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Lesky’s Notes: The offseason is already wild

Just wait until guys start getting non-tendered.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The World Series ended on Tuesday night and since then, there’s already been some craziness going on around baseball. All the free agents to be became officially free agents, which is normal. But with finances in flux around the game (don’t roll your eyes too hard), there are so many sort of bizarre decisions being made. One example is the Indians putting Brad Hand on waivers hoping someone will claim him so they don’t have to pay the $1 million buyout on his $10 million option. I know he wasn’t perfect in 2020, but the guy posted a 2.05 ERA with 29 strikeouts and four walks in 22 innings. Excuse my French, but what the hell? That’s embarrassing for the Indians. And it doesn’t end there. The rumor is the Cubs may non-tender Kris Bryant and not pick up the option on Anthony Rizzo. I know their 2020 seasons weren’t what people have come to expect, but things might get seriously ridiculous. And that’s where the Royals come in and where I’m going to start this week’s Notes.

  • Back in late spring and early summer when teams were cutting minor leaguers and furloughing staff (“furlough” is probably more apt since I’m sure most of those people aren’t coming back), the Royals didn’t. We talked a lot about that at the time. It made them look fantastic at the time, and they still do. They had plenty of reason to be one of the teams cutting staff and players as a new ownership group that hadn’t yet gotten to experience the true windfall of MLB ownership, but they didn’t do it. I said at the time that one thing in their favor might be their large ownership group and the fact that if they are indeed losing money that it’s spread out across a lot of people. And that might still be true. What I’m hoping right now is that the Royals take to this offseason like they did back in the summer and take advantage of what the other teams around the game are doing. No, that doesn’t mean signing George Springer, Marcell Ozuna and JT Realmuto or anything, but I think they need to be taking advantage of what’s going on out there. For one, they should 100 percent claim Hand. Every team should. I find it very hard to believe there’s not some sort of trade market for him, but even if there isn’t at $10 million, eat some of the money and sell him at $5 million. Buy a freaking prospect. The middle of the free agent market has been sort of a goldmine for a couple years now, but this season looks like it’s going to be even crazier. I had mentioned guys like Tommy LaStella and Jurickson Profar in the past. The non-tenders that come out closer to arbitration time are going to be fascinating and will provide a huge influx of talent on the free agent market. Seeing what we’re seeing now with teams moving away from proven quality players makes me wonder what the market for guys like that will be, and I would like nothing more than the Royals to make the big market teams pulling this garbage look bad.
  • What I’m about to say is going to look hypocritical now. But I don’t think the Royals should give Maikel Franco the deal he’s destined for in arbitration given what the market holds. I talked about this a few weeks ago, and MLB Trade Rumors estimated that he’d get about $8 million in arbitration, which matched the number I had said in this very space. Yes, I said that specifically so you’d shower me with praise. I’ll wait. Okay, anyway, there’s no reason to pay that. I’m not saying they shouldn’t or couldn’t bring him back. Non-tender the guy and/or work out a two year deal for $10 million or something if you really like him that much. Given what the market is showing, I can’t imagine he’d turn down an eight-figure contract. I was actually kind of surprised to look at his numbers from 2020 to see that they were basically on the nose with his career numbers with the exception of a rise in BABIP, which was exactly what was expected by putting him in a bigger ballpark. But if he does turn that down, I mean I liked the guy and he was better than I expected but there are plenty of options out there and there might be more coming. Or they could even give Kelvin Gutierrez one final shot before he runs out of options and gets Cuthberted from the team. I just can’t find a good reason to pay Franco as much money as his arbitration salary will likely jump to given what’s going on in the game right now.
  • I think I’ve mentioned a few times the possibility of trading Danny Duffy. And if I haven’t, good friend Clint Scoles definitely has. That ship has clearly sailed with what teams have shown this week. I can’t imagine a team taking on even half of his 2021 salary at this point, which isn’t necessarily a criticism of Duffy as much as it is the owners around the game. Keeping Duffy will make a lot of fans happy, but I really do believe his future is in the bullpen in spite of the fact that he really looked pretty good as a starter for quite a bit of the shortened 2021 season. I think he moves to the bullpen in the hopes that he can either anchor an already strong unit as a veteran presence or can become a trade chip later in the season when teams either might take on a little more money if they see revenues bounce back or there’s less on the contract for the Royals to eat to make that happen. The 2020 bullpen was really solid, but one thing they were missing that Duffy could provide is a quality lefty. They tried a few pitchers there and I still think Richard Lovelady is getting about the rawest deal you can get, but they haven’t found a consistent left-handed arm. Duffy could be that. Plus, you have an added bonus if they claim Hand (who would be that lefty too) of being able to recreate HDH with Hand, Duffy and Jesse Hahn, who was so good for the Royals out of the bullpen.
  • If Duffy moves to the bullpen, there will be a need for a veteran starting pitcher to take his place. It’s easy to look at all the young talent and say they should just throw them out there, but I don’t see that happening and I don’t actually think it should happen. I’m working on something for next week featuring the 25 pitchers in the organization who will play 2021 at 25 or younger, so I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s going to be an innings limit on an awful lot of pitchers next season after the truncated 2020. You always know you’re going to need more than five starters, but you might need 12-15 next season to get through it all. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have a veteran to put with Brad Keller, Brady Singer, Kris Bubic and the combination of about six young guys who could get starts. I don’t see many pitchers next season around baseball starting more than 20-24 games in 2021, so the Royals are likely to pick up a veteran. In a normal offseason, we might be talking about Rick Porcello or Michael Wacha or something equally uninspiring, but you never know what this market is going to allow to fall into the Royals laps. Maybe they still go for the reclamation project and even go big that way hoping that a guy like Corey Kluber can bounce back. Or maybe they can find a way to add Taijuan Walker or James Paxton or even someone like Marcus Stroman. The uncertainty of the market makes anything possible, which is sort of scary, but definitely pretty fun. It’s been less than a week and this offseason is already off the rails.