The Hot Stove is starting to heat up around baseball, but will the Royals feel any of that warmth, or will they sit in the cold corner of a rebuild? The new season will bring a new owner, a new manager, but unless the Royals are active this winter, the roster will be the same old faces.
What do our writers think will happen with the Royals this off-season? We brought a few of them together for our own winter meetings.
What should the Royals be looking to accomplish this offseason?
David Lesky: They need to be on the lookout for diamonds in the rough to accomplish two goals. One, find guys they can flip at the deadline for some minor league talent. And I don’t care if that talent is ready in 2021 or in 2024, which is a big issue with this front office believing they need to line up to some sort of contention window (which incidentally is a big reason why I think they’re struggling so much now...acquire talent, not timelines).
But secondly, find that talent that might actually be part of the next core. The name that always comes to mind is J.D. Martinez. The Astros moved on from him and he became a core piece of multiple Tigers postseason teams. Think about if some team had plucked Whit Merrifield a few years ago when he just out there in the Rule 5 draft. The Royals got lucky there, but now they need to capitalize on another team’s available players. We’ll see who gets nontendered to see if there’s anyone to add to the list who might be a find for them for years to come.
Hokius: They need to look for as many buy-low pitchers as they can find. Both starters and relievers. I’m less interested in rebound candidates for the lineup because the guys who are there need to show whether they can stick or not but there are plenty of holes in both the rotation and the bullpen that could be filled with guys like that.
Matthew LaMar: Honestly? Not much. They should trade Whit Merrifield, but if they don’t it’s not the end of the world. They are unlikely to sign any big free agents. One thing I’d like to see is some aggressiveness in the Rule 5 draft, because why not?
Shaun Newkirk: I’ll keep pounding the table on this that the Royals need to continue to exchange present value for future value as much as possible. That means trading guys on the team who have more value to the 2020 Royals than the 2021/2022/2023 Royals. They prime target there of course is Whit Merrifield.
Max Rieper: As the editor of a Royals blog, I think they should make big, stupid transactions this winter (BRING BACK LUCAS DUDA YOU COWARDS). As a fan, I think they should look for as much freely available talent that is under the age of 30 with three plus years of club control left that would be an upgrade over their current roster as they can. The 40-man roster still has a lot of dead weight on it and they could probably find waiver wire pickups, Rule 5 draftees, and cheap free agents to replace much of it.
Are there any free agents you think they should target?
David Lesky: It’d be really fun if they made a huge splash and signed Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Zack Wheeler, Yasiel Puig and like 11 relievers to see which one stuck, but that ain’t happening. In their price range, I’d really like to see them take a look at Eric Thames as a guy who can play a little outfield and obviously first base. I’m not really a Ryan O’Hearn believer in spite of the fact that he’s passed off as just unlucky. I don’t think that’s the case.
I think some solid but not spectacular starting pitching makes sense. Someone like a Tanner Roark, Kyle Gibson or Julio Teheran would be nice. And in the bullpen, kind of the same. Sergio Romo is a nice target because he’s effective and playoff proven, so teams may like that in July. Maybe take a chance on old friend Jeremy Jeffress or local boy Trevor Rosenthal too.
Matthew LaMar: Mike Moustakas, who would be a perfect fit for Kansas City for now and in the next few years. It’s not gonna happen, though. On the other hand, I’d rather not see Alex Gordon return so that more time goes to the young guys, but it’s really up to him.
Max Rieper: I think they should mostly stay away from big league free agents, and certainly not sign anyone to more than a one-year deal, but if they did want to add some free agents, would continue to look for guys they felt could become high-upside relievers in demand at the trade deadline. I don’t know if a guy like Dellin Betances would come here, but he would be ideal. Jeremy Jeffress and Carl Edwards, Jr. are other lesser possibilities. I have long been intrigued by Dan Straily, who was disastrous last year, but he’s still just 31 and a guy that could come in on a minor league deal and compete for the fifth spot in the rotation until one of their minor league arms is ready.
Shaun Newkirk: I’d like to see them continue the 1-2 year deals for pitchers for fairly cheap and then look to flip them at the deadline.
Examples: Jhoulys Chacín, Jordan Lyles, Brett Anderson, Michael Wacha, Kendall Graveman, Shelby Miller, Jerad Eickhoff, etc...
Hokius: No one in particular. Unless John Sherman wants to ignore profits and the luxury tax and just grab the best free agent at every position.
What, if any longterm deals with current players should the Royals look to agree to this winter? What is the ballpark amount?
Max Rieper: Adalberto Mondesi is the only one that makes sense right now, and even then there are some red flags, namely his health and his plate discipline. But signing him to a long-term deal is a good hedge in case he explodes, and he also has a skillset that seems like it would get rewarded in arbitration, a bit greater than what his actual value would be.
I like Brad Keller, but I’m still not convinced he’s worth committing to long-term. And I’m not really convinced Jorge Soler is part of the next competitive Royals ballclub, whenever that is. That being said, signing pre-free agent players to long-term deals is almost always a good idea, so I would be unlikely to criticize the team for doing it even for those players.
David Lesky: I think the three who make the most sense are Brad Keller, Adalberto Mondesi and Jorge Soler and not necessarily in that order. Keller is the trickiest one because the numbers are good, but the underlying numbers aren’t especially good. He’s sort of Kyle Gibson-esque in that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he doesn’t approach the numbers from his first two years again. I’m also not sure it would surprise me if he spends 10 years as an average to slightly above average starter. With him, you have to look at buying at least one free agent year, so five years at maybe $25 million with a couple of options at around $13 million each. Let’s say it’s a 5/25 with $26 million in options and a $2 million buyout each year.
With Mondesi, you’re hoping you’re buying low. If you want to look at a good field, sporadic hit shortstop who got a big extension, Elvis Andrus and his eight year, $120 million isn’t a bad one to check out, though I’m not sure it’s a great comp because he took the field every day and Mondesi hasn’t done that yet. I’d look more to Tim Anderson, Paul DeJong and Jorge Polanco as a guideline. They all got five or six years and around $25 million. Mondesi is still a year away from arbitration. So if you’re looking at six years, I think something around $28 million or so makes some sense. Maybe tack on an option to get to seven years and $42 million total. And finally with Soler, the Khris Davis deal could make some sense, though Soler’s track record is lighter. He has two years of control left that could be worth $20-$25 million with arbitration if all goes perfectly, so a four year, $48 million deal might get him to bite, though that might be a bit high.
Hokius: You’ve got to look at Soler, Mondesi, and Keller. Junis would be a low-key decent idea. I don’t think any of the guys in the minors are quite ready for KC to hand out one of those minor league extensions we’ve seen more of, recently.
Matthew LaMar: Jorge Soler, Adalberto Mondesi, Brad Keller, Hunter Dozier, and Jake Junis are all candidates, and the Royals need to be really aggressive in locking them up because they will have a huge amount of money to play with 2021 and later and free agency is a terrible way to spend it. I’ll have a piece soon about this, but I think they should definitely try to extend Mondesi and Keller, probably extend Soler and Dozier, and perhaps extend Junis.
Shaun Newkirk: Mondesi is the only one that might make sense but I’ve fallen back a little bit on valuation with him. A year ago you could have talked yourself into a $75M+ deal for him after he had a hot season in which he hit well, but now he’s coming off an injured season (again) in which his hitting took a big step back.
You could make the case for a buy-low extension and bank on a rebound, but there were no signs of extended improvement in plate discipline or better contact rates.
What are the odds Whit Merrifield gets dealt this winter?
David Lesky: Pretty slim really. A lot of teams can use Merrifield, but the teams that would be on the forefront of acquiring him likely don’t have the pieces the Royals want since they’re targeting near big league ready players. That’s not how I’d approach a Merrifield deal but it seems to be how they are. The Cubs seem to be really interested, so maybe they start to give up pieces they don’t want to in a deal, which could make it happen, but I don’t think Merrifield is going anywhere at the current offers and those offers aren’t likely to rise enough for Dayton Moore’s liking.
Matthew LaMar: Maybe 25%. Reading the tea leaves a bit, I think Dayton Moore might be more motivated to shake things up after two thoroughly embarrassing 100-loss seasons. That, combined with a new owner, a new manager, and other clubs’ persistency regarding Whit, I think there’s a real chance it happens. With that being said, it’s more likely they’ll keep him, however.
Hokius: Almost nil. They’ve shown a complete lack of interest in doing so. The time for it was really last off-season and since they didn’t I imagine he’s here until nearly the end of his contract. At that point, probably producing a fraction of what he used to the team might deal him if they’re still not competing for a lottery ticket or two.
Shaun Newkirk: I’m going to say 3%. It’s possible but I don’t expect Moore to do it and I think the new ownership also muddies the water there a bit too in that as a new owner the first thing you probably don’t want to do is trade your best player.
Max Rieper: I think the Royals would like to hold onto Whit, but some of Dayton’s public comments are pretty clearly posturing to get teams to increase their offers. I still think the asking price will be high, but they’ll move him if the right deal comes along. There seem to be a lot of teams that could use him, but would they part with the prospects it requires? I’m a bit more skeptical. So yea, there is probably like a 10 percent chance or less he is traded this off-season.
What do you predict will be some of the more notable transactions around baseball this winter?
Matthew LaMar: We’re gonna see some blockbuster trades, I think. The top tier of teams will stay good, but there are some hungry teams emerging from rebuilds and others trying to transition to stay on their feet. I’ll say that Fransisco Lindor and Mookie Betts get traded.
David Lesky: I wrote up my free agent predictions a few weeks ago and those have already been proven largely wrong, but still, they’re out there on the internet forever. As far as other deals, I think some big trades go down this winter. Corey Kluber to the Dodgers seems very possible. Maybe it becomes a massive deal with Francisco Lindor involved. The Tigers should probably move Matthew Boyd before he gives up another home run. I’m not sure where he goes, but the Nationals might have some interest if they do lose Stephen Strasburg. Starling Marte to the Mets is getting some play, and that makes a lot of sense. I don’t think the Red Sox trade Mookie Betts and I think the odds of Kris Bryant getting dealt are less than 50/50. As for the Royals? Well, I’m still surprised they haven’t traded for Kevin Pillar yet, so let’s go with that just for some local flavor.
Max Rieper: Gerrit Cole to the Angels. Stephen Strasburg to the Phillies. Anthony Rendon back to Washington. Madison Bumgarner heads to the Yankees. The Cubs deal Kris Bryant, let’s say to the Rangers. The Indians trade Corey Kluber to the Braves. And Mike Moustakas finally heads home to the Angels.
Shaun Newkirk: As of this moment, Atlanta has been responsible for 6 of the 10 free agents signed so far, so I don’t expect that to continue. I’d bet that Rendon signs for more than Cole but he doesn’t go back to Washington. Bumgarner doesn’t get the ~$70M he is predicted to get. Castellanos gets less than he should. Moustakas doesn’t get anything more than 2 years. Ozuna goes back to the Cardinals.
Hokius: I think the Red Sox will deal Jackie Bradley Jr. to the Athletics.