One of the most important offseasons in recent Royals history will not, and cannot, end in disaster. Thats what retaining Jeremy Guthrie means, and if this all seems a bit like unintentional comedy hey, look, we didnt wreck the car! well, this is Kansas City.
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
If the Royals took Offseason 101 as a pass-fail, they at least didnt fail. If they do nothing else, they will begin 2013 better than they began 2012.
Thats worth something, but simply not drowning is not as good as swimming to safety and soon enough, the waters will be raging enough that general manager Dayton Moore and the Royals will need safety.
Taking on Ervin Santanas potential and $12 million salary is a nice step one of a critical offseason with clear needs, and Tuesdays signing of Jeremy Guthrie to a three-year deal worth $25 million is a nice step two.
But fixing one of baseballs worst starting rotations is more than a two-step dance. And the third step is the most important.
Completing the project is on owner David Glass as much as it is Moore.
You will hear people say Guthrie is not worth this contract, so lets get that out of the way here. In the funny-money world of baseball, he is absolutely worth it.
In the last three seasons, while pitching anywhere but Coors Field, Guthrie has a 3.89 ERA.
Thats the same as Max Scherzer, a little better than Ryan Dempster (4.04), and a little worse than wait for it Zack Greinke (3.83).
You can argue that the games in Colorado should count, too, but its fair to say hes pitched well everywhere else and besides including the games at Coors, hes been better than anybody the Royals have had over that same period.
According to the wonderfully nerdy FanGraphs, Guthrie has been worth $23.8 million over the last three seasons. That includes his awful stretch in Colorado, so when you add in baseball inflation, $25 million over the next three seasons is reasonable.
More important, Guthrie makes the Royals better than they are without him. If nothing else, he and Santana give the team two starters who should be able to pitch 400 innings between them with league average or better performance.
With a bullpen still stocked with power arms, this puts the Royals in a far better position than last year.
This becomes even truer if the team can get good innings from in-house options like Luis Mendoza, Bruce Chen, Everett Teaford, Yordano Ventura, Jake Odorizzi and even Kelvin Herrera.
The heaviest lifting is still to come, though.
The argument that the Royals cant be fairly expected spend more money can only be made with a straight face and clear conscience if were talking about top-of-the-line free agents like Zack Greinke.
With the roster constructed as is, the Royals project to about a $70 million payroll. Thats an improvement over last year, but still comfortably in the bottom quarter of baseball.
Even while the Royals have perhaps the worst TV contract in baseball their own fault more than market size, by the way baseballs revenue sharing is such that they should be able to spend $75 million to $80 million fairly easily.
At that level, any operating loss would be minimal and more than offset by recent profits and the franchises value more than tripling from Glass purchase price.
This is where general manager and owner must work together, to trust in each other. If Moore has to dip into the teams wealth of prospects to acquire a frontline pitcher through a trade, then its his job to find the right guy. Tommy Hanson, James Shields, Rick Porcello. Someone.
And if Glass has to bump the payroll higher than hes completely comfortable with, then he should understand that his chances are running out. Fans have been more patient than should be expected through basement payrolls while Glass has steadily said hed pay more when the time was right.
Well, the time is right. A fan base is burning through its patience.
To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow twitter.com/mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.