Danny Duffy has given Royals fans a bit more hope for the future, by committing to the team through 2021 with his five-year contract extension. Even after that deal and trades of impending free agents Wade Davis and Jarrod Dyson, the Royals still face a number of significant free agent decisions this winter. However, Dayton Moore has not closed the door on keeping those players as well, when talking to ESPN's Jim Bowden.
Moore made it clear to us that they will continue to try and sign more of their potential free agents & thinks they’ll succeed on a couple— Jim Bowden (@JimBowden_ESPN) January 17, 2017
Could the Royals have another long-term deal in the works? They currently have a bit over $80 million committed for 2018, conceivably enough financial flexibility to keep at least one more core player. Let’s take a look at how likely the chances are the Royals can keep each of their impending free agents.
Cain sought a six-year deal last winter, but the Royals balked, possibly at the amount of money he asked for, or perhaps because that would have taken him through his age-36 season. Jim Bowden at ESPN raises Dexter Fowler and his recent five-year, $82.5 million contract as a possible comp for Cain which could price the Royals out.
Cain will be a year older than Fowler by the time he reaches free agency, with a much greater injury risk due to his history, but he has also been a better player. He has played more than 120 games in a season twice, and has never played more than 140 games in a season
Odds of staying: Fair
The market for outfielders has not been great the last three off-seasons, with just five outfielders in those years receiving $50+ million deals - Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Dexter Fowler, Alex Gordon, and Josh Reddick. Cain will hit free agency at age 31 competing with J.D. Martinez, Carlos Gonzalez, Melky Cabrera, and possibly Justin Upton if he opts out.
I would not expect Cain to sign an extension, but if he hits free agency and finds the market is not quite there for him, it would not totally surprise me to see him return. His home is in Oklahoma, not terribly far from Kansas City, and perhaps he would want to stay in Kansas City with his hermanito, Salvador Perez. With Bubba Starling not progressing enough to take over centerfield, it might be a good idea to bring Lorenzo back if the terms are reasonable.
Bowden writes that "Moustakas is another Boras client, and he’s the most likely to be traded if the Royals are out of contention by the July trade deadline". His name has popped up in a few trade rumors this winter, but since he is coming off an ACL injury that cost him five months of last season, it seems unlikely he will be dealt before Opening Day. Moose struggled for many years in Kansas City, but really came into his own in 2015 with a career year, and those numbers carried over into 2016 until he got hurt. Accordingly, 2017 is a pretty important year for Moose in terms of his free agency. If he can prove he is healthy and that his new hitting approach translates into real sustainable success, he will probably be the premiere third base free agent in a crowded market with Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Yunel Escobar, Eduardo Nunez, and Trevor Plouffe.
However, don't expect him to break the bank like Pablo Sandoval did when he signed a $95 million deal back in November of 2014. He would probably get less than the four-year, $62 million deal Justin Turner received this winter, or the four-year, $52 million deal Chase Headley signed in 2015. Those players had a much more established track record than Moustakas, but with Moose hitting free agency at age 28, he will be younger and in his prime, which will be enticing to teams.
Odds of staying: Not great, but not awful
At that price point, Moustakas may be affordable enough for the Royals. However, with cheaper options at third base available with Cheslor Cuthbert and Hunter Dozier, it may make more sense for the Royals to move on from Moustakas and use those resources to fill more pressing needs. It is possible the Royals move those players to other positions to keep Moose's glove at third base. But I would fully expect Moose to hit free agency and explore his options.
Bowden writes Escobar is "the next Royals player most likely to get extended". Escobar has never been much with the bat - he has only once posted an OPS over .700, back in 2012. However he has been particularly ineffective offensively the last two seasons. By weighted runs created plus (wRC+), no regular in baseball has been worse offensively than Escobar over the past two seasons.
Defensively, Escobar is still solid, but he has slipped from his peak from a few seasons ago. He is still capable of highlight reel plays, but his Error Runs have gone up while his Range Runs have gone down, according to Fangraphs. He has been an iron man, twice appearing in all 162 games, including last year.
Odds of staying: Not great
Escobar joins a shortstop free agent class that will include Jhonny Peralta, Danny Espinosa, Zack Cozart, J.J. Hardy, and possibly Asdrubal Cabrera. The price tag for a 31-year old, good glove, no-hit shortstop shouldn't be too great. Escobar would probably be lucky to get a two- or three-year deal worth $6-8 million per season. The Royals could likely squeeze that into their budget, but it seems that top prospect Raul Mondesi could provide very comparable numbers both offensively and defensively, for a fraction of that price. Perhaps the Royals re-sign Escobar and move Mondesi to second base, but my guess is they simply pass on keeping the 2015 ALCS MVP.
Hosmer's agent is Scott Boras, who floated a laughable $200 million number for his client. Hosmer does have some star power as an All-Star Game MVP, World Series hero, with celebrity good looks. But he has also failed to post an OPS over .850, finish top ten in the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, or home runs, and he has only received MVP votes once, finishing 24th in 2015.
Hosmer is probably looking at a contract closer to those recently signed by Brandon Belt and Wil Myers.
Myers, now a first baseman with the Padres, signed a six-year, $83 million deal this week. Belt signed a six-year, $79 million deal last spring. Both of those players signed contracts before they hit free agency, reducing what they might have gotten on the open market. Hosmer could see a bidding war between teams which should probably escalate his price over the $100 million mark. He will also hit free agency at age 28, a very young age for a free agent, so it is not unthinkable a team wants to lock him up for as many as seven years.
Odds of staying: Pretty much none.
Eric Hosmer is one of the crown jewels of the tenure of Dayton Moore's player development tenure. The former #2 overall pick has turned into the face of the franchise, and although his game still has many flaws - his defense has questions, he disappears into slumps every year, he hits the ball on the ground too much - he was an integral part of two pennant-winning clubs and a championship team.
You can see how Dayton Moore may be very attached to Hosmer as a player and may look to do what it takes to sign him. But if the price tag is seven years, and over $120 million, it will be difficult for the Royals to fit that in their payroll, and even if they do, it could really hamstring their financial flexibility for several years.
Hosmer may have some loyalty to the Royals, but he is a south Florida kid with a good sense for celebrity and may seek a larger media market to play in. Don't expect any kind of hometown discount, and while Hosmer may find it difficult to leave good friends in that Royals clubhouse, the $100+ million deal he lands will soothe over those feelings.