The Royals will have decisions to make with respect to offering contracts to arbitration-eligible players this winter. While some of these decisions are easy, failing to make offers to some arbitration eligible players could signal if the KC Royals are up against their payroll limit.
For the last couple of seasons, Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore has talked about the need to trim players costs. Instead, he has increased payroll to record heights. Indeed, Kansas City has increased payroll each of the last five seasons after bringing up many of their current core players in 2011.
Will the trend continue in 2017?
An early clue might come from how they treat some of their arbitration-eligible players this winter. The Royals must make a decision whether or not to make offers to players eligible for arbitration by early December. This list includes:
PLAYER: ESTIMATED COST (per MLB Trade Rumors)
RP Tim Collins $1.5M
C Tony Cruz $1.0M
SP Danny Duffy $8.2M
OF Jarrod Dyson $2.5M
SP Dillon Gee $3.6M
RP Kelvin Herrera $5.3M
1B Eric Hosmer $13.3M
OF Daniel Nava $1.5M
Some of these decisions are easy. Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera, and Jarrod Dyson will get arbitration offers. But, Tim Collins is coming off two consecutive Tommy John surgeries in 2015 and 2016. Dillon Gee is nothing more than a no. 5 starter. The Royals have plenty of outfield options besides the marginal Daniel Nava. Tony Cruz was the team’s no. 3 catcher and spent most of the season in AAA Omaha as emergency depth.
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By non-tendering the latter four players, Kansas City could slice an estimated $7.6 million from the 2017 payroll.
Making an arbitration offer to Gee could be the safest way to ensure the Royals have enough starting pitching depth to begin the 2017 season. Making an offer to Cruz would be cheap insurance in case the team can’t come to an agreement with incumbent backup catcher Drew Butera in free-agency. However, KC could part ways with Tim Collins and Daniel Nava with minimal impact on the roster.
Another canary in the coal mine could be outfielder Jarrod Dyson. Dyson has been one of the most valuable bench players in baseball over the last few seasons. He’s accumulated an outstanding 8.1 fWAR over the last three seasons, which is rather impressive when you consider 2.0 WAR per season is considered average for a full-time starter.
However, the Royals acquired outfielder Billy Burns from the Oakland A’s in July. He’s a very similar player to Dyson and will not hit arbitration until 2018. If Moore needs to save money, he could trade the 32-year-old Dyson for a prospect or two this winter. With Dyson hitting his last year of team control in 2017, such a move would make sense. But, it would be an odd decision for a team trying to exploit what many believe is the last year of a championship window.
Soon after the World Series ends, the Kansas City Royals will start having to make decisions that shape the 2017 roster. With one week to go before the beginning of November, those choices will begin soon.