The left overs, the forgotten. It is these type of free agents that play a paramount part during the Major League Baseball season. You see them playing major roles on contenders, as with Justin Turner and the Dodgers, along with Charlie Morton and the Astros. There is probably no way the Royals win the World Series in 2015 without some of their sneaky signings. Just look at some of the top Royals in bWAR that year. The Royals bought low on Kendrys Morales with a 2/$17 million deal. Chris Young was signed as a last minute deal in Spring Training, basically for nothing. And Ryan Madson was signed to a minor league deal in January, also for pennies.
So why does this matter for the 2018 Kansas City Royals? As it currently stands, they very likely will not be contenders. A lot of fans have come to realization with this, accepting the fact that a rebuild would be the smart thing to do.
And when you think of the word rebuild in baseball, many people think of trading any talent left on the roster, bringing in prospects, etc. There is one part of a rebuild that I find extremely underrated and not discussed enough about. Bringing in the under-the-radar free agents. Obviously, you’re not signing these players to keep them, you’re signing them to make profit with a possible deadline deal in the summer. A very low-risk, high-reward situation. Cases of this can be found all over in baseball. The White Sox signed Anthony Swarzak for less than a million dollars and flipped him at the deadline when he was posting a sub-2.50 FIP, acquiring a decent prospect in Ryan Cordell from the Brewers. Other recent examples include Trevor Cahill, Pat Neshek, and Steve Pearce.
So maybe some boring short-term moves this offseason can turn out to be useful long-term moves in July. Here are some names to consider.
This is probably my favorite one. Actually signed by the Shadow Royals in the recent SB Nation Offseason Simulation for 1/$ 1 million, Norris is my prime candidate for a flippable reliever.
In his first, true year in the bullpen, Norris was surprisingly very good. Added velocity improved his fastball considerably, allowing a low .309 wOBA on it, ranking in the top 15% of baseball.
Norris did run out of steam, falling off severely in the second half, allowing a .302/.383/.491 line, a far cry from his first half line of .183/.272/.275. He was getting whacked as the year dwindled down.
On the surface, Jesse Chavez and his 5.35 ERA/5.09 FIP aren’t all that appealing. But if you split up his numbers.
- Starter: 113.1 IP, 5.50 FIP, 17.8% K%, 8.3% BB%, 39.9% GB%
- Reliever: 24.2 IP, 3.20 FIP, 32.4% K%, 4.9% BB%, 47.6% GB%
The plan would definitely be molding Chavez back into a middle reliever, hoping the end of last season wasn’t a fluke.
You can make a case for leaving Tyler Chatwood out of a pool of “sleeper free agents,” but I still believe there could be some serious value. Fairly young for a free agent at 27, many expect an AAV for around $10 million for him. I like the price for him, but it seems to steep for the Royals.
Chatwood might have some risk, but he can bring a lot to the table. He works with some of the best ground ball numbers in all of baseball, ranking 6th out of 134 qualified pitchers in GB% (58.1%).
Should also note that even if things went south with him in the rotation, like Chavez, he could deserve a look as a reliever. Tack on a couple of MPH to his already hard fastball and put it with his plus-changeup and you could have a pretty good reliever in your hands.
A guy that keeps hard contact to minimum, can get the ball on the ground, and can keep the ball from flying into the stands would present a positive change for the Royals. And moving from Coors Field to the spacious Kauffman Stadium should help him get closer to his 2016 form.
This one is more like throwing spaghetti at a wall. Plouffe by all means, had an atrocious 2017 season (58 wRC+), showing why he has been let go by two organizations in the past year. But the reason I decided to throw Plouffe on this list involves one thing and one thing only. Money. He’ll cost pennies. Then again, he’s not far removed 2.4 win season with the Twins in 2015.
This is a fun one. Wilin Rosario hasn’t played in the major leagues since 2015, when he hit .268/..295/.416 with the Rockies in 87 games. After that down season, Rosario took his talents overseas to play for the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization. The past two years there, he’s smashed KBO pitching, slugging 70 home runs the past two years. Sort of similar to an Eric Thames story.
Rosario said he looks to pursue an MLB contract this offseason. The Royals could probably find a good amount of at bats for him at catcher, first base, and DH. He could come relatively cheap and could be worth a flyer for the right price.
Others to consider: Mike Napoli, Darwin Barney, Howie Kendrick, Yunel Escobar, Cameron Maybin, Jhoulys Chacin, Drew Hutchinson, Miles Mikolas, Brian Duensing