The Royals Were Lucky To Get Hammel
The KC Royals scored a coup when they were still able to land Hammel at a moderate rate after Ventura’s fatal jeep accident. This winter featured a thin starting pitching market that figured to push prices way out of Kansas City’s price range. Instead of the two-year, $16 million deal Hammel signed with the Royals, MLB Trade Rumors projected he would command three-years and $42 million before free agency began.
Without Ventura, Dayton Moore could have been headed into the 2018 season with Danny Duffy as his only established starter. Ian Kennedy has an opt out clause after the 2017 season. Vargas and Young head into mutual option years in 2018.
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They’re unlikely to play under those option years since the Royals have never had a player accept one of those tacked on seasons ever since Dayton Moore routinely added them to contracts when he took over in Kansas City. In many ways, the mutual option isn’t about trying to add a year to a contract. Instead, it’s more of a legal maneuver to push money farther into the future. Neither side expects those mutual options to ever be exercised.
Part of the reason Jason Hammel was available is that he felt Cubs manager Joe Madden didn’t trust him and would pull him early from games. In 30 2016 starts, Hammel pitched a mere 166.0 innings (only 5.53 innings per start). He could significantly improve on his 1.1 bWAR 2016 season for Chicago simply by pitching 180 to 200 innings in Kansas City.
Another reason that Hammel remained unsigned until early February was that the new CBA severely punished teams that regularly exceeded the luxury threshold. Further, the new luxury tax hit at a lower number than many expected. Thus, teams were cautious about adding salary this winter. Add in the weak free-agent class, and it was a slow winter for deals.
In the end, Dayton Moore recovered better than anyone could have reasonably expected following Ventura’s accident on January 22. Whether or not it was enough to return to the post-season remains to be seen.