Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Tags: Josh Johnson Kansas City Royals Phil Hughes

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