The Royals face an uncertain off-season with Dayton Moore keeping all options open, whether it be re-signing some core players or doing a complete rebuild. While he won’t have as many decisions to make on arbitration-eligible players as last season, he may have some tougher calls.
The Royals have just four players eligible for arbitration this winter - Kelvin Herrera, Brandon Maurer, Nate Karns, and Mike Morin. Players are eligible for arbitration if they have at least three years service time (as well as special “Super-Two” players) that are not yet eligible for free agency. Clubs can tender arbitration-eligible players a contract and go through the arbitration process - which may include the salary determined by an arbitration judge - or they can non-tender a player, effectively releasing them.
MLB Trade Rumors annually provides projections on what arbitration-eligible players can expect to receive based on their own model. Keep in mind, these are just estimates. Here are the projections for the Royals, with their service time in parenthesis:
- Kelvin Herrera (5.157) – $8.3MM
- Brandon Maurer (4.089) – $3.8MM
- Mike Morin (3.089) – $700K
- Nate Karns (3.033) – $1.4MM
Herrera seemed like a no-brainer to tender a year ago, and while it still seems very likely he will be tendered a deal, the Royals have to at least think about it now after a disastrous 2017 season. Herrera earned $5.325 million last year, but has a solid track record of success and is likely due for a hefty raise despite a setback last year.
Nate Karns seems like a likely tender after showing promise in an injury-filled season. This will be his first year of arbitration. Mike Morin could very well be non-tendered, but perhaps he will be brought back on a smaller deal.
The Royals acquired Brandon Maurer in July, hoping his poor ERA was masking more positive underlying numbers. Unfortunately, his numbers didn’t improve much in Kansas City, and he could be a non-tender casualty this winter. Maurer earned $1.9 million last year, his first year of arbitration.
These arbitration could push the Royals’ projected 2018 payroll over $120 million, although they are likely to decline the $10 million mutual option on Mike Minor.