Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been a smart, rational, and creative off-season. As it stands today, the Royals are a solid ball club. They have the best defense in baseball. The black holes at second base and right field now have light, provided by Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante. These two also heal offensive wounds, by creating a top of the order that values getting on base. No way the bullpen will match last year’s numbers, but that doesn’t mean it still won’t be one of the best and deepest in baseball. What’s the catch? You know the one catch. A starting rotation sans Santana is weaker.
The Royals can take one of three routes with their rotation. One route is great. One route is risky. One route spells disaster. Friday is such an optimistic day. Let’s visualize the route of greatness.
The Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes are over, and all the free agent pitching chips are about to fall. Chip number one, Matt Garza, is close to being played. Garza is not negotiating with a big market, big spender. Garza is talking a 4 year deal for $52 M from the little ole Milwaukee Brewers. They are about to nab Garza for $13 M a year, and won’t lose a compensation draft pick . Ervin Santana may become more affordable than projected. Why can’t he be had for less than Garza, considering he’s a tad older and will cost teams, other than the Royals, a valuable draft pick?
Again, Garza’s proposed contract would net him $13 M a year. For argument’s sake, let’s say Santana gets close to the same deal at 4 years for $50 M. That extra $12.5M would push the Royals way over their salary allowance. I don’t think the Royals should have a salary allowance this critical year, but it is not my money. Unless Mr. Glass shakes $11M out from under one of his sofas, the squad will need to shed some current payroll. Good news. There are three players on this team with neon signs around their necks blinking, ” Trade me for prospects, because I’m a luxury you can’t justify right now.”
Wade Davis has had enough opportunities as starter to prove that he is not a starter. He’s a great middle reliever and spot start guy. Luke Hochevar was one of the worst starters in MLB history, and then put together one excellent year as a bridge, set-up guy. Emilio Bonifacio has proven himself to not be a major league starter, but an all world bench guy. He can run and does everything but pitch, play catcher, or hit for power. He’s kind of a stud, and the type of guy Ned Yost would love to spoon after a long day of killing animals.
Davis will make $4.8 M in 2014. Hochevar will make $5.2 M, and Bonifacio will make $3.5 M. That is $13.5 M committed to three nice role players. The Royals bullpen would still have plenty of depth without Davis and Hochevar. Bonifacio is much harder to replace, but $3.5 M a year for a utility guy is too steep for a team operating with an allowance. A BMW for a guy who lives in his mom’s basement.
Trade those three for prospects now. Bite the bullet on the 4th year, and pat yourself on the back for not losing a draft pick. The 4th year for Ervin bites, but James Shields, along with his salary and number one spot in the rotation, are gone after 2014. Sign Santana. Go to the playoffs in 2014.