Among most knowledgable baseball people, the consensus is that the KC Royals MIGHT be able to re-sign one of their big-three free agents (Cain, Hosmer, Moustakas) this offseason.
For the most part, I agree with them. The KC Royals simply don’t have the capital to re-sign Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain given their current financial situation, but I do think there’s a chance they could sign two of them.
The Royals are on the hook for two more years of Alex Gordon at $40M, and three more years of Ian Kennedy at $49M. Before anyone even begins to ask, Ian Kennedy IS NOT GOING TO OPT OUT of his contract. There is a 0% chance that an organization would be willing to give a 33-year old pitcher with 1,400 IP over the last eight seasons $50M over the next 3-4 years. None. Zero. Zilch. The only reason Ian Kennedy would even think about opting out is for personal/family relocation reasons that no one could begin to predict.
Alex Gordon could be the key to re-signing Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain. Alex Gordon has not lived up to his current contract. Alex Gordon also has a mutual option for 2020 in his contract for $23M. There is another zero-percent chance that Kansas City mutually agrees to that unless Alex Gordon returns 2015 form which…I won’t hold my breath. However, there may be a “mutual” agreement that could be made between Gordon and the Royals that would free up some money to allow Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain to continue playing in Kansas City.
I’ll come back to Gordon in a second, let’s start by analyzing the Royals’ current financial situation.
Paul York over at royalsfarmreport.com wrote a fantastic article recently about which of the “Big 3 Free Agents” the Royals might be able to keep. In his article he figures that the Royals are already on the hook for about $116M next season. I’m gonna call it $120M to be safe. That includes raw guesses at arbitration increases, salary increases, etc.
Eric Hosmer has been raking since coming out of his slump in mid-April. I do not care what position he plays, the man ranks third in the AL in average, eighth in OBP, and 13th in OPS. His power numbers leave a bit to be desired, but he’s still on pace for a career year in HR and plays in a very unforgiving Kauffman Stadium. York thinks Hos could reasonably expect to receive a 6 year/ $90M deal. Personally, I’d think that Hosmer would be more likely to require an 8 year/$150M deal. Yes, I am both completely serious and completely willing to give him this contract.
The KC Royals have one of the smaller markets in baseball. It’s not often that they are able to keep their stars and thus have a revolving door for “face of the franchise.” The Royals NEED Eric Hosmer. They need someone to be “their guy.” They need someone that the world recognizes and loves and he’s finally playing like “that guy.” Eric Hosmer is the national face of this franchise and the Royals should be willing to pay for more than just the services that Hosmer provides on the field.
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Lorenzo Cain is another guy I think the KC Royals desperately need to try to bring back. He’s anchored down the 3-hole in the lineup beautifully. He’s patrolled CF with the utmost grace. He’s only going to get older, but his age and relative decline offensively may make him affordable, and the Royals don’t have another immediate answer in CF like they might at 3B with Hunter Dozier.
York thinks Cain is looking at something like 4 years and $60M, which sounds about right. Cain plays a premium defensive position very well and has proven this year that he can stay healthy (knocks aggressively on every piece of wood in a walkable distance).
You may be wondering how the KC Royals could possibly add nearly $35M in salary for two players for the next 4 years. I know. Let me explain.
The Royals have the worst TV contract in the big leagues at 11 years and $220M. They currently rank first in local TV ratings and Blair Kerkhoff with the KC Star wrote a great article in February detailing Royals fans and how much we love to watch our Boys in Blue. The Royals are sure to improve that contract at the end of 2019, giving Kansas City some much needed spending money.
Why does that matter?
Remember Alex Gordon? Good, back to Alex Gordon. The Royals owe Gordon way too much money between now and the end of 2019 to afford an 8 year, $150M Hosmer contract and a 4 year, $60M Cain contract. BUT. What if the Royals could extend that Gordon money over just enough years while they wait on their new TV deal that can help pay for Cain and Hosmer?
As I mentioned before, Gordon’s $23M mutual option for 2020 AIN’T HAPPENIN’. But what if they agreed to give him an additional $10M (only $6M more than his buyout for 2020) if he agreed to take the now $50M over 5 years instead of three? That would look something like this:
2020 (FA): $10M
2021 (FA): $10M
2022 (FA): $10M.
Here’s why this could work.
The Royals owe Alex Gordon $44M no matter which way you shake it. He’s guaranteed that money. By taking away $10M in 2018 you bring the potential payroll down to $110M (I should reiterate here that this is not a fixed and guaranteed number, this is a number that a colleague of mine and I both relatively agree with and seems to make sense), which means that adding my proposed Hosmer and Cain contracts, $33.75M total, has the 2018 payroll almost even with this year’s current payroll of roughly $146M.
There’s the rough math. Why would Alex Gordon agree to this?
Because Alex Gordon has played for some of the worst teams in Royals history and won a World Series. There is no way Alex Gordon wants to play for a team that loses 90 games again, not after the success that he and the team have experienced recently. The Royals best chance of winning in 2018 and 2019 is to re-sign Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, and Alex Gordon should be on board with that.
Gordon has spent his entire career with the KC Royals. The Royals drafted Gordon, showed extreme patience through his early struggles, and have allowed him to play every day during his recent struggles because they believe in him and need him. They have taken care of Gordon for his entire professional career and now it could be Gordon’s turn to take care of the Royals.
The Royals are in a tricky spot that Dayton Moore will have to navigate very carefully. The new TV deal, an expanded payroll, and Alex Gordon could help to clear the seas for him, but I believe that Alex Gordon could be the most important cog in the machine. By restructuring his contract, he would free up money in the next two years that the Royals could use to re-sign Cain and Hosmer until the new TV deal hits. The Royals would have to pay him a little more money, but I think that both parties would be willing to work something out for the reasons listed above.