Clock Ticking on Royals Arbitration Decisions


When the clock strikes midnight (eastern time) on November 30, baseball’s arbitration tender deadline will have passed. The Royals currently have three players eligible for arbitration in 2013:

If the Royals offer any of the three a contract, they’ll remain on the 40 man roster, figures will be exchanged by January 18 (at the latest) and by February 20, one way or another, the player will have a contract figure, either by prior agreement on terms or by an arbiter’s ruling.

If they don’t offer a contract, that player will be a free agent. Before he was designated for assignment, Brayan Pena was eligible but now is off the roster. Catcher Brett Hayes was also eligible after being claimed off waivers, but the Royals have agreed to a $600,000 deal for 2013 with him.

May 21, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Felipe Paulino (59) pitches during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

It’s getting fairly late in the game. So far, there hasn’t been much indication one way or another about what the Royals are going to do. Paulino is probably going to be safe. He’s pitched well since joining the Royals and, despite undergoing Tommy John surgery last season, the Royals seem to have him in mind for a return in or around July. MLB Trade Rumors projects his salary to fall around $2.7 million, which isn’t a big hit to the payroll, especially with what he’s shown previously.

If there is a hitch, it’s the injury factor. Last year, he opened the season on the disabled list, made seven starts, went back on the DL, made a few rehab starts, then was diagnosed with a UCL tear. There were concerns about his health before the tear, with questions about his shoulder. Perhaps the time off and a good rehab program as he rebuilds arm strength will assuage those concerns, or perhaps he won’t ever get back the effectiveness he’s shown with the Royals. He should be an easy guy to retain.

My percentage guess he’s retained: 90%

Getz is probably safe, too. He faced multiple injuries, finally succumbing to a fractured thumb in mid-August. The good news? Despite those injuries, Getz had a career year at the plate, hitting .275. He had the second most extra base hits in his career.

The bad news? Even though it was only 13 extra base hits, it was the second most extra base hits in his career. He hit .275, sure, but he only got on base at a .312 clip. He was pretty good in the field, but overall, still barely above a replacement level player. He’s just not somebody a team can reliably put into an everyday second baseman role. As a late-inning replacement for defense or as a pinch runner? Fine. As a once-or-twice-a-week start? No problem.

July 15, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals second basemen Chris Getz (17) turns a double play with a throw to first over Chicago White Sox base runner A.J. Pierzynski (12) during the sixth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE

MLBTR projects his salary to be $1.2 million in 2013. About 2.5 times the league minimum. That’s reasonable for a player of his experience. But the Royals do have options if they want to go in another direction. Johnny Giavotella hasn’t taken the reins but he has an opportunity to do so in spring training. If he hits and shows any semblance of near-average defense, the job is his. The Royals were impressed with Tony Abreu last year and Irving Falu took his first opportunity in the big leagues and ran with it. None of these are perfect options, but they could be effective. I think it’s his last chance, but Giavotella has the most upside of the group, while Getz has hardly any upside at all. The Royals might be better off non-tendering Getz and using Falu as a utility infielder and part time second baseman. They’d same some marginal money, but they’d have more flexibility, as Falu can switch hit and play multiple positions.

Still, the Royals love Getz and rave about his grit. He’s the scrappy, old-school, dirty jersey player coaches love. I think they let that mask his obvious faults, but hey, it’s not my team.

My percentage guess he’s retained: 70%

The big question in this whole operation is Luke Hochevar.

The story is no different. He looks great for stretches, the looks wretched for other stretches. For all the “stuff” he has on the mound, he just can’t get consistent results. One day he’ll outduel David Price and can turn around and give up seven runs before you’ve reached your seat.

August 21, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Luke Hochevar (44) throws a pitch in the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Kansas City Royals defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

He’s projected for $4.4 million in 2013 by MLBTR, but only Ubaldo Jimenez had more losses in the American League. Nobody else allowed more runs or earned runs. He entered 2012 with a 5.29 career ERA and it went up after 2012.

You look at his numbers – a decent 6.2 K/9, close to 200 innings a year, usually a good ground ball rate – and he looks like at least an average pitcher, but he’s usually well below that. He just should be better. The Royals believe in him, and that’s what they should do while he’s still on the roster, but he’s got to turn it around, and for real this time.

But to pay him $4.4 million to guess at if he’d flip the switch or not is silly, especially when other gaps need to be filled. With Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, Luis Mendoza, Will Smith and Bruce Chen, the Royals have a rotation they can march out there filled with players better than Hochevar already. If they sign or trade for another pitcher, all the better. With Paulino (see above) coming back along with Danny Duffy and (knock on wood) the emergence of Mike Montgomery, Hochevar is just unnecessary, especially at that price. They simply don’t need him.

My percentage guess he’s retained: 15%

But for now, nothing’s happened.

Dayton Moore has never taken a case to arbitration, so look for the Royals to make their decisions before the deadline. Even if there’s no announcement of money by the deadline, both sides can come to an agreement up until a scheduled arbitration hearing. The deadline just determines who’ll actually be kept on the roster.

Paulino and Getz should be safe. Hochevar’s gotta go.