With the offseason well underway, the Royals have already added at least one key player in Mike Minor, signed over the weekend. They have also signed Michael Taylor, a defense-first player with some power but no on-base.
One could argue that they have now fulfilled two of the three “offseason goals” laid out by Bowden a few weeks ago.
The #Royals offseason goals are clear:— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM) November 23, 2020
Starting pitcher, middle of the order bat. Improve team OBP....And chase down above avg CF options
A starting pitcher and a centerfield option. And while neither are locks to be the answers in these positions (Minor could end up in the bullpen or ineffective, Taylor is best used as a fourth outfielder), one could argue this is “check” and “check”. But what about a big bat? GMDM stated recently that he’s “focused on a middle of the order bat or continuing to be able to lengthen out our lineup a little bit.” So there is still likely to be some movement by the Royals this offseason to bolster their lineup.
It is always possible that the Royals could pursue a bat via trade, though I don’t believe they should expend any future talent for an established bat going into 2021. Simply put, if Mike Trout was suddenly on the Royals, they would still likely not contend in 2021. If the best player in baseball by himself can’t turn your team around, trading from the minors for any short-term asset is likely a mistake.
That caveat out of the way, and understanding that the Royals are highly unlikely to pursue the likes of George Springer or DJ Lemahieu, here are three names that I find intriguing for the Royals who are on the market.
Joc Pederson, the power-hitting lefty, is likely to be extremely affordable, predicted by MLBTradeRumors to be signed by the Cardinals for two-years at $18 million total. This is largely because he is seen as a platoon only hitter (he carries a .191/.266/.310 triple slash against lefties) who is not a very good defender in the outfield.
Joc was barely on my radar before the Michael A. Taylor signing, however I see that there is an opportunity with running some form of platoon with Pederson/Taylor. Against left handed pitching, Taylor is a career .251/.301/.420 hitter. Not great, but certainly workable. Couple that with Pederson, against righties, batting .238/.349/.501 and you have an above average hitter over a full season. Given that Pederson is widely seen as a platoon player, his value will never be what it would otherwise.
There’s not much to say about Santana that isn’t known by most Royals fan. He’s been a thorn in the Royals side for a long time. The long-time Indian boasts a career .248.366/.446 triple slash for his career, and is projected to hit .240/.362/.440 with 26 home runs in 2021.
Santana is 35 in April, and projected to sign for 1 year/$6 million, so is very affordable. He plays first base, which would be a fine thing for a team whose first basemen posted a combined .222/.318/.389 triple slash last season. Given that he is likely to be had for a one-year deal, he’ll probably have many suitors. If the Royals wanted to secure his services they would likely need to go to something like two years and $10-12 million, which, given his track record I’d be comfortable offering.
Ozuna is highly unlikely to become a Royal. Even if you don’t believe his monster 2020 (.338/.431/.636) is just statistical noise (it likely is), he’s still hit .282/.348/.492 since 2016, averaging over 20 home runs in that time.
Ozuna is a left-fielder, kind of. He suffered a shoulder injury that has limited his arm, and last season he started at DH in the majority of his games. He is projected to sign for four years, $72 million, or $18 million per year. This would be a big signing for the Royals, and it would likely cost them more than 4/72 to retain Ozuna, so the question becomes how much is the new leadership willing to spend?
Ozuna could be the Royals starting left field for 2020, then if Jorge Soler departs or is traded in the next year he could then serve as a designated hitter moving forward. Only 30, he is likely to be a serviceable hitter for many years to come.
I don’t expect Ozuna would be signed in isolation. A commitment to a player of Ozuna’s caliber would be a massive sign to the league that the Royals expect to contend in the coming seasons. I would anticipate this to be coupled with a Santana or Pederson signing and likely another pitcher, it just doesn’t make much sense to go all-in on Ozuna and not put other pieces around him.