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What you need to know about the Royals and the Winter Meetings

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The slow off-season may start to pick up next week.

MLB: Spring Training-Media Day Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The hot stove has been ice-cold this off-season, but things could begin to pick up next week as teams meet in Orlando for the Winter Meetings. The Winter Meetings are baseball’s annual convention, complete with seminars, vendors, and job-seekers. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, GMs will get together on trades, and meet with agents to complete deals for free agents. It was the Winter Meetings that Dayton Moore signed Gil Meche and laid the foundation for the Zack Greinke deal.

Will this year’s meetings change the outlook for the Royals? Here is what you need to know about next week’s Winter Meetings.

What will the Royals be looking to accomplish?

Well, they need to field a team for next year. With their departing free agents, the Royals face potential holes at first base, shortstop, third base, centerfield, the starting rotation and bullpen. They may have some internal options to fill some of those holes, but they may look for veteran players for others. If they do, expect more deals like their recent signing of Wily Peralta, one- or two-year deals at a very low price for players coming off poor seasons but with some upside.

The Royals will also have to decide if they want to to a full rebuild and start trading away valuable assets for long-term prospects. The team is trying to keep payroll under $120 million, which could be very difficult with current obligations, so expect the Royals to try and shed some payroll. That could mean moving Jason Hammel, Kelvin Herrera, or Joakim Soria. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports the team may even entertain trading cheap players like Scott Alexander and Whit Merrifield if the return was right. Dayton Moore has said the Royals will listen to any kind of trade offers, saying “if somebody blows your doors off on something, you always have to look at it.”

Will they bring back any free agents?

If they do, it won’t be this week. The Royals are taking a “wait and see” approach to Eric Hosmer, the only free agent they seem to be interested in bringing back. Dayton Moore has admitted the only contact he has had with the All-Star first baseman was to congratulate on him on his off-season accolades. Moore has indicated he will wait out the market and if Hosmer finds there is not as much interest in him as he originally thought, the Royals may try to swoop in and bring him back at a reduced price. But if that does happen, it will be closer to spring training.

The most interest in Hosmer seems to be coming from a surprising place - San Diego. The Padres have not been competitive in several seasons, and already have Wil Myers at first base, but Myers has been open to moving the outfield, and the Padres could be looking to make a big splash. The Red Sox, Yankees, and Cardinals are other teams that could be potentially interested.

What rumors are you hearing about the Royals?

Not many. The Royals are likely looking for a centerfielder with Lorenzo Cain almost certainly departing, and less-than-stellar internal options like Paulo Orlando, Billy Burns, and Bubba Starling. They have been rumored to be interested in veteran Cameron Maybin, who would probably be looking at a cheap 1-2 year deal. The Royals have been connected to Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. again, but reportedly Boston is not keen on moving him. Much of the off-season will likely depend on what happens to Hosmer.

Will the Royals be active in the Rule 5 draft?

Most likely. They have two open spots on the roster to add players, and could use all the young talent they can get. A bullpen arm seems most likely, since the Royals could use help there, but don’t be surprised if they look for a speedy outfielder. Any player selected will have to stay on the Major League roster all season or be returned to their original club after passing through waivers. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com has his Rule 5 preview with a good list of names here.

The Royals may also lose a player or two in the draft. Among their unprotected players are first basemen Frank Schwindel and Ryan O’Hearn, infielder Corey Toups, outfielder Elier Hernandez, and pitchers Yender Caramo, Sam Selman, and Yunior Marte. The Rule 5 draft will take place on the final day of the Winter Meetings, on Thursday morning.