Sep 23, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (13) hits a RBI single against the Seattle Mariners during the 8th inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals Should Emulate the Braves Strategy

Sep 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher Greg Holland (56) delivers a pitch against the Texas Rangers during the ninth inning at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals defeated the Rangers 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

It is difficult to think of the Atlanta Braves as a mid-market ballclub. After all, at the turn of the century, their $86 Million payroll was the third highest in baseball. The Braves were in the midst of a run of fourteen consecutive playoff appearances. Their pitching staff was fronted by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, two of which were voted into the Hall of Fame this year. The Braves were one of the premier teams in baseball.

Yet, fourteen years later, the Braves payroll has not changed much. Heading into this season, the Braves payroll is projected to be at $91.8 Million, under $6 Million more than it was at the turn of the century, and under $2 Million more than what the Royals are projected to spend this season. Both teams, it would seem, face the same problems when it comes to the challenges of competing.

However, the Braves have looked to lock not just their present, but their future. This past offseason, they have signed Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Jason Heyward, Julio Teheran and Andrelton Simmons to long term deals. Although Heyward is only signed for the next two years, the Braves could potentially look to get him locked up beyond 2015. By doing so, the Braves have built in cost certainty and have managed to lock up the young core of their team. Much like the Rays and the A’s, the Braves are focusing on keeping what they envision as their core together for as long as they can.

The Royals, meanwhile, have yet to undertake this process. While Salvador Perez has been locked up, the Royals have yet to sign any of their other young players to an extension. While signing Eric Hosmer, Greg Holland or even Yordano Ventura to long term contracts may carry some risk, it would be a worthwhile gamble. Players that are thought to be the future of the franchise would not just be the future, but they could actually be around for the Royals to potentially do more than to just part ways with them for prospects in a couple of years.

Of course, as with anything involving the Royals, there is the specter of the cost. While extending those players would cause David Glass to spend more money upfront, he may actually end up saving money with the extensions instead of going year by year in arbitration. The players, meanwhile, would have the certainty of knowing that, no matter what, they are taken care of in the future. Such a move could actually be a win-win situation.

For the Royals to sustain the success they had last season, and they appear poised to have in 2014, they are going to need to start signing some of these players to extensions. As the Rays, A’s and now the Braves have proven, it may be the best way for a small to mid-market team to compete long term.

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  • jimfetterolf

    No doubt, and expectation is that the extension efforts will start fairly soon, once someone signs Santana. As is, Royals are keeping some money in the piggy-bank just in case.

    After Santana signs elsewhere Hosmer is the first target and probably the most difficult. Then, within the next year, Duffy and maybe Ventura will be targets. If Cain could stay healthy he’s an obvious one, Aoki might also be on the list by ASB. I’m ambivalent about Holland. Aoki is the only one not under control for at least two years among the position players. For pitchers Shields is the short-timer and if he’s extended that makes all the rest much more difficult.

  • Chad Woelk

    Wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up faster. No way Boras even allows Moose or Hosmer to not test free agency.

    • Dave Hill

      Chad, that is exactly how I feel.

    • jimfetterolf

      Signing Shields/Santana or extending some kids. It’s either/or, both will not happen. Extending Hosmer probably means that Gordon won’t be extended. Extend Duffy and Ventura and Billy probably doesn’t get extended. With the current small local contract, there will be tough choices. Atlanta also has small local media money, but are extorting a new stadium with significant revenue enhancements, so things look a little brighter than for the Royals, locked in on the media through 2019.

      As for the pitching injuries, some may be bad luck, some may be training and development. We’ll get a better idea which shortly, as there have been training changes.

      As for ownership, David Glass is unlikely to ever threat the team as a charity unless he gets the legacy virus, as Ewing Kauffman did and as Detroit’s Ilitch currently has. Payroll may reach $100m next year and there will be possibilities, but the Royals won’t turn into the Dodgers anytime soon.

    • moretrouble

      To “lock up” it’s core of players, the team must have players willing to sign. Some will, some won’t; those who are Boras clients probably won’t. In addition, players want to win and unless KC wins something, I doubt players will be lining up to sign extensions. Most likely, they’ll be counting the days until they can leave.

  • unclejesse40

    This is why it is so important to have a ton of money and scouts down in Latin America. When you sign a young kid to peanuts to start, they are much more likely to sign an extension. I was very surprised by the lack of international signings the Royals did this year. Maybe I missed them all.