Alcides Escobar is a focus for the Royals Front Office. (Photo Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE)

Whose Extension Comes Next?

With all this talk of extensions for young players, I really got to thinking hard about who comes first in this arrangement. Who’s the most important piece to sign? What positions are most necessary? Who has both the skill and the attitude that makes them an integral part of the puzzle going forward?

We already know the first answer. Salvador Perez was signed early last week to a nice 5-year, $7 million contract with a few option years tacked on. It’s the classic case of a low-cost, high-reward extension. It’s been covered extensively, so I don’t want to focus too much on that.

Instead, I just want to think about who comes next.

The young players in camp have made the fanbase put quite a bit of emphasis on signing some long-term. There are the obvious ones — Eric Hosmer — and the ones you think you want, though you want to see a bit more from them first — Mike Moustakas and Danny Duffy. But there are always some that you forget about before you realize they’re gone.

Well, yesterday I bluntly said (on Twitter) that I thought Alcides Escobar should be a focus. When some followers presented legitimate cases why that shouldn’t be so, I sat and thought about it a little more. And then I made up a list of the order I’d want guys signed in, which, oddly enough, follows the early part of the Royals’ desire for extensions (according to Buster Olney of ESPN):

Alex Gordon
Alcides Escobar
Eric Hosmer
Danny Duffy
Mike Moustakas
Greg Holland
Aaron Crow
Johnny Giavotella
Louis Coleman
Lorenzo Cain

We’ll see where that takes us. The first disclaimer is that 2012 performances will obviously juggle this list a bit. Should Cain be a rockstar in centerfield, he’ll vault up the list. Should Holland throw it in the dirt every time, he’ll go down. It’s all relative. Still, I think the first five are set in stone for me.

Gordon is obvious. I’m not going to belabor that point or say again what’s already been said.

The case for Alcides Escobar is much like that for Sal. He plays great defense at a premium defensive position. That alone gets guys long-term contracts. So far in his career, his bat (.252/.294/.339) has been less than stellar, not quite matching his production (.298/.353/.409) at AAA Nashville (Go Sounds!). I can’t really say that his production will shoot through the roof once he gets more time since he’s had two full seasons in the majors, but he did take a small step forward in 2011. Should he take another one, well, there won’t be any debate. And since we’ve given Sal a deal without knowing for sure if he’ll be a great batter or a subpar one, I’m not really sure why Escobar gets the shaft in that respect. He’s a great defensive player at a premium defensive position. A Sal-like contract wouldn’t be out of the question at all, if the Royals could get it.

So, given those three, the Royals would have two core pieces of their defense and a (hopefully) strong piece of their offensive locked up alongside Billy Butler.

I would think the Hosmer debate is obvious, though some may question why he’s not higher. To be frank, I believe the Royals will look for that perfect opportunity to sign him, whenever that is. With Boras in tow, he’ll probably wait until he’s garnered MVP votes or become an All-Star or whatever the case is. So, again, it just comes down to when the Royals find the right time to get him. And they’ll likely have an easier job with Escobar than with Hosmer.

For Duffy and Moustakas, they need to produce. Reports out of camp are good for both of them, from what I’ve seen, and we’ll see if that translates to the regular season. I love both of these guys, but if they don’t take a step forward over a full season, it’ll be hard to justify the contract extensions right now. In Moustakas’ case, Cheslor Cuthbert looks like he could be the incumbent should Moustakas fall, and that provides some insurance that might make it more difficult to go for that extension. Just depends on how the Royals feel about it. And Duffy’s case is that he could be a great pitcher for the Royals for many years and seems to want to be a Royal for many, many years, but he still has to produce. With some issues with other lefties in the organization right now, he’s got the limelight, but should they jump forward and pass him, it gets tougher.

The rest of the list is sort of all over the place. I feel like we need to anchor down the bullpen, a la the Joakim Soria contract years ago, if these guys can stay strong. Holland, Crow, and Coleman all have legitimate cases to stick around for years, and if they throw out another good season, they may end up doing just that.

As for Giavotella and Cain, both are guys that need to hit to stay. In Cain’s case, his defense can save him a bit. In Gio’s case, he needs to hit since his defense isn’t quite as strong. Cain will reach arbitration sooner, but locking up that center fielder for years, should he play well, could be as strong an interest to the Royals as Sal and Escobar are. Like with Gio, we just have to wait and see what he does this year. For a lot of these guys, a lot rides on their ability to stay in the game and play well in 2012.

Well, that’s what I think about it. Like I say, that list can get juggled depending on performance. When Wil Myers hits, he’ll slot in somewhere, but I don’t think that’ll be extremely soon.

Feel free to tell me why I’m crazy or how you’d rank them in the comments below.

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Tags: Aaron Crow AL Central Alcides Escobar Alex Gordon Baseball Danny Duffy Eric Hosmer Greg Holland Johnny Giavotella Kansas City Royals KC KC Royals Lorenzo Cain Louis Coleman Mike Moustakas MLB Royals

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