Tough arbitration decisions face KC Royals, Moore

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KC Royals
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For different reasons, four KC Royals shouldn’t be extension candidates.

The Royals have four players to whom they should tender 2021 contracts, but not extension offers.

Maikel Franco.  Franco’s base this season was $2.95 million. MLBTR predicts arbitration will bring him $4.5 million or $8 million. Why so much? It’s simple—the Royals acquired Franco to hit and field and he did both. He played every game, hit .278, led the club in RBIs with 38 and his eight homers tied for third. A handful of errors in 51 games at third base eliminated him from Gold Glove consideration but he was serviceable.

Extending Franco, though, isn’t the right move. He played well enough to deserve mention in the extension discussion, but he may get squeezed out of the KC picture sooner than he’d like. Adalberto Mondesi is set at shortstop, which means super shortstop prospect Bobby Witt Jr., who’s coming on strong and could find his way to Kauffman Stadium sometime next season, will need a place to play. He’s been working at third, so extending Franco now could turn out to be a mistake. Arbitrating with Franco could be worth the risk.

Franchy Cordero.  Cordero came to the Royals in the July trade that sent Tim Hill to San Diego. Despite a wrist injury that cost him several weeks on the Injured List, Cordero still managed to slash .286/.447/.733 in 38 games. He played solid defense and gave the club good reason to bring him back. His base was $571,100; MLBTR projects he’ll do well in arbitration ($900,000 or $1 million). Those numbers are probably a bit high; he isn’t an extension candidate yet, but the KC Royals should tender him.

Jesse Hahn.  Credit Hahn for playing a big role in the bullpen’s 2020 comeback. In only his second season as a reliever, he was 1-0 with a minuscule 0.52 ERA and three saves in 18 games, and averaged almost 10 strikeouts per nine innings. While MLBTR’s projections of $1.1 million and $1.7 million are fair, expect the club to offer a bit less. He’s not quite ready for an extension; even if he was, others are ahead of him. But the Royals need to keep him.

Jakob Junis.  If 2020 wasn’t a lost season for Jakob Junis, it was close. He missed time after a preseason positive COVID-19 test, was sidelined by back spasms in August and optioned to the alternate training site for a week in September. His numbers weren’t pretty—0-2, 6.39 ERA and a 1.618 WHIP—but arbitration can be quirky and MLBTR predicts a $1.5 million or $1.7 million salary (his 2020 base was $608,000). Both amounts are excessive and the club won’t offer either.

Junis won nine games three years in a row before 2020, but his losses increased from three to 12 to 14. He’s trending down, not up, so an extension shouldn’t be in the picture. The KC Royals won’t give up on him yet, but they don’t need to make him a millionaire.