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Free Agent Market Beginning to Shrink for Royals

In previous offseasons, Dayton Moore has made a habit of making moves fairly early on. In 2012, he traded for Ervin Santana. In 2011, he signed Bruce Chen and Jonathan Broxton. In 2009, he traded for Chris Getz. It hasn’t happened every season, but Moore has seemingly tried to start acquiring players by mid-November. This offseason has taken a bit longer to develop.

Last week, Bob Dutton mentioned that the Royals have had discussions about pursuing Tim Hudson, Josh Johnson, and Phil Hughes as possible replacements should Santana not re-sign with the club.

The Royals were unable to get anything done with Hudson, who is now a member of the Giants after signing a 2 year, $23 million deal, and Johnson just signed a 1 year, $8 million contract with the Padres.

Now, it appears the Royals are down to just Hughes.

Obviously, other free agent targets may emerge, and the Royals may look to the trade market to improve their rotation if Moore can’t sign anyone, but from what has come out of the Royals’ camp, Hughes has seemingly found himself at the top of the list. Hughes does have some upside beyond what he’s been recently, especially if he can stay out of home run-friendly parks like Yankee Stadium, but immediately slotting him into the 2nd rotation spot is a risky maneuver. I wouldn’t hate signing Hughes to a low-risk contract since Kauffman Stadium and the Royals’ defense could be beneficial, but if he’s the only pitching acquisition, I would feel quite dissatisfied with Moore’s work this winter.

We don’t know how deep into discussions Moore got with Hudson or Johnson, but I do find it kind of interesting that Moore may miss out on his primary targets this offseason by seemingly being too passive, whereas previous years showed him being too aggressive with the market and effectively bidding against himself.

Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

That being said, I don’t really blame Moore if he misses the boat on his first 3 targets. This free agent pitching class is less than stellar, and after the first tier of options, there isn’t much of a difference between all of the mid-rotation starters available, and they all have their warts. Hudson is coming off an injury. Johnson is coming off another injury. Hughes has had issues keeping the ball in the ballpark. Then there are guys like Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, and Ricky Nolasco, who each have their own question marks. What I’m saying is it doesn’t really matter which way the Royals turn for pitching, because there are no guarantees in this crop of free agents. Some may have slightly higher ceilings, but there are no real aces available. If Moore misses on Hughes, he can move on to the next name on the list (at least, I’m assuming Moore has a list longer than three names, though that could be a dangerous assumption, so I’ll call it a hopeful prediction). As I outlined last month, there are a couple of under-the-radar guys the Royals could go after on low-cost, low-risk deals who could pay huge dividends if healthy.

Now don’t get me wrong. I would have liked to see the Royals sign Johnson because I do like his upside, but missing out on him and Hudson isn’t the end of the world. Despite the pool of targets thinning, there are still myriad buy-low candidates on the market for Moore to pursue in an effort to bolster this rotation.

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Tags: Josh Johnson Kansas City Royals Phil Hughes

  • Eric Akers

    It appears that Johnson took a smaller contract to sign with the Pads. It is close to where he wants to be I guess. But his discount contract at $8 million was what I thought he was going to be offered from us.

  • jimfetterolf

    Hudson got 2/23, higher than projected and got to stay in the NL, Johnson wanted an NL team and a big park. Not sure we can fault Moore on that, as it would take an overpay in years and money to get either.

    Hughes and Chamberlain look possible yet and I don’t really care for either, but there is the Eiland connection to their better days and the K and the defense would be beneficial to both.

    We may just end up with Shields, Guthrie, Chen, and home grown arms. Isn’t that what Tampa and Oakland would do?

    • Hunter Samuels

      Yeah, like I said, I don’t blame Moore really. It’s just the juxtaposition of previous offseasons that I find fascinating.

      As for what TB and Oakland would do, I doubt they would go after Chen. They’d go after other low-risk guys like Baker, Lewis, maybe even Halladay or Johan Santana. I think the young guys could be fine, but I’d prefer having other options to insulate the risk.

      • jimfetterolf

        I think Tampa would actually trade Shields and Gordon at this point :)

  • Chad Woelk

    I think the Royals will re-sign Santana so no worries on my part. Just have to wait for his asking price to come down and he will stay in Royal Blue!!!