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The Slow Off-Season Mailbag

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I stare out the window and wait for baseball.

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Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Pitchers and catchers report in Surprise, Arizona on Tuesday, but yet it still feels like the off-season is incomplete, with over 100 free agents still unsigned, including many top free agents like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.

Regardless, spring training must go on. Let’s chase the winter blues away and think about the warm sun of Arizona baking on our skin as we hear the pop of the mitt from pitchers throwing their first set of warmup pitches. Let’s get thinking about baseball with a mailbag.

It seems a good bet that most of them will remain unsigned well into spring training and it wouldn’t completely surprise me if one or two are unsigned by Opening Day. They’ve come this far, and I think that having MLB and the players’ union trade barbs may have strengthened their resolve to dig in deeper and hold out for a big deal.

And don’t underestimate his ability to get one, at least if there really isn’t any collusion going on. Every year it seems like pundits proclaim “ah, this is the year Scott Boras has overplayed his hand.” And yet every year he seems to net a big deal out of the blue.

But the trends have been towards players not getting the mega-deal. Only one player signed a $100+ million deal last year - Yoenis Cespedes, while Mark Trumbo - who some expected to - signed a paltry three-year, $37 million deal. With all fifteen of his free agents still unsigned in mid-February, maybe this is the year Boras loses touch with the market.

When he appeared on The Program with Soren Petro on 810 WHB last week, Dayton Moore mentioned they still wanted to add pitching depth. The Blaine Boyer signing this week is the kind of deal I think you can expect. Dayton is proven to be fairly effective at building a bullpen on the cheap and I think he’ll sort through the rummage to find an arm or two. Right now the pen is full of a lot of question marks, with Kelvin Herrera, Brandon Maurer, Jesse Hahn, and maybe Wily Peralta as the only locks.

I think you could see them sign one-year, stopgap contracts at first and center field once the market unfreezes. They were linked to Cameron Maybin earlier this off-season. A lot of fans want Jarrod Dyson, but Jeffrey Flanagan seemed to dismiss that idea. I would expect a guy like Mark Reynolds at first, as even Logan Morrison is probably too pricey for what they want to spend, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to commit to a veteran for 3-4 years when you’re rebuilding.

That’s a really good question. Matthew LaMar wrote about how he’s kind of gotten lost in the shuffle. Last year was a completely lost season for him, as he missed much of the season with an oblique injury, then a wrist injury. He’s 26 this year, so you feel like the Royals need to see what he can do at the Major League level. Flanagan wrote that he was in the running at first base, but I worry he will get overlooked. My guess is he begins the year in Omaha and will have to work his way to the Major League roster. With his positional versatility, he could be a guy that travels I-29 between Omaha and K.C. quite a bit.

I still think the odds are that Eric Hosmer returns to Kansas City. There just isn’t a market for him and the Royals value him much more than any other club. If he is looking for a nine-year deal, as Jeff Passan reported, he’ll have to drop that demand, it just isn’t going to materialize. If he does, I think he can still get a very lucrative deal. I would predict a seven-year contract worth around $145 million with some incentives sprinkled in.

If somehow Hosmer doesn’t come back, I would bet the club brings someone in, like Mark Reynolds, or perhaps you’ll see a minor trade for a younger guy. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them try to get a guy like 26-year old Tommy Joseph in Philadelphia, who seemingly no longer has a role there.

I love Ryan O’Hearn, but his numbers weren’t eye-popping last year and he ended up being demoted back down to AA. Still, he can draw some walks and he hit 22 home runs across AA and AAA, with an overall line of .255/.330/.455.

The Royals left him unprotected for the Rule 5 draft, which may be an indication they don’t think that highly of him, or it may have been a gamble that first basemen aren’t selected in the Rule 5 very often. He is still just 24 so I would expect him to start out in Omaha and if he hits well, he could be in Kansas City very shortly.

Yes. Get ready for BUBBA MANIA. Let’s face it, if Bubba Starling were not a first-round pick from the Kansas City area, he would not still be on the 40-man roster. The organization will give him every, and I mean every opportunity to succeed. If he has one hot month in Omaha, he will be promoted to the big leagues.

That said, why not? His glove, by all accounts, is excellent in center. He has speed and power. The Royals are in a rebuilding year. Throw him out there and see what he can do! At least then you can definitively find out if he can hit Major League pitching, and you can stop grasping at straws and getting excited about one or two hot weeks against Pacific Coast League pitchers. Get your Bubba burgers ready, cause he’s gonna be patrolling center by the end of the year.

If they had to do it over, my guess is they definitely would have not done the Padres trade. Despite a rough year, Matt Strahm would be a nice arm for a rebuilding team to have this year, and Esteury Ruiz got the attention of many scouts in the Arizona Summer League. I think they would have still made a run for contention, maybe making individual smaller trades for pitching depth.

But I don’t think they would have “blown it all up” at the deadline. I think it is clear, teams aren’t giving up good prospects for one year or less of control for hitters anymore. So I don’t think the Royals were going to get much for Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, or Mike Moustakas had they been on the market.

What should they have done? That’s a really tough one. You can make a case they were outperforming their pythag by quite a bit, were a flawed team that had gotten lucky, had little chance of getting past the Astros to the World Series, so they should have tried to trade everyone to see what they could get. But I think when you are in contention, you owe it to your team to make a run for it. So I think they did the right thing trying to get better, and the trade they made seemed good at the time, it just completely backfired.

PECOTA says 66 and for the first time in several seasons I think the projections are just about right. Things could change between now and Opening Day, but the roster right now looks very weak. The lineup was third-worst in the league last year in runs scored, and they’ve lost three of the four top hitters in Hosmer, Moose, and Cain. Their pitching was tenth in runs allowed, and they’ve lost five of their top eight arms in Jason Vargas, Mike Minor, Scott Alexander, Joakim Soria, and Peter Moylan.

There aren’t many players you can expect to outperform what they did last year. Maybe Jorge Soler hits better. Maybe Alex Gordon isn’t quite as bad as last year. Maybe Jason Hammel and Ian Kennedy live up to their contracts a bit better. But the depth is just woeful right now, and with 2-3 key injuries, they could make a real run at 100 losses, particularly if they start trading guys away during the summer.

That’s an excellent question. The Royals typically aren’t great for fantasy purposes because GRIT isn’t recognized as a category in most roto leagues. I think Salvy is an obvious first choice because he’s a good bet to give you 20 home runs at a premium position. Whit is the reigning league stolen base champ, and gives you some positional versatility - he should be eligible at second and the outfield in most leagues. Danny Duffy will give you a fair amount of strikeouts and a decent enough ERA, but injuries have to always be a concern with him.

After that, whew. Kelvin Herrera may give you some saves, but it doesn’t sound like he’s a lock to get the closer’s job to begin with. Maybe you take a $1 flyer on Jorge Soler or Jorge Bonifacio. You really don’t want to be stuck with Alcides Escobar.

The Royals will be handing out five bobbleheads this year. Salvy as Han Solo would be kinda funny. Bobbleheads for Sluggerr, Jeff Montgomery, and Whit Merrifield are all fine. But the winner is pretty clear in my mind - the George Brett Pine Tar one. We’ve gone from bobbleheads being smiling cartoonish looking bobbing heads, to a somewhat realistic portrayal of a man bent on violence. I want George on my mantel, yelling at Sluggerrr (playing Yankees manager Billy Martin) and Mr. Royal (playing the role of umpire Tim McClelland).

Cliché as it is, it is pretty hard to top the burnt ends at Joe’s Kansas City. However, I will say this, I just had the pork bao (think seared pork on a fluffy steamed Asian bun) at Boru yesterday and I could eat about two dozen of those things. I have kids, so most of our nights out involve mac and cheese, so I’ll open it up to you, what is a dish in Kansas City I have to try? Bonus points if its NOT a BBQ restaurant. Love the BBQ, but I feel like we need to give our other establishments some love.