Sep 20, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starter Zack Greinke (23) delivers a pitch against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

The Royals Are Getting Priced Out

Right now there’s a lot of posturing between teams and free agents (and their agents who are looking for their commission). The Royals are in the market for starting pitching, ideally strong starting pitching. In a vacuum, that’d be enough but the Royals aren’t the only team looking for help.

That presents a problem, as there are only so many pitchers capable of producing the kind if impact the Royals (and, yes, those other teams) would hope for. Supply and demand. The supply is low, the demand is high. That being the case, as more teams poke around, the price starts to go up (or at least the asking price). For the Royals, that’s not what they want to hear. We all know that their reputation precedes them – the largest free agent contract they’ve handed out was to Gil Meche before the 2007 season for $55 million and five years.

Two big targets are Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez. Greinke, as we know, can lead a rotation and, after Cole Hamels and Matt Cain signed extensions, is the big fish in the pond this winter.

And reports say that he’s looking for a six year deal. For a former Cy Young Award winner with no hint of an injury history  and only 29 years old, that’s a great deal to look for. The Royals (and any other team) would be lucky to have him.

This is the part where you’d hear the record scratch. That six year deal? Greinke wants it to value $150 million.

That is a lot of Chipotle.

It was a long shot that Greinke would return to Kansas City anyway. Almost immediately after the Royals traded him to Milwaukee, fans noticed that he would be a free agent after 2012 and let the possibility trickle into their minds. What a great deal it would be to pick up Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi and Lorenzo Cain (and the recently traded Jeremy Jeffress) for Greinke, then turn around and re-sign the player they traded away. The best of both worlds!

If the Royals had been more successful in 2012, perhaps Greinke would be more inclined to return. The reason he asked to be traded in the first place was because the team wasn’t improving quickly enough, but success could rekindle that love for Kansas City that caused him to keep his place on the Plaza (of course, he could just be a budding real estate mogul).

At that price? Greinke will not be a Royal.

But Anibal Sanchez. He could be a target. There was injury concern, then some worry that he wouldn’t adjust going from the National League to the American League. A strong run through the latter part of the regular season with Detroit and solid work in the playoffs put him in the spotlight and allayed those fears.

And it drove his pricetag up.

Now, the price seemed at first that it might be modest and achievable for the Royals and really any other team. But scarcity and the shared interest changed that. A $15 million annual salary is all but certain at this point, and Sanchez also wants a long-term commitment. Six years for $90 million.

But there’s a catch. As Jon Heyman reported, that demand may increase to seven years and $100 million for some teams. So maybe he’s willing to play for the Royals, but he may charge a premium. Part of what got the Meche deal done was giving him a fifth year when other teams were only willing to go four. Extra years mean extra money, and it’s also extra risk for the signing team. Sanchez, though, will get paid.

Will that be by the Royals?

I hope so for my sake as a fan. Sanchez is the best free agent who’s remotely attainable for the Royals. But the odds he’ll sign with Kansas City get lower every day as his value continues to rise. I’d love for the Royals to start spending, but until they do, I have to be skeptical that they will cough up the money. Part of that is their own doing and their own approach, but it’s also the market playing out naturally. Both are big obstacles if the Royals are to make a splash in free agency this winter.

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Tags: Anibal Sanchez Kansas City Royals Zack Greinke

  • jimfetterolf

    Mike, I’ll suggest that the Royals have enough money banked from a couple of years of low payrolls to sign Sanchez and Greinke to six year deals, anticipating media revenue that will cover $25m for Zack, if they can get reasonable trade clauses.

    Having Zack, Ani, and Guthrie for a couple of years gives the minors a chance to produce, then start trading the stars as Zimmer or Selman are ready to replace them. All due respect, but Zack at $25m and Sanchez at $15 and Guthrie at $11m will be seen as steals in two years and their trade value with four years left on contracts will be astronomical, double Esky and Cain and Odorizzi for two years of Zack. $51m for the three is $15m saved from last year, $30m from ’11, and trading Hoch and Gordon for prospects. Then next year, ’14, $28m media money comes on line. This is doable from a purely economics POV. Play players like you would have played oil in ’00.

    • Dave Lowe

      Jim, I agree with you. But the problem is that David Glass doesn’t agree with you. He is apparently is afraid to spend the kind of money required to get Greinke and Sanchez.

      Remember Dayton’s statement from a couple weeks back? “We know who we are.” That means they are a smaller market team and are not willing to shell out the same kind of money that larger market teams are.

      Sad but true.

      • jimfetterolf

        Dave, David Glass understands supply and demand as well as I do and the numbers are easily doable. The new media money plus a $70m normal payroll will contain all three pitchers, our advantage being that our core position players are dirt cheap, unlike Fielder and Cabrera.

        This doesn’t guarantee that any of these players want to sign here, but if nothing else we can drive up their price to the point that it will hurt our competition to outbid us, Detroit already at $140m and draining the Pizza Man’s personal fortune.

        If Dayton Moore thinks that two or three of these FAs get us to the Series, I think Glass, an elderly guy, will make a legacy play that won’t even dip into his personal stash of cash. They’ll see this as a two or three year rental and predict the haul of prospects that will come from trades and think it is good business, low risk, reasonable price in the new payroll market; high possible return in championships, players, and revenues, with a return to an $80m or so payroll after the trades while still having a championship team with a Tampa Bay style farm system loaded and ready to replace the next group of expensive veterans like Moose and Hoz and Duffy et al. “Trade clauses” are the most important factor for me.

        Mike, I think you need to put me on the masthead as Chief Commentator :)

  • Dave Lowe

    Mike, I totally agree with you on this. There’s no way the Royals will shell out the required money for Grienke or Sanchez.

    I would not be terribly upset if the Royals signed any of the following: Carlos Villanueva, Edwin Jackson, Joe Blanton, Brandon McCarthy, and Jeremy Guthrie. One or more of them would be acceptable. However, I think we will have to wait until Grienke sets the market for the rest of the free agent pitchers to then follow with their demands.

    Names that scare me due to injury risk/reward, but that some Royals fans are enamored with, include Shaun Marcum, Dan Haren, and Scott Baker.

    My fears are that we will end up with names like Hiroki Kuroda, Joe Saunders, or Francisco Liriano and pay too much for them.

    And I’d love it if we could trade for Josh Johnson…

    Congrats on having Maury Wills purchase your book! As an author of three books, I know how much that means.


  • Marcus Meade

    I gotta disagree with you here, Mike. Not about everything of course. I agree Greinke isn’t coming back to KC; I don’t care if he owns the entire Plaza. But if the asking price for Sanchez is 7 years 100 million, I’d pass. I know it’s tough to say, and it’s tough when a small market team can’t compete economically, but that doesn’t mean that the solution is taking that enormous risk, especially when their are other options. James Shields, for example, is a perfect target for the Royals. He’ll be 31 this December, but he’s just as effective as Sanchez and has pitched in the AL East. Plus, it won’t take an enormous investment to get him. Just pick up his 10.5 million for next season. Or, if the Royals want, they might be able to negotiate a sign and trade or something. Either way, Shields is an option with numbers just as good who can be had for players instead of money, which the Royals don’t have enough of to participate in a bidding war.

  • Chad Woelk

    Glass has the money to sign Greinke and he needs to stop being so tight and turn this franchise around. With the new tv revenues the Royals could have an 80-100 million dollar payroll but of course Glass won’t do it. I so wish the Glass family would just sell the team to an owner who really wants to win.

    • jimfetterolf

      Chad, the critical issue for Dayton Moore and David Glass is whether they think that, for instance, Zack and Ani and/or Guthrie will go to the Series, and that gets down to a judgment of what the Royals’ current position players can do. At the moment we can hope that Hoz and Moose can elevate their games, that someone can produce at 2nd, that Cain can stay healthy, and that Frenchy or Myers can produce in RF. That’s five of nine as question marks and the Phillies and Angels both showed that there are no guarantees. I think the Royals should take the chance, worst case trades can be made if Hoz and Moose hit .250 again, Cain gets hurt, and Myers has a learning curve. But it’s not my money.