Royals Should Chill On Free Agents


Did your mom ever ask you, “If your friends all decided to jump off a bridge, would you do it too?” No, mine didn’t either, but she should have.  She should also call Dayton Moore and tell him the same thing. The good news, Moore probably doesn’t need the reminder.

Russell Martin is getting $82 Million from Toronto for 5 years? Maybe that catcher will actually improve with age. Giancarlo Stanton got a ridiculous $325 Million over 13 years. That’s enough money to buy a handful of NHL franchises. Good for you Miami, I guess. When’s the last time a record breaking contract bit someone in the ass? Worked awesome with A-Rod.

Yeah, the free agent deals getting handed out this, cold as hell, November were feeling as numb as my digits scraping my windshield. Yeah, the numbness lifted some when Billy Butler signed a 3 year 30 M contact with Oakland.

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Obviously, there is the emotional connection. Butler has been one of the best hitting Royals ever, and, despite an awful 2014, he was a true contributor to the playoff run. It’s kind of sad to see my C-Breakie move out west where his mind and body issues will only intensify, but I don’t blame the Royals for not offering Butler a 3 year deal.  Not one bit.  I’m very happy for Butler.  He scored a 3 for 30 contract. I am perplexed The A’s offered this deal, and am beginning to wonder if Billy Beane’s brain has atrophied. Unless the A’s see something in Butler’s swing they can clearly fix, they have made a 3 year gamble on a declining, one-dimensional hitter, who’s OPS will suffer even more in their Coliseum. I do have to say it will be damning to Yost and his staff if Butler rekindles his bat and swats 25 plus homers next season.  I don’t think that will happen, and that brings me to the larger point.

Free Agency is a sucker’s bet for 2014.

Let’s just look at starting pitchers. If teams are going to over pay and over sign Martin and Butler, what do you think Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and James Shields will get? They will get the type of contracts that will hamstring almost any team that signs them after a few seasons. The FA starters up for 2016? Guys like David Price, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister, Jeff Samardzija, Rick Porcello, and Johnny Cueto will be available and probably signing deals with less VALUE than James Shields. It’s a bad supply and demand year for free agent shoppers.

We are seeing the smart teams lean back, wait, or trade. The best baseball move this off season, so far, belongs to the Cardinals. They traded their enigmatic and talented starter, Shelby Miller, and minor league hurler Tyrel Jenkins to Atlanta. Atlanta sent them the enigmatic, kind of 5 tooled, right fielder Jason Heyward, and reliever, Jordan Walden. The second best move so far? The Braves in this same trade.

What are the two most vital moves the Royals made to put them in a winning position last year? They were the Zack trade and the Myers trade. If you are good at something, maybe you should do it more.

If the Royals want to aggressively improve their roster for 2015, they need to do it via trade. If they want to make an impactful trade, they need to move their most over valued players, or players at positions of surplus. I wrote a very ”popular” post suggesting those players were Eric Hosmer and Greg Holland. Shockingly, not everyone agreed with this post! The main point is to have an open mind when assessing the trade value of the roster. Making trades is the way the Royals found success in 2014, and the market tenor says that is still the right course for them.

The Royals don’t have to aggressively improve their 2015 roster for success. They can count on their home grown, young players maturation. They can bet that Cain, Hosmer, Moustakas, Duffy, Ventura, and Finnegan all take positive steps forward in 2015. Aside from Duffy, all of those guys did take big steps in the 2014 post season. I think that makes this route risky, but not crazy. The Royals would still need to sign a middle of the road guy to platoon in right field and DH. They would then be wise to sign a starter like Justin Masterson, or Ian Kennedy to a sane contract.  If they choose this route, they need to lean back and chill.  There are many “middle-class” free agents in the market.  Those guys will become more and more affordable as more time passes.

The Royals are a small market team lacking MLB ready prospects, so both forks in this off season’s road carry risk. The market’s environment, the Royal’s positions of strength, and the history of their past successes say the trade route is the smarter bet.