The hot stove is heating up, at least for now. With an expiring labor deal looming over baseball, we’ll have to enjoy baseball rumors while we can.
The Royals will look to improve a 74-win team, and have already said the bullpen will be a focus. We assembled some of our writers to discuss the hot stove season.
What do the Royals most urgently need to address this off-season?
Alex Duvall: The middle of their lineup. The Royals have one “star” in the middle of their lineup in Salvador Perez. After Salvy, it’s a bunch of really good role players. They don’t have another true impact bat now that Jorge Soler is gone. The Royals’ three best prospects are (debatably) all hitters and all close to The Show, but I’d love for them to add a veteran that can slot immediately into the three-hole on Opening Day.
Matthew LaMar: The Royals don’t really need to urgently address much of anything. They are in a hard “wait and see” pattern, both with their upcoming trio of highly-touted hitters and their young arms. Personally, I think they really need to get rid of Carlos Santana. It’s probably not going to happen, but Hunter Dozier’s best position is first and, unlike Santana, can play elsewhere if and when Pratto forces his way onto the field.
Max Rieper: The Royals are still a year away from serious contention, I think this is more a “stay the course” off-season. Long-term, the one really glaring area of need seems to be the outfield, where you have short-term options like Andrew Benintendi and Michael A. Taylor, and no real big time prospects on the horizon. Maybe Kyle Isbel is part of the future, maybe MJ Melendez can move to the outfield, maybe Seuly Matias has figured it out, but the Royals probably need some more options out there down the road.
Clint Scoles: I agree with Matt that there aren’t urgent needs but there is a hole in the outfield that the depth of the system currently isn’t going to fix. Additionally, I think the Braves show that a system will not produce all the pitching that they will need to compete so adding a starter isn’t a bad idea if the Royals can avoid breaking the bank.
Shaun Newkirk: It really depends on the objective. If they think they are on the urgent verge of contention, then they should be making major moves to fix the bullpen and the outfield at a minimum. They also need to find a stalwart in the rotation. If they are more in the 2011ish Royals - which I think makes more sense - then there isn’t much to do besides call everyone up and let them play. That still leaves several holes in the lineup (and bullpen) but you can wait on those a bit while you take your lumps and let the young guys get comfortable.
Jeremy “Hokius” Greco: For the purposes of answering these questions my default assumption will be that the Royals intend to compete in 2022. The answer to this one, then, is a big bat. Probably a corner outfielder, but if they found a centerfielder or a DH type that could occasionally play the outfield they could make it work. Unlike some of my fellow writers, I am not remotely concerned with the bullpen as I think they have four or five good pieces down there and some guys who won’t be ready to be in the rotation at the beginning of the year can fill in the rest of the gaps.
Who are 1 or 2 free agents you would target?
Alex Duvall: How about Anthony DeSclafani? He had a rough go in the shortened 2020 season but he’s been worth 2.1 or more fWAR in four of his last five full seasons in the big leagues. Getting a guy like that to give a young rotation some quality innings would be a great boost to this team. Offensively, I’ve been all-in on Starling Marte. Seriously. But I’ve moved on from trying to convince people that it would be a fantastic move.
Matthew LaMar: Kansas City needs a left-handed reliever, and Danny Duffy is a free agent for the first time. It’s a good fit unless other teams are offering a multi-year starter money situation. Still, I think Duffy will probably end up with a Mike Minor-esque contract from the Royals.
Clint Scoles: Seiya Suzuki fits the Royals corner outfield needs in the outfield, is younger than some of the other outfielders on the market, doesn’t come with QO terms and could be the biggest upside player on the market. Not to mention if they’re able to land him he could open up a secondary merchandise market. Also, his contract isn’t likely to be a back-breaker for the team.
If not Suzuki then Avisail Garcia would be a nice addition as a corner outfielder, lengthening the lineup and without a Qualifying Offer attachment he doesn’t hurt draft possibilities to keep adding to the farm depth.
On the pitching side, Jon Gray seems like a great upside guy from Colorado, a team that the Royals have got value out of by acquiring those pitchers. Additionally, Michael Lorenzen is a guy I might look at to bounceback in the pen and even give some opener starts to since he’s looking for more in that role.
Shaun Newkirk: This theme runs through again, the Royals should be looking to find value plays they can flip or extend. There are a few random, post-hype prospects out there like Archie Bradley and Albert Almora Jr.
Jeremy “Hokius” Greco: I really like Clint’s idea of Seiya Suzuki. I think adding a big name free agent from another league could inject some fan interest into the club beyond his potential to build out the Royals’ lineup. He’s also young enough that you can expect him to be good for a while along with the incoming Royals prospects. While the rotation is not the biggest place of need, the Royals could use an unflappable veteran anchor out there who can be expected to keep a bad night by one starter from snowballing into a problem for the entire rotation. Are Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw too big of asks for that role? Probably. But you can’t deny that either would be a fun addition. Maybe Marcus Stroman, Zack Greinke, or Corey Kluber would be interested?
Max Rieper: Suzuki would be great, but I don’t see him coming here. Instead, I’d focus on a few more players from Japan - Robert Suárez and Nick Martinez. Both went to Japan and found success, and while the track record of pitchers returning to North America after a stint in Japan is mixed, they likely wouldn’t cost much and could provide some more pitching depth in the bullpen.
Would you pursue any kind of trades? Give us a trade proposal.
Alex Duvall: I’d be looking to bolster my lineup but I’m not entirely sure the Royals most valuable trade chips make sense at the moment. MJ Melendez was almost TOO good to trade last year. They’re not trading Pratto or Witt Jr. obviously. I think they like the idea of having all this pitching, so who do you trade? Benintendi? Mondesi? I guess anything is possible but I am really perplexed by their current predicament.
Matthew LaMar: You want a trade? I’ll give you a trade: Adalberto Mondesi for Victor Robles. The Royals seem just discontent with Mondesi considering the shade they’ve thrown at him. Meanwhile, in Washington, they are tired of Robles’ recent couple of years of underperformance. Kansas City needs a long-term center fielder and have a slight infield logjam. Maybe both Mondesi and Robles can thrive in a new environment.
Clint Scoles: Trades are always tough but I think the Marlins young pitching lines up quite well for the Royals. Does a Sandy Alcantara for MJ Melendez and one of the starting pitching prospects get it done? The Reds are floating Luis Castillo who I like and would be a great protege for Jackson Kowar but I feel like Alcantara has a little more upside along with having with an extra year of control.
I like Matt’s Victor Robles idea though I wouldn’t give up Mondesi for him. Robles or Cristian Pache from the Braves for a lower-level starter makes sense to me. Can you get them for say Zach Haake after his fall performance? That type of deal to try to rebuild value in a position of need makes sense to me.
Shaun Newkirk: Besides the obvious change of scenery candidate in Mondesi, I’m not entirely sure why Mike Minor should suffer through being the best pitcher on another sub-.500 season like he has over the past half-decade (except for when he was mercifully traded to Oakland for 21 innings last year). I think the Angels, A’s, and Giants are all good fits.
Jeremy “Hokius” Greco: I hate doing trade proposals. I don’t want to part with any of the guys on my team who are good or who might be good! But, weirdly, none of the other teams wants my bad players. Dayton Moore had a history of trading for guys he expected to be very good, very soon. He does not like to trade for low-level prospects. Until I see otherwise, I’ll expect J.J. Piccolo to be the same. The good news is that whether you believe the Royals’ window opens in 2022 or 2023, it finally makes sense to get that kind of guy. I’ll tell you this, I’m probably not interested in trading for someone with only one year left on their contract and if they deal any of Melendez, Pratto, Witt, Lynch, or Bubic I’ll be pretty disappointed. If they can find a way to deal from their glut of infielders or second-tier pitching prospects to get someone who just became or is just about to become a star I’ll think highly of the move.
Max Rieper: The Royals are wise to focus on bullpen depth I think, but they should also keep their ears open for a trade for Scott Barlow or Josh Staumont. The shelf life for relievers is short, and if you can get a pretty good haul for them - which I think you could - you’d have to at least consider it. The really smart teams seem to find decent relievers off the “freely available market” all the time as the Royals did with Barlow. Plus the Royals have a number of young arms in the system now - some of them will end up in the pen. I know I’m in the minority here, but I still love Taylor Trammell, and he seems out of place in Seattle. If you can get him and maybe another decent prospect for a reliever, I think that is worth exploring.
Give us 1 or 2 predictions for a trade or free agent signings around baseball this off-season.
Alex Duvall: I’m terrified that the Tigers are about to land Carlos Correa. It really feels inevitable at this point. I’d guess he gets something in the range of 10 years and $320M to go play in Detroit. Also, give me Corey Seager shocking the world and going to play for the Bronx Bombers. Something like 12 and $340M.
Matthew LaMar: Zack Greinke will sign with a team that he’s played for before, and by that I mean that he will sign with the Dodgers, Angels, or Brewers. And as for a trade, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the Twins deal Byron Buxton, much to the chagrin of that one Twins fan at the last game I went to this year who was yelling “PAY THAT MAN” every time Buxton did something good, which was a lot.
Clint Scoles: The Mariners will land at least two big-name free agents and make another offseason trade. Right now I’m thinking Trevor Story and Anthony DeSclafini with a possible trade for Luis Castillo that could position everyone to start yelling for Seattle to win their division.
Max Rieper: You’ll see some teams bidding for big free agents that have been dormant for awhile. The Tigers, Mariners, and Rangers could all be major players this winter. You may even see the Marlins sign some decent free agents. There are a lot of rumors both Seagers could end up in Texas, and I can see Kris Bryant landing in Seattle. I expect the Angels to get either Robbie Ray or Marcus Stroman. It wouldn’t totally surprise me to see the Royals overpay a bit to get a name reliever, maybe Corey Knebel, Brad Hand, or even a reunion with Trevor Rosenthal.
Shaun Newkirk: I don’t know, I’m always bad at these predictions so I’ll switch it up a bit and give best value players (production relative to expected signing value): Trevor Story, Justin Verlander, Jon Gray, Avisail Garcia, and Mark Canha.
Jeremy “Hokius” Greco: The Royals will set a new franchise record for the largest free-agent deal handed out. The Mets will eventually hire a GM no one has ever heard of after focusing their entire search on only the most famous GM and GM candidates currently in existence; they will continue to be a complete circus that makes fans of every other team in the sport feel good that at least they don’t root for the Mets.