If you are on this site, you know what holes the Royals have to fill before 2015’s opening day. They need a starting pitcher, a DH, and right fielder. The more I hear, and the more I read, it sure feels like James Shields, Billy Butler, and Nori Aoki will be playing elsewhere. This is a good thing. This is not to say their contributions won’t be missed, it’s just that the cost that would come with signing them back don’t add up for a team like the Royals.
What will be the team’s philosophy be this off season? Will they be free agent shoppers or traders?
The Royals could be happy with a Torii Hunter and Jarrod Dyson platoon in right field. An Ervin Santana return sounds great, and may work out nicely. But is that the right way? Is that the “Royal Way”? I don’t think so.
The Royals achieved great success last year by doggedly doubling down on their strengths. They knew they had a fast team that made a lot of contact. They knew they had an excellent defensive outfield. They knew they had a lights-out bullpen. They knew what they had to work with on the field. They should take this same approach to their off season operations. Spend time with and exploit strengths.
For starters, let’s confirm their operational weakness. Money. Yes, the Royals are spending at a rate they never have, and look to eclipse 100M in payroll. This is admirable, but unless they bump this payroll up to 115-120, they will still be one of the “poorest shoppers” in the market. They will show up to the market at a competitive disadvantage. Why go there?
In the past, the Royals had a stable of major league ready, or soon to be ready, prospects. Right now, the Royals don’t have AA and AAA guys that will net MLB starters. What do they have? A surplus of bullpen arms and a replaceable first baseman.
Greg Holland was a major key to the Royals regular season and post season success. Eric Hosmer was a below average first baseman for the regular season, but a huge key to the Royals post season success. It may feel crazy and painful to deal away these guys after they helped propel the Royals to the World Series. It just doesn’t feel right. That said, the Royals would be wise to ignore sentimentality, and consider moving one of, or both, players.
I am not saying that Holland and Hoz won’t both enjoy success over the next few seasons. Holland has been one of the best, if not the best, closers in the game the last couple years. Hosmer may have unlocked his super star potential this Fall. Even if both of these assumptions are true, they should still be options for trades.
If Holland were to continue his run of success for the next 3 seasons, he would be the only closer not named Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman to pull it off. It just doesn’t happen that way for closers. They almost all hit a wall. They hit it hard, and they hit it early. I do understand that one of the best ways a small market team can compete is by spending big for a bullpen. It’s the biggest return some teams can get for their money. This argument is not about allocating big resources for a bullpen. It’s about not gambling against a very consistent trend.
Holland had a great year, but was not as good as Wade Davis. Time and logic say his elite closer window should shut soon. The Royals have excellent replacement options at closer with Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera. The “low budget” Royals can actually spend this problem away if there is one after the 2015 season. Greg Holland‘s trade value will never be higher. Greg Holland‘s going to make huge bucks via arbitration. Greg Holland should probably be traded.
Offensively speaking, Eric Hosmer only has one great season as a pro under his belt. He has been a frustrating and under achieving hitter, and bad base runner. He also just became a post season legend. This one is much tougher for me. I couldn’t hold it against the Royals if the bet that Homser has now “arrived”. His last 2 dreadful years at the plate may very well be a thing of the past, and he may finally be an .800 plus OPS guy with that great glove. I understand the gamble, but I wouldn’t put my money on it.
The sample size says he’s inconsistent. The hopes and wishes say he’s blooming. I would go with logic on this one, because first baseman are easier to find than almost any other position. Even if he does continue to ascend, the Royals won’t have him very long. Hosmer, if he continues to improve, will be gone the second he hits free agency. You know who is agent is, and why Hosmer chose him as his agent. Eric Hosmer should be available for the right deal.
If the Royals can get young players with upsides as good and as logical as those of Holland and Hosmer, they should look to trade them. If the Royals can acquire any bat likely to produce 35 plus home runs, they should be willing to deal them. The team may still enjoy great success with both of these players and some mid level free agents, but it’s not the best bet.