Truth be told, the Royals have a bad 40-man roster. This should come as no shock to people that just watched a 104 loss team decimated by free agent departures, trades, and an array of organizational fillers. But while the current roster doesn’t present much hope for the near future, there is still plenty of sorting to be made this upcoming offseason. You could even say the Royals have a glut of sorts, as some key decisions on certain player’s future in this organization will be decided.
So with the Royals no longer playing and the offseason still weeks away, let’s sort away!
Free Agent Departures
Let Jason Hammel and Alcides Escobar walk
This two seem obvious. Hammel was very not good in his 127 innings between the rotation and bullpen this year, finishing with a 0.8 fWAR. He was bad as a starter (6.16 ERA, 4.65 FIP) and subpar as a reliever (5.47 ERA and 4.13 FIP). He’s also 36 years old and shows basically no upside in his peripherals or repertoire. This one is easy. I imagine Hammel finds himself looking at a minor league deal closer to Spring Training, as at this point he’ll have to show success at triple-A before getting another opportunity in the majors.
If the Hammel decision was easy, the Escobar one is a no-brainer. Looking at the past three seasons, there hasn’t been a qualified hitter to post a lower wRC+ than Escobar. Two non-Ohtani pitchers posted a better wOBA than him this year (Clayton Kershaw, German Marquez). He’s a subpar defender at this point that provides little-to-none value on the bases. He’s very bad and his playing time is going to end way past its due date. There was no way Escobar was going to receive a major league contract last offseason, but the Royals loyalty had something to say about that. You’d figure that’s even more likely this offseason, and I’d like to think the Royals are smart enough to not bring him back again, but I wouldn’t put a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite past them. If not, Escobar is looking at triple-A, Japan, or Mexico next year.
40-man is now 38
60-Day Disabled List
Jorge Soler, Cheslor Cuthbert, Nate Karns, and Jesse Hahn are back!
Soler, Cuthbert, Karns, and Hahn will have to be placed back on the 40-man, so they’re back for the time being.
40-man is now a 42
DFA’s and non-tenders
Throwing out what’s at the bottom of the barrel
With the 60-day moves and upcoming Rule 5 and free agent acquisitions there will need to be a lot of spaced cleared from the roster. I came up with the following...
I had high hopes for Smith as a Rule 5 pickup, but he simply just wasn’t good enough to fully justify a spot on next year’s roster (6.92 ERA, 5.38 FIP). It’s still feasible he could hold down a 40-man spot though. The Jerry Vasto acquisition seemed more like it was about getting rid of Drew Butera. His ceiling doesn’t seem very high as a reliever, but maybe he could end up as a serviceable bottom of the bullpen type arm. At one point Ramon Torres seemed like a good bet to carve out a career as reserve infielder, but he hit for a 61 wRC+ in triple-A this year. Andres Machado seemed like one of the better pitching prospects in the organization a year ago, but his 2018 season was pretty much a disaster. The stuff is a bit tantalizing, but he seems like a low-leverage reliever at best. Paulo Orlando is 32 years old and his wRC+ was two (yes the number two) at the major league level this season. Ben Lively just looks like depth to the pitching staff. There’s little upside with him.
I honestly forgot Cheslor Cuthbert was still in the Royals organization for the majority of the 2018 season. He’s had a fair amount of opportunities to take over a spot in the lineup, but he just hasn’t risen to the occasion. Brandon Maurer is one of the more confusing pitchers I’ve ever seen, as the repertoire says good, but the results say terrible. I could easily see a scenario where he’s in the bullpen next year, but it’s worth bringing up he’s already been removed off the 40-man once. I liked the idea of acquiring Jesse Hahn, but we quickly got a feel for how hard it is for him to stay healthy. He does have a 3.85 FIP in 286 career innings though, so letting him go isn’t the easiest decision ever.
40-man roster is now at 33
Rule 5 Protections
There’s a couple who might need to be protected
There are a handful of notable prospects that are Rule 5 eligible, including former first rounders Foster Griffin and Scott Blewett, flame-throwing reliever Josh Staumont, and slugging first baseman Frank Schwindel. Among others, there is also OF Elier Hernandez, RHP Arnaldo Hernandez, 2B/SS Jecksson Flores, 2B/SS Humberto Arteaga, and RHP Yunior Marte.
My early gut feeling says they’ll protect three of these players, those being Elier Hernandez, Arnaldo Hernandez, and Staumont. Not protecting Schwindel could draw some flack from fans, but he’s already passed through the Rule 5 Draft once and he figures unlikely to be selected in the next one. Griffin and Blewett also go unprotected here, but they both had lackluster seasons in double-A. Of the two, I’d think Blewett would be the more likely one to be protected.
40-man roster is now at 36
Rule 5 and free agent acquisitions
Filling the leftover space
You can probably expect the Royals to be active in the Rule 5 Draft again. I’d expect at least one acquisition on that front. The rest of this space can be used on 40-man casualties and non-tendered players from other organizations, along with a few flippable free agent signings, as they did with Jon Jay, Lucas Duda, and Mike Moustakas last offseason. Maybe a signing or two to help round out the bullpen.
If they need even more space, I’d figure Nate Karns, Bubba Starling, and Brian Flynn would be next on the list 40-man exemption.
This practice obviously ignores any possible trades, but predicting a final 40-man for next year wasn’t really the goal here. The goal was to just get an early look at the abundance of minor decisions the Royals will have to make this offseason. All-in-all, I wouldn’t expect an exciting offseason for the Royals, but I would expect to see a lot coming and going for the 40-man.