It is officially the off-season, so let’s catch you up to speed on what is about to happen over the next six months.
What are the Royals going to do?
Good question! The Royals had a disappointing season at 81-81, but they were in the Wild Card race going into September and at times looked like a team worthy of defending their title. Injuries to Mike Moustakas, Wade Davis, and Alex Gordon were to blame for some of their issues, but down seasons from some key players like Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, and Edinson Volquez were a major factor as well.
Dayton Moore said he was pleased with the looks of his starting rotation, but wanted more bullpen depth, which could tip his hand on how he will approach this off-season. With Raul Mondesi seemingly overmatched at the big league level, they may also want to get an experienced second baseman, although Whit Merrifield played well last year and Cheslor Cuthbert is getting reps at second base. The Royals would probably like to add a bat, especially if Kendrys Morales departs, although the team may not have a set designated hitter as they have had in the past.
What does the Royals payroll look like?
General Manager Dayton Moore said the team payroll would likely “regress” from the franchise record $144 million they spent last year, although owner David Glass walked back those comments saying Dayton was “a very persuasive kid.”
The Royals currently have about $150 million in salary commitments for next year, not including Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales, Kris Medlen, or Luke Hochevar, all of whom have mutual options likely to be declined. The club could save a few million with non-tenders, but the club may have to move a veteran player like Wade Davis, already reportedly receiving interest, if they want to significantly cut payroll.
What are some important dates to know?
It would be helpful to know when the Royals have to make some important decisions. Here are the important dates to know this off-season.
Today, November 3 - Eligible players may file for free agency
The Royals have just two players eligible for free agency - catcher Drew Butera and reliever Peter Moylan. The Royals have a five-day exclusive negotiating window with them before they can begin negotiating with other clubs on November 8.
November 7 - Last day to make Qualifying Offers to free agents
Teams have until Monday to make a Qualifying Offer to free agents, which, if declined, would give them a compensatory pick in next year’s draft. Teams must make at least a one-year, $17.2 million Qualifying Offer, which can be accepted by the player. The Royals will have a potential decision to make on Kendrys Morales, and it is very unlikely they make an offer to Edinson Volquez.
The Royals will also have to reinstate Tim Collins, Luke Hochevar, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Mike Moustakas from the 60-day disabled list and put them on the 40-man roster by this date. Hochevar may have his option declined by then, and Collins could be outrighted.
November 7 - BBWAA Awards Finalist Show
The finalists for Most Valuable Player, Cy Young Award, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year are announced. The Royals are not expected to have any serious candidates up for these awards. The winners will be announced daily from November 14 to 17 on MLB Network.
November 8 - Gold Gloves Awards announced
If you want a break from political coverage next Tuesday, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, and Salvador Perez will all be up for Gold Glove Awards to reward their defensive excellence. The winners will be announced at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.
November 8 - Eligible players may file for minor league free agency
If a player is not on the 40-man roster, they are unsigned for 2017, and they have been in the minor leagues for six seasons or more, they may become a minor league free agent, free to sign with anyone. Among the players that have this option are Orlando Calixte, Benino Pruneda, John Lannan, and Matt Murray. The Royals already re-signed Malcom Culver.
November 8-10 - General Manager Meetings in Scottsdale, AZ
This is not to be confused with the Winter Meetings, where many transactions take place. The General Manager meetings are just a chance for executive to meet and lay the groundwork for transactions that will take place later in the off-season.
November 14 - Last day for free agents to accept Qualifying Offers
Players that are made Qualifying Offers must accept by this date, which binds them to the roster for at least one more year. Last year, Brett Anderson, Colby Rasmus, and Matt Wieters all accepted their Qualifying Offer after three consecutive years of no player accepting. Rejecting a Qualifying Offer could mean a tough free agent process for a marginal player, as Kendrys Morales discovered in 2014, when he did not sign a contract until June.
November 18 - Rule 5 rosters must be finalized
The Rule 5 draft allows teams to select minor leaguers that may be stuck in other organizations. Players eligible to be taken are those not on the 40-man roster who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years, or who were signed at 18 and have played for five years. Players can be protected from the draft by being placed on the 40-man roster, but they must be added by this date. The Royals may want to protect several pitchers from being selected.
December 2 - Last day to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players
For players that are unsigned and arbitration-eligible, teams must offer them a contract by this date to retain their services. If they do not, they “non-tender” the player, granting them free agency. The Royals have eight unsigned arbitration-eligible players - Tim Collins, Tony Cruz, Danny Duffy, Jarrod Dyson, Dillon Gee, Kelvin Herrera, Eric Hosmer, and Daniel Nava. Duffy, Dyson, Herrera, and Hosmer should be no-brainers to tender contracts to, but the Royals will have to decide if they want to go through the arbitration process with Collins, Cruz, Gee, and Nava, try to re-sign them at a cheaper rate, or let them go. You can find estimated arbitration salaries here.
December 5-8 Winter Meetings, Washington, DC
The Winter Meetings are baseball’s annual industry convention, and typically when a flurry of moves are made as general managers meet with each other and with player agents. Even if moves are not made, the conversations that take place can lay the foundation for a later move, such as when the Royals set the framework for the James Shields trade back at the 2013 Winter Meetings. On the last day of the meetings, teams hold the Rule 5 draft.
Mid-February, Pitchers and Catchers Report, Surprise, AZ
The Royals have not yet announced when pitchers and catchers will report to spring training, but it typically happens in mid-February, with the rest of the squad reporting a few days later. The Royals have not announced their spring training schedule, but other teams have released their schedule with play generally beginning the last week of February.
April 3, Opening Day, Minneapolis, MN
The Royals will begin the 2017 season in Target Field in Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Twins. The home opener will be a week later on April 10 against the Oakland Athletics. The full 2017 Royals schedule is here.