a platoon situation, and he can play a little first, second, and outfield if needed. With the injury hanging over him, Pearce would probably sign a one-year deal with around $5-6 million with perhaps incentives or a vesting option.
Reynolds has seemingly been around forever, but is still just 33. His numbers have fallen off the last few seasons, but he rebounded a bit with Colorado last season, hitting .282/.356/.450 with 14 home runs in 118 games. He hit just .255/.329/.403 away from Coors Field, however, which is a bit of a concern, although the "Coors Effect" can hurt a player’s road numbers. Reynolds can fill in at first, second, and third base in short stints, and should be available on a one-year deal worth $2-4 million.
Butler was a disaster in Oakland and was let go in the second year of a three-year deal, but what if I told you that he posted a higher on-base percentage than anyone on the Royals other than Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson? Or that his slugging percentage was better than everyone but Kendrys Morales, Eric Hosmer, and Salvador Perez? Perhaps that is a low bar, but Butler did rebound a bit, hitting .284/.336/.416 although with just five home runs in 85 games. He is still just 30 years old and may have some upside, although with stories leaking of how abrasive he was in Kansas City before, a reunion seems unlikely.
The Kansas City-area native has never really met expectations and has bounced around from the Marlins to the Mariners to the Rays. He hit .238/.319/.414 with 14 home runs in 104 games with Tampa Bay last year, but is still just 29 years old. Morrison struggles against lefties, making a platoon situation more ideal. Morrison has been known for being a bit of a free spirit, letting loose on Twitter, but also calling out teammates, which is either good leadership, or a clubhouse disaster waiting to happen, depending on your perspective.
Howard is a Missouri State-grad whose brother works for the University of Kansas Athletic Department. The Royals entertained the thought of trading for him before to see if he had anything left in the tank. The problem is, Howard is probably washed up. the former MVP hit just .196/.257/.453 with 25 home runs in 112 games. He is absolutely worthless against lefties, and only barely playable against right-handers. At age 36, he likely doesn’t have much left in the tank, but if the Royals want to take a flyer on him on a minor league deal, he could probably swat a few home runs in spring training.