KC Royals News: Arbitration looms for 2 key players

A key arbitration deadline is just a couple of days away for two important KC Royals.

Some Midweek KC Royals musings while wondering who the Chicago White Sox will sign next:

Arbitration deadline imminent

The end of this week looms, and with it Friday’s deadline for major league clubs and unsigned arbitration-eligible players to exchange offers. As of late Tuesday night, two key Royals remained unsigned. Arbitration hearings for players who don’t settle cases begin in February.

Kansas City had hard arbitration decisions to make as the offseason started, and resolved most by reaching new agreements with Jorge Soler, Hunter Dozier, Jakob Junis, Jesse Hahn and Franchy Cordero, and dropping Maikel Franco, Mike Montgomery, Glenn Sparkman and Kevin McCarthy.

But shortstop Adalberto Mondesi and rotation fixture Brad Keller haven’t reached contract agreements with the club. Considering General Manager Dayton Moore’s near spotless record of avoiding arbitration, it’s a good bet he’ll reach one-year deals, or multi-year extensions, with both players.

Arbitration is, of course, a winner-take-all proposition: absent a settlement, three-arbitrator panels here each case and choose either the player’s proposed salary or the team’s. Major League Baseball Trade Rumors projects potential arbitration awards of between $2.1-3.8 million for Mondesi and $2.4-4.3 million for Keller.

No matter what happens, both players will be back next season. Neither are eligible for free agency until after the 2023 campaign, so there isn’t any urgent need to wrap up either in early extensions.

Free agent pitchers

Could 2021 be the season Chicago’s aggressiveness pays off with an American League Central Division title? Considering the moves the White Sox have made so far, it’s certainly possible.

The ChiSox had already strengthened themselves by adding Lance Lynn, Adam Eaton, and new manager Tony La Russa before solidifying their bullpen Monday via a reported agreement with free agent closer Liam Hendriks. Hendriks, who pitched briefly for the Royals in 2014, has become one of the better back-end relievers in the business.

Still on baseball’s free agent market are Trevor Bauer (no, he won’t be coming to Kansas City), Brad Hand, former Royals Trevor Rosenthal and Jake Odorizzi, and Masahiro Tanaka.

Kansas City, of course, added free agent pitchers Mike Minor and Ervin Santana; Minor has a two-year major league deal, Santana a minor league contract.

Could Corey Kluber, a once-dominating starter for Cleveland, be a candidate to join them? Free agent Kluber, an excellent starter for Cleveland before injuries limited him to eight games over the last two seasons, is scheduled to throw a session for all comers in Florida today. The 34-year old righthander (he’ll turn 35 in April) looks like a classic Dayton Moore reclamation project—he’s a once-dominant pitcher who won 20 games once, 18 three times, and owns a career 3.16 ERA and two Cy Young Awards. He’s also a three-time American League All-Star selection.

Kluber is also 12-7 in 26 starts against the KC Royals. But unless he’s overwhelmingly impressive in today’s workout, don’t expect Kansas City to pursue him. Such a performance would probably spur offers from other teams the club won’t try to compete with.

Royals free agent hurlers Matt Harvey, Ian Kennedy and Mike Montgomery continue to look for work.

Former KC Royals backstop finds new home

It looks like Drew Butera, one of the best and most popular backup catchers the Royals have ever had, is headed back to the American League. Butera, who appeared in 226 games for the Royals before working for the Rockies the past three years, has reportedly signed a minor league pact with Texas which unsurprisingly includes a spring training invitation.

In case you missed it

Here are a couple of Kings of Kauffman stories you may not have had a chance to read yet: David Scharff discussed General Manager Dayton Moore’s refreshing approach to the current offseason here, and I explained why Kyle Schwarber wouldn’t have been an ideal addition to the Royals here.

That’s all for now. We’ll be back next Wednesday with more midweek KC Royals news. Until then, stay safe and healthy.