That is the question.
The Royals have a bunch of decisions to make this offseason regarding players to keep or resign. They already made one choice by picking up David Dejesus’ option and gave up several others by trading Farnsworth, Ankiel, etc. However, they’ve got a long way to go and several of these choices will be made regarding arbitration-eligible players.
By my count, the Royals have ten arb-eligible players on the roster:
Before we get to the point when arbitration cases are decided, I want to offer my two cents.
Some of these guys are cut-and-dry cases. For instance, I would hope so very much that Anderson and Bannister are non-tendered. I do have some lingering attachment to Bannister for his years of service to the club, but, really, he’s not cutting it any more. Not even on this club. I appreciate his statistical knowledge, but when you post a 6.34 ERA and a 5.46 FIP, plus a career 1.71 K/BB, is it really worth keeping him? To be fair, we’ll be keeping Sean O’Sullivan (unless he’s traded) and his 5.80 FIP, but Banny is 29 to O’Sullivan’s 23 and is showing a decline in his performance. Thanks for the good times, but it’s time to buy a new-colored glove (unless, well…yeah).
As for Anderson, it’s nice to have a redemption case around for Joe Buck and Tim McCarver to someday obsess over, but it’s just not apparent that he will be of future use to the club when the minor league pitching is so strong. I can’t imagine the Royals offer him anything (and they shouldn’t), but I’ve been wrong before.
Those were easy. Finding the absolute keepers is simple, too. Butler, Gordon, Hochevar, and Pena fall into this category. Butler’s merit is obvious. No discussion needed. For Gordon, it’s a bit of what I talked about with Bannister and a bit of general talent. I am one to stick to my guns as much as possible, and the Royals should stick by Gordon until they’re absolutely certain they shouldn’t. He’s at a new position that seems to have made him more comfortable and that could allow him to focus more on his offensive skills. His .215/.315/.355 line in 74 games this season wasn’t real impressive, but I’m yet again giving him the benefit of the doubt based on his .315/.442/.557 line at Omaha and my general faith in him wanting to turn things around. Do I think he’ll have the monster season he claims to be looking forward to next year? Not really. I do think he’ll be better than this year and that’s worth the arbitration this offseason without a doubt.
Hochevar is an interesting case. He was arguably the most frustrating Royal this season because of his inconsistency. He started off hot and seemed to be on the fast track to a relatively productive season (6 ER in the first 18.2 IP). Then he became the Hoch we all know well. A few up-and-down starts led to an injury that kept him off the mound for two and a half months, effectively derailing any potential for a good season. His September outings totaled 12 ER in 26 innings, which wasn’t too horrible if not for the expectation that he be our #2 starter. Together, that’s a 4.81 ERA – his best since the 2.13 he compiled in 4 games in 2007. If any two of Duffy, Dwyer, Montgomery, Lamb, or Melville (among others) become solid major league starters, Hochevar will make a good #3 or #4 for us.
Ah, Brayan Pena. I love you so much just for single-handedly smacking Dayton and Yost across their collective face for benching you for roughly 8% of the total innings before Kendall went out. But add in a great end to the season and our need for a starting catcher and you have an absolute tender case. I’m not so sure the Royals will tender a contract purely because they seem to have no desire to give him a chance, but he may have forced their hand with his performance once he got a chance to play on a consistent basis.
For the cases that are a bit unclear, we have Wilson Betemit, Kyle Davies, Josh Fields, and Robinson Tejeda. I’ll say straight up that I liked the way Betemit performed this year and think it would be nice if he had turned a corner, but I don’t care for his defense and would rather the Royals use his current high value in a trade to a Sabean- or Minaya-like character. He had a great offensive year relative to what was expected from him and that should be used before arbitration to get the most out of that value.
Josh Fields is the reason I have no problem letting Betemit go in a trade. While I’m not certain that he’s going to be anything really good for the Royals, he seems to be in a Alex Gordon-type position and this could be a great thing for the team. Fields only played in 13 games with KC this year after his injury in Spring Training and managed to post a .306/320/490 line, which is much better than his .229/.302/.416 line with Chicago. Of course, the small sample size warning is blaring, but I do believe it’s worth giving him a shot. Moustakas will likely be up next season and Fields should be given a shot at starting before Mike makes the jump. He has less current value than Betemit and, in my eyes, greater potential. Really, though, Betemit and Fields could swap with a pretty simple argument.
Kyle Davies. Oh, Hiram Kyle Davies, what shall we do with you? Davies has a career line that sort of splits the difference between Hochevar and Bannister, which is why this is difficult. He has a career 5.49 ERA with a 4.93 FIP and 1.45 K/BB. He really should probably be in the same boat as Bannister, but he doesn’t seem to be getting any worse and will normally produce reasonably consistently with a few strong performances sprinkled in. Since the Royals, without Bannister and Meche, will have Greinke, O’Sullivan, Hochevar, and possibly Chen starting (barring trades), keeping Davies is a better idea than keeping Bannister and will help round out the rotation. It’s still not a great rotation, but at this point Davies is on the good side of the bubble.
Possibly the toughest one for me to judge is Robinson Tejeda. He’s had various ups and downs and as soon as you think he’s turned a corner he dives into the ditch. He’s actually been fairly consistent from season to season since joining the Royals in 2007, posting a 3.47 ERA and an FIP around 3.60 with a K/BB ratio of 1.94. I’d like to see that K/BB a little higher, but the ERA and FIP really haven’t been too terrible. His WHIP is lower than most of the starters we have and his K/9 is a nice 9.5 with the Royals. He has talent and it is very apparent at times, though at other times he has a Luis Mendoza-type ability to give away leads. It seems that the best thing would be to tender a contract and simply use him in better situations than he’s been used in the past. In his case, the problem may be coaching, so he should be tendered.
Of course, there are lots of other things to be done, like pricing these contracts and bringing in new players, but these should be interesting to follow. I don’t expect the Royals to do what I think they should since they almost always surprise me, but hopefully they’ll make sensible decisions this offseason. Let me know what you think about these in the comments.