It’s Friday the 13th, but we won’t take that as a bad omen with the first edition of Friday Notes here at Royals Review. After a whirlwind of a winter meetings, I expect things will be pretty quiet now until the first of the year, though I sort of expected things would be pretty quiet to this point after past winters, and that hasn’t been the case, so maybe I actually know nothing. It’s easy to wonder why things are so different this year as compared to the past when there were rumblings of collusion, and I do think some of it is a concerted effort by teams to actually get moving because of those rumblings. But I think a lot of it is that there are simply more teams involved in the game this year. I know the White Sox and Reds were active last year, but there are far fewer teams seemingly ready to sit out the next season, which leads to more competition for free agents, which leads to faster deals. It really underscores the issue with tanking and how many teams are doing it and you have to wonder what the next CBA will do to try to curtail that, if anything. Let’s get to it.
- The biggest news for the Royals this past week other than a lot of talking from those in charge is that Whit Merrifield is not only heavily in demand but that the Padres really like him. I’m not sure if they like like him yet, but they want to acquire him at the very least to see. And that’s an interesting team because of their deep farm system. The issue is with the likely ask from Dayton Moore, which I know seems silly to most of you and to me too. I don’t really know why he’s insisting on close to big league ready players, but that’s another story. The extra interesting part of this all is that there’s been some talk of Wil Myers maybe coming in the deal, though I’m not sure how much of that is idle speculation and how much is mentioned because a reporter heard something off-hand. The upside to taking Myers back in a deal is the’s owed $67.5 million the next three years and then has a $1 million buyout on an option that would surely be declined. Because of that, it becomes at least possible that they’d include Luis Patino in the deal. That said, it’s all but guaranteed that the Padres would have to pay down a good chunk of the Myers contract to make it work, which would probably take Patino out of the picture. Still, I wouldn’t be opposed at all to some sort of deal with some combination of Adrian Morejon, Francisco Mejia (if they’ve soured on him a bit), Josh Naylor if the Padres really are interested. I think Moore might have a lot of interest in Michel Baez as well in his quest to rebuild the big league bullpen. I don’t think a deal is going to happen, but a team like the Padres actually makes it sort of possible given their deep system.
- The Royals took Stephen Woods with their first pick in the Rule 5 draft yesterday, marking the third year in a row they took someone from the Rays organization (Burch Smith, 2017 and Sam McWilliams, 2018). Woods is interesting in some ways, but not the way I’d have liked them to go. My gut here is that Woods won’t be able to stay as a starter, but I think his fastball could play well in the bullpen. From what I’ve seen, his velocity is good early but he has trouble holding it well into games. He has a solid curve, but he can get a little wild at times. Of course, if he was a slam dunk prospect, he wouldn’t have been available in this draft. I will say, though, that if he was in the Royals system from the start, we’d all be glowing about a guy coming off a year with a 1.88 ERA in high-A. His numbers are actually right in line with what Brady Singer did in high-A and he’s only about a year older. It’s actually an intriguing pick. My choice would have been Dany Jimenez from the Blue Jays, both as payback for them taking Elvis Luciano last year and also because I think Jimenez has a chance to be good. I also wouldn’t have minded Sterling Sharp (if he was available when the Royals picked) or Joe Barlow (who I’m surprised wasn’t taken) as guys who could help now or even someone like Ka’ai Tom from the Indians as a potential bat to add to the outfield mix. With this draft, we think about the Joakim Sorias, Johan Santanas and even Brad Kellers of the world, but more often than not, the player selected ends up being a footnote, so I’m not going to pretend to be too upset over them not taking the player I wanted. Guess we’ll just see how things pan out with Woods.
- If there’s one thing we can say about the Royals and their leadership, it’s that there’s always something good to write about. Mike Matheny, during the meetings, mentioned at separate times that he’d like to keep Jorge Soler at DH as much as possible (I think that was on MLB Network Radio on Tuesday maybe), that he really believes in Ryan O’Hearn because of his hard-hit rate and that Salvador Perez is going to have to spend time at DH and first base as he works his way back from his Tommy John surgery. Look, it’s not that there aren’t plenty of opportunities to make that work. O’Hearn does struggle against lefties, so Perez can play first against some of them. And Soler can certainly take a spot in the outfield in place of a lefty bat like Alex Gordon if he’s back against some tough lefties, which gives Salvy the DH spot. So it’s doable. It’s just that sometimes the messages don’t match up. And that’s not even getting to the point that Salvy’s value is really behind the plate. If he was a corner infielder/DH, he’d be a guy who would be at risk of a non-tender every year. The Royals lineup really does need his power, but he’s a .254/.285/.438 hitter since 2014 and a .249/.286/.456 hitter since 2016. That’s fine when he’s gunning down 48 percent of attempted base stealers as he did in both 2016 and 2018, but that’s not a bat you need to force in the lineup at other positions. So we’ll see how it plays out, but I’m not loving the plan so far, especially in conjunction with their other plans they’ve talked about.
- I still think the Royals should be shopping Hunter Dozier. I understand their position on this, and I even somewhat get it, but let’s think about the teams in the third base market after Anthony Rendon signed with the Angels. The Twins, Indians, White Sox, Rangers, Braves, Nationals, Brewers and Dodgers all have been mentioned in connection with a third baseman on the market this year. Some are obviously less connected than others, so there isn’t a true need from all of them, but that’s eight teams. The best free agents are obviously Josh Donaldson at the top and then a lot of random guys. Travis Shaw, Jedd Gyorko, Todd Frazier, Maikel Franco, Asdrubal Cabrera and some others are the choices along with Kris Bryant on the trade market. Imagine if a 28-year old with four years of control hit the market a year after hitting .279/.348/.522. Yes, the haul would have to be big, but it just seems like a great opportunity to maximize the value of Dozier at this time when it’s going to be at least another two years before the team is competitive. Again, I’m not saying give the guy away because other teams need a third baseman, but I think a strong market would develop pretty quickly, especially from a team like the Rangers who need a third baseman for their new park and might really enjoy the hometown guy manning the hot corner. It’s not going to happen, but I really believe they should at least be fielding offers to see if it’s a move they can make with 2022 and beyond in mind.