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Lesky’s Notes: Uh, play ball

The 60-game season starts in 30 days for the Royals and I’m so happy to be talking baseball over labor...with a little labor sprinkled in.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals
Sep 4, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals designated hitter Jorge Soler (12) hits a home run against the Detroit Tigers during the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

We have been talking in this space for weeks about proposals and counter-proposals and more proposals and so on and so forth for so long that I’ve kind of forgotten what it’s like to actually talk about real-life baseball that’ll be happening on the field soon. After falling back on the agreement reached way back in March, the Major League Baseball season is scheduled to finally happen starting on July 23 (probably July 24 for the Royals). So now we can actually think about the ins and outs and the new rules and all that. As I mentioned on Wednesday, the only hurdle is probably the biggest one still, and it’s that silly little pandemic that seems to be peaking again in many areas around the United States. I’m not entirely sure how they’re going to get to Opening Day, but I feel like they’re going to one way or another and then we’ll finally have baseball.

  • It’s easy to look at the agreement and think the players maybe lost. The owners eventually got around to offering 60 games with some additional caveats that the players countered with their 70-game proposal and then things fell apart. So taking the original offer might seem, on the surface, like a negotiating loss. But the players retained their right to file a grievance based on the fact that the owners didn’t do what they could to play as many games as possible and that they didn’t negotiate in good faith. And one of the things that I believe will help their cause in this grievance is if teams move forward with some of the rumors about them having limited capacity during games. The whole reason the owners wanted to renegotiate the March agreement was based on not maintaining the revenue they do with fans in the stands. Even if it is a much smaller number than normal, talking about having fans in the stands nearly immediately after the season was decided is a really bad look. I don’t know that the players will win the grievance, but it could be worth nearly $1 billion to them in the end, which makes worth the effort. To me, I can’t understand why the owners wouldn’t have countered the 70-game proposal with somthing like 66 that I think the players would have accepted. In the players proposal was discussion about additional revenue sources that would have far outweighed the additional salary required of the players. The uniform ad patch alone could have been worth $400 million or more over the next two seasons. In the NBA, the patches bring in between $5 million and $20 million per team. Given the additional exposure of MLB, let’s say an average of $10 million per team (which is probably low) and then you’ve got $300 million in revenue right there for 2021. An additional six games would have cost the owners about $150 million. Something doesn’t quite add up there, and that’s another point in favor of a grievance for the players. I’m glad that we’re past the negotiating, but we haven’t heard the last of this.
  • We’ve touched on this before, but a 60-game season really changes the calculus for some trade chips that organizations might have. I thought in a half season that a trade for Ian Kennedy might still get the Royals some real value, but I have a hard time thinking any team will trade anything more than a mid-level prospect for a good, not elite closer. The Royals should absolutely jump on a mid-level prospect for him, but I just don’t think they can get the value back for him that they could have with even 30 more games and especially not what they could get for a full season. Where I think there will be additional value would be in players who are signed through 2021. There’s not a huge salary commitment to take on in terms of total dollars for pretty much anyone signed for one additional year and that person might be able to put a team over the top in 2020, whatever that might mean. Players like Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Kris Bryant and yes, even Jorge Soler could give a team an edge for the rest of this year and all of next. Now, there are still some questions regarding the 2021 season given the pandemic hasn’t even ended its first wave, so who knows what the landscape will be next year, but even that’s more certain than 2022 which will feature an almost certain work stoppage that could cost games then as well. So if you’re looking for the pieces that provide serious value in trades this season, those guys signed just through 2021 might be your best bets. In addition to Soler, Danny Duffy, Salvador Perez, Jesse Hahn and Mike Montgomery are all set to become free agents following 2021. I doubt Perez gets traded, but I’d say any of the rest could go too at the now August 31 deadline.
  • I’m very curious how the Royals intend to work their roster over the course of the season. If you’re unfamiliar, the roster will basically be 30 players for the first two weeks, 28 for the next two and then 26 for the remainder of the season. The rules that were to be in place this year limiting the number of pitchers will not be in place this year, so they could theoretically keep 21 pitchers to start (though I don’t think they will). It lends to some interesting questions if they start the season with 15 pitchers. Scott Barlow, Danny Duffy, Tim Hill, Jakob Junis, Brad Keller, Ian Kennedy, Mike Montgomery and Trevor Rosenthal are locks. That’s eight guys. If they add Greg Holland to the 40-man (which they may have done by the time you read this even), that’s nine locks. I think Chance Adams, Jesse Hahn, Jorge Lopez, Richard Lovelady, Kevin McCarthy, Jake Newberry, Randy Rosario, Brady Singer, Glenn Sparkman, Daniel Tillo, Stephen Woods and Tyler Zuber are the candidates to fill the rest of the spots. So that’s 12 more for six to eight spots (maybe seven to nine if they don’t keep Holland). While Zuber was very impressive in camp, he’d need to be added to the 40-man The same is true of Tillo. They might be, but I wonder if they end up on the 60-man roster waiting to go. Then you figure the guys with options like Adams, McCarthy, Newberry and Sparkman will be the first out. I still actually really believe in Sparkman as a middle reliever and maybe they keep 16 pitchers to start, so you can start to see the makings of what that staff will look like, even if they do end up finding a way to keep Singer to start the year. I know I’ve just listed a lot of names and a lot of commas there to separate them, but I’m just seriously jazzed to have some real baseball decisions to talk about here.
  • Because Spring Training (or Summer Camp or whatever the hell we’re calling this is) is a time for optimism, I thought it’d be fun to look at some of the best 60-game stretches for the key Royals players from the 2019 season. Then I cheated and looked at the best 60-game stretch for Salvador Perez. The good news is if the offense all clicks at once, they’ll score some runs. The bad news is that “clicking” for some of the starters means being a #3 starter, so they’ll have to score some serious runs or the young guys will need to step up, which honestly has always been the only real path to contention in a short season. For the sake of simplicity, I looked at exactly 60 games played for the offensive guys, 12 starts for the starters and 25 relief appearances for the relievers.

Here’s what I found:

The Bats

Player Dates AVG OBP SLG 2B 3B HR RBI SB
Player Dates AVG OBP SLG 2B 3B HR RBI SB
Hunter Dozier 4/10 to 7/7 .303 .386 .570 15 4 12 42 1
Alex Gordon 3/28 to 6/7 .285 .367 .502 16 1 10 39 3
Whit Merrifield 5/7 to 7/16 .328 .376 .510 19 3 7 33 8
Adalberto Mondesi 3/28 to 6/5 .280 .316 .477 14 8 6 42 22
Salvador Perez 7/4/18 to 9/23/18 .258 .298 .508 11 0 16 44 0
Jorge Soler 7/24 to 9/29 .292 .395 .653 13 1 21 46 9

The Arms

Player Dates IP H K BB ERA
Player Dates IP H K BB ERA
Danny Duffy 6/22 to 9/18 71.1 65 64 23 4.04
Jakob Junis 6/11 to 8/11 72.1 72 70 20 3.98
Brad Keller 5/22 to 7/24 74 72 52 21 3.41
Scott Barlow 8/4 to 9/28 27.2 21 30 16 1.95
Tim Hill 8/7 to 9/28 23.1 16 26 4 3.09
Ian Kennedy 5/30 to 8/10 23.2 17 28 7 1.90

It means literally nothing, but interesting to see what the ceilings were last year at least to see what they could be in this irregular season.