The good news is that it’s been a nice and relaxing week where we can focus on baseball’s award finalists being announced, Silver Slugger winners and Gold Glove winners. Nope, nothing else can be distracting us from that other than a non-competitive Thursday Night Football game last night and for that I am very thankful. After qualifying offers were issued and free agency officially began, the baseball off-season has started with a bit of a predictable lull for, well, societal reasons, but also because it’s going to be super quiet outside of really good players hitting the market because they’re just too darn expensive for billionaire owners to afford. That’s actually a request I want to present to you all because I haven’t seen it anywhere. If anyone sees a study about the revenue differences betweens fans in the stands and the additional in-stadium ad revenue, send it my way. I’m very curious.
- Let’s start this off with a Royals award that many may have missed because MLB decided that they were going to announce Gold Glove winners on Tuesday, November 3rd. Seriously. Anyway, you all know this that Alex Gordon won his eighth Gold Glove, tying Frank White for the most in Royals history, and that’s a heck of a way to end a career as he’s one of only a few to win it in his final season. Alex’s legacy is one that I don’t personally think leaves any room for argument, but there are some who disagree, especially after the mega-contract he signed following the 2015 season went so far south. What I find funny about his career is that he was touted as the next George Brett after being drafted and after his 2006 minor league season in AA, but maybe ended up as a better version of Frank White. A local(ish) player who was a great defender at his position, winning an identical number of Gold Gloves and playing big roles in a couple different postseasons. Of course, Gordon was the better hitter than White with a lot of the counting gap between the two accounted for with Frank playing about 600 more games. Still, Gordon ranks in the top 10 in Royals history among position players in WAR, games played, at bats, plate appearances, runs scored, hits, total bases, doubles, home runs, RBI, walks, runs created, extra base hits, hit by pitch and times on base. I just think it’s a fitting end to that career that he won the gold one final time. I’m personally looking forward to them adding the “4” to the Hall of Fame and seeing that statue right outside the building. Oh yeah, and congrats to Salvy on winning his Silver Slugger. That’s pretty cool too!
- Now let’s get to the travesty that is baseball economics where a lot of different free agent prediction lists have come out with money attached to it. And predictably, outside of the top handful of free agencies, it’s super light for just about everyone who comes after it. There are a couple names that come up as interesting to me from a Royals perspective because they’re not expected to be in on really any of these for the most part. I look at Trevor Rosenthal and he’s generally been predicted to get two years and $14 million or so just about everywhere. If that’s his contract, I’d bet you he gets that with the Royals. I don’t think the Royals are the favorites over the field, but they’d have to be the favorites over every single team. I said it when he was traded and I’ll say it again. This is a guy who was pitching in his home town for a manager he loved. Sure he might go for more money elsewhere, but if the money is in a very reasonable contract like that, I’d bet on him being back. I mentioned that I wouldn’t want to give him the 3/30, 4/36 type contract that a lot of relievers have gotten over the last few years and I still wouldn’t, but count me as a yes on 2/14. And on Greg Holland, the consensus seems to be for one year and $4 or $5 million, which is another easy yes for me. I thought after the season he had that he might go in and command the type of deal Rosenthal is predicted at and I don’t think I’d give that to him given the issues he’d had basically since leaving the Royals after 2015. But for a one year deal? Absolutely sign me up for that. The Royals bullpen, while in good shape with Jesse Hahn, Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont and then some hope for Kyle Zimmer and Tyler Zuber, isn’t a finished product and bringing in a couple veterans who really got it done in 2020 for a reasonable price is something I can get on board with pretty easily.
- Some other free agent predictions that I think put the Royals in a pretty advantageous spot are out there. Craig Edwards at Fangraphs put his list together and it’s pretty on par with what we’ve seen from other sources and I just really like the way he lays it out, so that’s the one I’m linking and going to use. I mentioned Marcus Stroman here last week (I think, last week was like a month ago) and Edwards has him at two years and $26 million. I’d actually pass on that now due to the qualifying offer being attached. But 2/24 for Michael Brantley? Yes please. Joc Pederson at 2/20 is actually about where I’d have probably guessed, so that isn’t much of a bargain in my opinion, but it’s still not breaking the bank, so I’d be okay with that. The one that stands out to me is Jackie Bradley, Jr. When looking ahead a couple years ago at this class of free agents, I prepared myself for the Royals to go after and ultimately sign JBJ and I kind of dreaded it because I felt like he was about to get three years and $48 million or something like that. And I still wouldn’t do that deal, but if he gets the two years and $18 million predicted by Edwards, uh yes, sign me up right now. I’d also be very happy with Taijuan Walker at 2/19, Jurickson Profar at 2/9 (this one seems extra crazy low), Garrett Richards at 1/7 and Robbie Grossman at one year and $6 million. The point here is the same one we discussed last week. The Royals have a very real chance to add to their club and make some noise without spending any serious dollars that will hinder future payroll or even put them too far over the top in 2021. The Indians are still going to have the pitching but they’re taking a step back. The White Sox have a lot of talent, but man if Tony LaRussa there isn’t a recipe for a crash and burn. I’m not saying the Royals can climb the division this quickly, but they can definitely make themselves far more competitive really easily.
- I mentioned last week a move of Danny Duffy to the bullpen, which would open up a need for a veteran starter in the rotation. I want to clarify that a bit because I did make it seem like I thought that was a need. I don’t. A team doesn’t need a 30+ year-old guy leading their rotation just to have that there. Think what you want about Brad Keller, but he’s pitched three full big league seasons. A guy going into his fourth season is at least on the verge of being the vaunted veteran presence no matter how old he is. I also think that Brady Singer and Kris Bubic are very advanced in their preparation, so it’s not a huge necessity. But I do think Dayton Moore and Mike Matheny will want that veteran presence. I know I keep promising this article about pitchers 25 and under and I promise it’s coming at some point when I have more time to write it, but the Royals are going to need a lot of starting pitchers in 2021. Every team will. Lance Lynn led baseball with 84 innings in the regular season. Singer led the Royals with 64.1. Teams are not going to allow their starters, especially their young ones, to throw a ton of innings next season. It’s just not happening. I know there were summer camp innings and spring innings and guys threw during the hiatus and all that, but the Royals will look at all their young pitching and want to add an arm or maybe even two who they can throw out there for 130-150 innings to take some of the pressure off the young guys who didn’t get to throw nearly as many innings as they wanted. And that’s where the Walkers, Quintanas, Richards of the world come into play for the Royals. And maybe it ends up being something more like the Homer Bailey deal from 2019, but I would be honestly shocked if they don’t bring in a veteran starter whether we like it or not.