It’s Christmas season, baby. The most wonderful time of the year. I’ve already gone through my Christmas music playlist 75 times and I will continue to do so until Valentine’s Day. Yeah, I’m that dude and I’m not apologizing for anything.
As a kid, I sculpted my Christmas wish list all year long. There were multiple drafts of it every year strategizing the order of priority with what was realistic to Santa’s capabilities (Santa doesn’t make CD players; he’s not THAT technologically advanced, he’s like hundreds of years old). I also wanted to maintain credibility as a kid that didn’t ask for the moon. Sure I wanted every ninja turtle action figure and playset and accessory and television rights and creative control, but I felt guilty asking for those things. There were plenty of kids that never knew about ninja turtles and their Christmas lists were more about necessity than want. I was very fortunate.
Now that the off season has officially started, we can officially start speculating what free agent would end up where and for how much. Our own David Lesky called his shot here at Royals Review. Jim Bowden made his annual predictions for his top 35 free agents at The Athletic. And MLB trade rumors collaborated for their top 50 free agent predictions. So this got me thinking of what the Royals could realistically do to move this club forward.
I’m gonna start with the disclaimer that it would be very neat if the Royals made a big splash in free agency. Anchoring both present and future rotation with Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg would be very neat. Signing all around great player, Anthony Rendon, would do wonders in bulstering an already solid lineup and would be very neat. But that just ain’t happenin’. That’s not the front office’s thing even with new ownership and a bigger TV deal. With the current wave of prospects being centered around a core of starting pitchers, I think it’d be great to get that cornerstone guy; like a totem from Inception.
But that’s an article for another day.
So with these considerations taken into...consideration...and with the same strategy of not asking for too much as I had as a kid, I’ve constructed my Christmas list of what players the Royals should target in free agency. And I’m going to do it in letter form so can someone please send me some stamps? Thanks in advance.
“Dear Dayton Claus,
I’ve been very good this year. I ate all my vegetables. I took out the trash on my birthday. I watched all of the Royals games this season. Please keep that in mind as you read this Christmas wish list.
For starters, let’s discuss starters. I could ask for Cole or Strasburg. I would love to come downstairs on Christmas morning to find Bumgarner chopping down our tree. But I know things are tough sometimes. So I’m just going to ask for Michael Pineda. He’s 30 years old and is coming off a season where he posted a 4.30xFIP (career worst) but a 1.16 WHIP in 146.0IP. If he could be signed for 1-2 years for $8-11M AAV, I think he could provide some low risk/high reward value for this staff. He could help bridge the gap to the young core and become a flippable asset to assist in the future plans as well. Please bring me a Pineida. I’m sure Glenn Sparkman is a great guy. I just can’t anymore.
Next, this bullpen could use a bolstering and I know you love rebound players, I’ve got someone in mind: Dellin Betances. I’ve been in love with him for a few seasons and now that he’s a free agent coming off a season lost to injury, his price is actually in the Royals’ range. MLB Trade Rumors thinks he could be had on a one-year deal for $7M to reestablish value. I get the health concerns about his shoulder and achilles, those are serious. But between the 2014 and 2018 seasons, he had a 2.28 xFIP, 14.63 K/9, 1.02 WHIP, and a 40.3% K rate. Even if he’s 80% of that pitcher this season, he will bolster that bullpen as a setup man if not the closer. And at the deadline, you could have two solid relief pitchers to trade, or you could attempt to woo Betances into signing a long term extension as the team’s closer for the coming contention window. I think it’s a win-win-win. Please send Betances.
Finally, let’s add a piece to this, already potent, lineup. If I’m being honest here, I would absolutely love you to bring me Yasiel Puig. He has plenty of upside as a player and he’s still theoretically in his prime. Sure he hasn’t quite lived up to his monster freshman and sophomore years, but he’s still a multifaceted and oober athletic player. This is all before mentioning the best part about him: his personality. He oozes swagger and genuinely looks to be having fun (when he’s not trying to fight an entire team). Think about how much fun he’d have with Salvy.
I think you’d agree; there hasn’t been a better duo since milk and cookies. I’d seriously stay tuned to the season just to see their antics.
Sadly, Puig might also get an expensive deal. Jim Bowden thinks he could command a 4/$48M deal. I would still do that but I’d understand if you balked at it. So I’m providing a backup plan.
Eric Thames was recently made a free agent after the Brewers declined his $7M option for next season. There was speculation that the Brewers were going to try to bring him back on a cheaper deal or there were plenty of teams oversees that were interested. That tells me that he could be had for a cheap deal while adding a few things to the team: left handed power and defensive versatility. You and I both love defensive versatility. He plays an average first base and an above average to good right field. Those are both positions we could use some depth at. He also brings over middle of the order power from the left side of the plate, especially against righties. Since he returned from Korea in 2017, he’s posted 139, 110, & 122 wRC+ vs. right handed pitchers. If you’re still interested in seeing what McBroom has to offer, throw Thames into a platoon mix with O’ Hearn, Phillips, Starling, and McBroom. The point is that there could be some solid value to be had is Thames were to be given 2/$10M and again, some low risk/high reward type of stuff.
In conclusion, Mr Claus, I think that adding these 3-4 players via free agency this off season provides everything you’d want: solid production for the present team and future production if flipped in trades. All without breaking the bank (all three could be had for $20M aka one Alex Gordon). Payroll would still be under $100M and you’d be adding 5-6 WAR to this team, which is a nice start.
P.S. I’ve left out some milk to wash down the cookies shaped like Mr. Puig licking his bat as added incentive. Please enjoy and Merry Christmas.”