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.

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

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.