During the season, Kansas City Royals fans thought the team could realistically re-sign two of their top three free agents. Here’s why that has virtually no chance of happening.
The idea that the Kansas City Royals could re-sign two-thirds of their top free agents seemed so realistic during the regular season. Unfortunately, it’s increasingly looking like a pipe dream.
On Monday, as the free agent period officially began, MLB.com columnist Jim Duquette released his predictions for the top 25 free agents. The former Mets general manager predicted the Kansas City Royals would re-sign Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.
I’m here to tell you that won’t happen.
Duquette thinks Hosmer could earn as much as $140 million (seven years and an average of $20 million per year). He also believes Moustakas will earn in the range of $100 over five or six years. Do you honestly think David Glass is willing to spend nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on two players? I sure don’t.
I also don’t think the Kansas City Royals will re-sign Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain. And I also don’t think they will keep Moustakas and Cain. Basically, there is no longer a scenario where the franchise signs more than one of its main free agents.
Frankly, I would advise against attempting to re-sign Moustakas or Cain at all. In my opinion, both will be overpaid this winter based on shallow pools at third base and center field. It’s for the opposite reason Hosmer might be more affordable than many project. Plenty of other big bats will be available who play first base. Maybe, it leads to Hosmer remaining in Kansas City; maybe, it doesn’t.
The rumor mill has been circulating the idea that if Hosmer isn’t retained, then the organization will go into a complete rebuild allowing the team’s free agents to land elsewhere. Even if Hosmer signs, though, there is virtually no chance Moustakas, or Cain for that matter, will re-sign.
If anything, it makes it less likely.
Reaching consecutive World Series and winning a world championship has helped the Kansas City Royals put together a larger payroll than the franchise ever used to be comfortable having. That led to poor decisions in signing Ian Kennedy to a massive contract, of which he just opted into the final three years, and Alex Gordon to a laughable deal.
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Partly due to those mistakes, the team seems a little hesitant to invest a ton of money in Moustakas and Cain. Each player has dealt with leg injuries in recent seasons. Moose suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee that cost him most of 2016. Cain, meanwhile, had nagging hamstring injuries until a healthy 2017. Both players will also be in their mid-thirties for part of their impending contracts.
For those reasons, it’s looking more and more like Hosmer or bust. That’s not to say the front office could decide to pursue Moustakas or Cain in the event Hosmer leaves for Boston or somewhere else. But it does appear the organization is increasingly satisfied with stockpiling the draft picks they will earn by not re-signing the trio of stars.
With each of the three receiving qualifying offers, the Kansas City Royals will earn compensation for each player who leaves. According to Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, all three players will almost certainly reject the one-year, $17.4 million contract offers and become full-blown free agents.
Here’s what Dodd says will happen should those players leave:
"Let’s review the compensation rules: The Royals will receive a compensatory, or additional, draft pick following the first round if a player declines a qualifying offer and signs a contract of more than $50 million. If the player declines the qualifying offer and signs for less than $50 million, the compensation pick will come after Competitive Balance Round B, which follows the second round."
Basically, the Kansas City Royals will wind up with some combination of three great players or three top-level draft spots. Hosmer and Moose departing would likely garner first-round compensation, while Cain could be a toss-up. This level of reimbursement is just another reason the team would be unlikely to re-sign two of their top free agents.
So for those holding out hope Hosmer and Moustakas will play the corner infield positions at Kauffman Stadium for the next five or six years, hopefully this gives you a dose of reality. It’s less painful than being surprised when at least two of the three end up leaving.