Royals players won’t be able to file for free agency until after the World Series, but the club is already preparing their off-season strategy. Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star confirms what has been hinted at for weeks - the Royals plan to make Eric Hosmer their top priority. But Mellinger adds an interesting wrinkle to the situation. Could we have a bigger reunion?
Royals officials are making it clear that Hosmer is their top offseason priority. If they are able to re-sign him, they will try to shed some payroll and make an aggressive offer to Mike Moustakas or Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer signs somewhere else, the Royals will move to a contingency plan.
Mellinger is pretty realistic about the chances of the Royals re-signing him, reasoning that it will probably take the market deflating on Hosmer, and perhaps him accepting a hometown discount to stay in Kansas City. Even the club, as Mellinger reports, sees this as unlikely.
And even if that happens, the odds of the Royals being able to shed much payroll seems rather far-fetched. The Royals will have the following contracts on the books:
- Ian Kennedy - $49 million through 2020
- Alex Gordon - $40 million through 2019 with a $4 million buyout in 2020
- Jason Hammel - $9 million through 2018 with a $2 million buyout in 2019
- Joakim Soria - $9 million through 2018 with a $1 million buyout in 2019
- Brandon Moss - $7.25 million through 2018 with a $1 million buyout in 2019
The only way teams are willing to take on bad contracts - even if the Royals eat some money - is if you offer them something else enticing - say a good prospect - and the Royals have few assets to offer. The Royals were able to move Travis Wood last July - but it took Estuery Ruiz and Matt Strahm to help make it happen.
The contingency plan - well it ain’t pretty. It means plugging in cheap vets where there are no internal options and hoping for a run like the Twins had this year, and if everything falls apart, doing a White Sox-like rebuild. Essentially, it sounds like Dayton Moore wants to buy more time, holding off a rebuild for one more year.
But why? If Hosmer, Cain, and Moustakas all leave, why not do the rebuild next year? The Twins had a successful run because they had terrific young players like Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, and Jorge Polanco, all of whom are 25 or under. The only position players the Royals will have next year that are 25 or under are Jorge Bonifacio, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Raúl Mondesí. Are Salvador Perez, Danny Duffy, and Whit Merrifield enough to lead a team to the playoffs, when they couldn’t even have a winning record the last two years with Hosmer, Cain, and Moustakas?
Hope can be a great thing, and that hope paid off for Dayton Moore when he stayed the course in 2014 and held off on being a seller to allow his team to go on a playoff run. But that was a talented team. It is hard to see enough talent in next year’s squad to come even close to .500, let alone the playoffs.
This organization needs more than hope. It needs talent. If Hosmer and Cain and Moustakas do depart, I will have hope - hope that the Royals do the right thing and do a rebuild in earnest.