Even the Royals acknowledge a new contract with right-hander Jeremy Guthrie is now unlikely before he hits the open market.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
I think its pretty safe to say hes going to explore free agency, general manager Dayton Moore said. Well continue to monitor how that goes. Hes going to explore his options, and its important that we do as well.
Guthrie made $8.2 million this season and is believed to be seeking a three-year deal after going 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 16 starts for the Royals, who acquired him from Colorado in a July 20 trade for left-hander Jonathan Sánchez.
The Royals appear reluctant to go more than two years for a pitcher who turns 34 in April. While a proven innings-eater, Guthrie is 55-77 in his nine-year career and was 3-9 with a 6.35 ERA in Colorado prior to the trade.
Its a negotiation, Moore said. Right now, the logical conclusion is were still working for a comfort level. We have to be (interested in him). Anybody who improves our rotation, we have to be interested in.
Free agency is automatic for eligible players one day after the World Series concludes, although their former teams retain exclusive negotiating rights for five days.
Talks remain ongoing regarding a new contract for rehabbing closer Joakim Soria, who missed the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery to replace a torn elbow ligament for the second time in his career.
The Royals are expected to exercise a $750,000 buyout in Sorias contract to void their $8 million option for 2013. The deadline for doing so is three days following the conclusion of the World Series.
Soria, 28, becomes a free agent if the Royals exercise the buyout, but both sides have indicated a desire to work out a new deal, which would likely include a low guarantee and significant performance bonuses.
Were still looking at that right now, Moore said. Its kind of moving at its own pace. Not real fast but not real slow. We still have some time.
Possible trade target
Heres a name to keep in mind if, as expected, escalating costs in the free-agent market force the Royals to take a harder look at trade possibilities to improve their rotation: Mariners left-hander James Paxton.
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes the Royals are tracking Paxton, 23, in the Arizona Fall League. He is generally viewed as the most advanced of the Mariners much heralded big three pitching prospects. The others are Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker.
The Mariners are also a logical trading partner because they need offensive punch as much as the Royals need pitching. Baker writes that Gold Glove left fielder Alex Gordon and All-Star DH Billy Butler are desirable pieces.
A disclaimer: None of this is meant to suggest a trade is close or that it would involve Gordon or Butler. In fact, the Royals are unlikely to surrender a proven major-league player for an unproven minor-leaguer in a straight deal.
Paxton is 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds. He missed time this season because of a sore knee but went 9-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 21 starts at Class AA Jackson. He struck out 110 but walked 54 and had 13 wild pitches in 106 1/3 innings.
Baker cites a mid-90s fastball, a out-pitch curve and a developing changeup. Some scouts believe Paxton could be ready to break camp next spring in the majors particularly if his command sharpens and his changeup develops.
The Mariners selected Paxton in the fourth round of the 2010 draft after Toronto failed to sign him a year earlier as the 37th overall pick.
Paxton opened the Fall League with two strong performances one run in six innings but has allowed seven runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings in his last two starts.
To reach Bob Dutton, call 816-234-4352 or send email to email@example.com. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.