The trade deadline is behind us and while Dayton Moore thinks the Royals can still get out of this mess, the reality is Royals fans are looking forward to 2017. This year’s club has had a disappointing season, ravaged by injuries and an ineffective starting rotation, but much of the core that won two pennants and a championship is still intact to make a run next year. Let's take a look at what Dayton Moore has to work with between now and next year's run at another championship.
The Royals bring back the core components, but the roster will still need a lot of work between now and Opening Day. Here is how things look right now.
Eligible for free agency: Drew Butera, Peter Moylan, Chien-Ming Wang
Mutual options: Luke Hochevar, Kris Medlen, Kendrys Morales, Edinson Volquez
Club options: Wade Davis, Alcides Escobar
|C Salvador Perez||SP Danny Duffy|
|1B Eric Hosmer||SP Yordano Ventura|
|2B Raul Mondesi||SP Ian Kennedy|
|SS Alcides Escobar||SP Jason Vargas|
|3B Mike Moustakas||SP Mike Minor|
|LF Alex Gordon||RP Wade Davis|
|CF Jarrod Dyson||RP Kelvin Herrera|
|RF Lorenzo Cain||RP Joakim Soria|
|DH Cheslor Cuthbert||RP Chris Young|
|Bench||RP Brian Flynn|
|C Tony Cruz||RP Dillon Gee|
|IF Christian Colon|
|OF Paulo Orlando|
|OF Billy Burns||
It is unlikely the Royals begin the year with Cuthbert at DH, but it will be interesting to see what they do with Cuthbert for next year. Also in the mix to make the the team among position players will be IF Whit Merrifield, 3B Hunter Dozier and OF Jorge Bonifacio. Billy Burns is out of options, so it seems like a good bet that Jarrod Dyson will be traded this winter to make room for a younger, cheaper speedster.
The pitching staff still needs a lot of work, particularly for the rotation. Mike Minor and Jason Vargas are no sure bets to be ready for next year, and with the rotation issues this year, expect the Royals to add more depth. Alec Mills, Matthew Strahm, and Kyle Zimmer could all be candidates for the rotation as well.
The Royals hold club options on Wade Davis and Alcides Escobar that will almost certainly be exercised (even though I raised concerns that perhaps Escobar shouldn't be a slam dunk). The Royals will likely decline mutual options on Kris Medlen ($10 million) and Luke Hochevar ($7 million), while Edinson Volquez will likely decline his $10 million mutual option in the search for a multi-year deal. Kendrys Morales is an interesting case. The two sides may be interested in picking up his $11 million option, however Morales may be more interested in getting his last multi-year deal, while the Royals may be ready to move on after an inconsistent season.
Assuming those mutual options are not picked up, the Royals have a bit over $105 million committed to players for 2017, not counting arbitration cases for Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera, Jarrod Dyson, Dillon Gee, and Tony Cruz. Gee and Cruz will be non-tender candidates this winter, and Tim Collins will almost certainly be non-tendered after his Tommy John surgery. Using very rough arbitration estimates, the Royals look to have a payroll next year around $147 million as things stand.
#-no longer on the team, but contract is guaranteed
@-salary estimate for pre-arbitration eligible players
If the Royals have any money to spend, the free agent crop of starting pitchers is quite weak. Club options on Gio Gonzalez, Jaime Garcia, Matt Moore, and Jason Hammel will likely be picked up. Rich Hill is having the best year, but he will be 37 next year without much of a long-term track record. Scott Kazmir is likely to opt out of his deal. The best of the rest includes Jeremy Hellickson, Edinson Volquez, and 43 year-old Bartolo Colon.
Starting pitchers who either will be or potentially can be free agents this winter pic.twitter.com/h8TWMj2JLH— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) August 1, 2016
The Royals may also look for more relief help, although don't expect them to pay top dollar for anyone as they did with Joakim Soria last winter. Bench depth is another possibility, especially someone that can hit for some power.
The Royals farm system is quite thin right now, with Bleacher Report ranking it 27th-best in baseball, making it difficult for the Royals to make many deals this winter. Our mid-season prospect list from Shaun Newkirk highlights some names that may be of interest to other teams. Matthew Strahm and Hunter Dozier could make interesting trade chips to another team, although the Royals may be very reluctant to part with prospects when so few players are signed beyond 2017.
If the Royals are looking to contend next year, don't expect the Royals to deal much of their Major League talent like reliever Wade Davis, although Jarrod Dyson may be made available this winter. They may try to get someone to acquire Ian Kennedy, although he has negative value at this point due to his large contract, and the Royals have typically not eaten money in trades.
Dayton Moore faces a daunting challenge this winter trying to bring this club back to its recent glory. With Cleveland flying high, Detroit building some nice young pieces, and Minnesota bringing up their heralded farm system, the competition will be even greater in the division next year. However, the Royals still have several franchise pillars to build around, and some creative deals could upgrade the pitching staff to give the Royals a chance to compete next year.