From Monday through Thursday, December 3-6, baseball owners, executives, agents and writers will converge on Nashville for the annual Winter Meetings. During this time, contracts will be signed, trades will be completed and Twitter will basically catch on fire.
The Royals have places to improve their team. There’s no question about that, and as we’ve discussed in about 95% of our articles on Kings of Kauffman, starting pitching is a priority. The team still has prospects in the minors with depth available, as well as players at the big league level for trade purposes if necessary. The payroll right now sits at about $66-67 million (estimated by Bob Dutton).
David Glass has said he’d consider pushing payroll to $76 million and the Royals have been actively shopping both Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen. Moving either would free up about $4.5 million each. Maybe someone would take Jeff Francoeur and his $6.75 million salary. There’s some wiggle room – but not much.
For starting pitching, the Royals have been most heavily connected to Tampa and Boston, with reported discussions or inquiries about right-handed pitcher James Shields and lefty Jon Lester. Apparently, they’ve also made a reported offer to Ryan Dempster. There’s also been reports linking Kansas City and the Mets in a potential deal for R.A. Dickey. I’d imagine the Royals have at least brought up the name Jon Niese, as well, since he seems to be available.
A trade is the most likely source for the Royals to sign someone, but there are still some pitchers out who may be available on one year or one year deals with options. I’m thinking Shaun Marcum (though many teams are scared of his injury history, including the Royals) and Dan Haren. If either end up agreeing to such a short-term deal, it’s probably going to happen after the winter meetings so they can continue to test the market. A couple of arms were non-tendered contracts when the deadline passed last night, including Jair Jurrjens, who was formerly rumored to be a target of the Royals last winter. Trade talks broke off, reportedly, when Wil Myers name ended up being involved. Jurrjens had a poor 2012 season but from 2008-2011, he threw 671.2 innings and had a 3.34 ERA. He hasn’t been durable though, and there are a lot of question marks around him.
Also Jeff Karstens was let go by Pittsburgh. While he doesn’t walk many, he’s had injury issues as well. John Lannan has been available from Washington going back to last winter, and now he’s a free agent after the Nationals let him go. He spent most of last year in Triple A just because there wasn’t a spot for him in the big leagues. He’d be depth at best, and the Royals are really needing something of more impact.
Pitching may not be the only area they look for though.
Dayton Moore has said that he’d like a right-handed hitting corner infielder to back up Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. Mark Reynolds would fit that role, now that he’s been non-tendered by the Orioles, but he would likely command and get a full-time role somewhere and likely could re-sign with Baltimore. I’m not sure the at bats would be there for him. Jeff Keppinger is available, but had surgery to repair a broken right fibula. He should be fine for spring training, but he’s being pursued by other teams as well. He’s not a guy the Royals would want to get into a bidding war for, especially if payroll room is at a premium. Also on the infield, if the Royals don’t feel Johnny Giavotella is going to stick, Danny Espinosa of the Nationals could be available and the Royals reportedly targeted him as part of a Zack Greinke trade, but Greinke vetoed it before being shipped to Milwaukee.
Outfield depth wouldn’t be a bad idea. Lorenzo Cain has been injury-prone throughout his career and Jarrod Dyson really isn’t a full-time answer. David Lough looked okay in his big league debut last year, but he seems to fit the up-and-down Mitch Maier role more than anything. Once he reaches the big leagues, if he had to, Wil Myers could get by in center, but I’m not sure the Royals want to do that for any length of time beside short stints. Kansas City hasn’t really been linked in rumors to any outfield moves though.
It’s apparent to the league that the Royals are looking to make some moves, and I expect them to do something next week. They’ve poked their toes in the water ever since the season ended, and I think Moore is feeling the heat, so that makes a move even more likely to get done. According to many, Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar could be the only big leaguers who are off limits. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Royals are actively pitching a Hosmer trade, but if someone comes calling – perhaps the Rays with David Price or Matt Moore – then the Royals will be listening.
It’s about to get crazy in the baseball world. Look forward to a fun week.