NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Cy Young-winning knuckleballer R.A. Dickey won’t be the Royals’ much-sought No. 1 starter next season, it appears, if the New York Mets continue to insist on getting outfield prospect Wil Myers in return.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
A top Royals official on Tuesday dismissed the idea of trading Myers, the consensus minor-league player of the year, in return for a 38-year-old, Dickey, on track to become a free agent after next season.
It doesn’t matter if that 38-year-old pocketed the National League Cy Young Award while going 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA for an 88-loss team.
The Mets appear increasingly willing to trade Dickey in response to stalled negotiations on a contract extension. He is under contract next season for $5 million.
Numerous clubs are believed interested in Dickey, including the Rangers, Orioles, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Nationals, Red Sox and Diamondbacks. But the Royals were generally viewed as the favorite — if willing to surrender Myers.
The Royals appear open to the possibility of renewing talks for prospects other than Myers. Otherwise, they seem likely to target other possibilities in their quest for a front-of-the-rotation starter.
Myers, 22, batted .314 last season with 37 homers and 109 RBIs while playing 35 games at Class AA Northwest Arkansas and 99 games at Class AAA Omaha.
Finding another starting pitcher isn’t the only item on the Royals’ shopping list here at the Winter Meetings.
They also would like to find a utility infielder — specifically one capable of playing shortstop for an extended period should an injury sideline Alcides Escobar.
Club officials don’t see either Tony Abreu or Irving Falu, the leading in-house candidates, as a good extended fit at short because of their defensive deficiencies.
General manager Dayton Moore acknowledged, as things now stand, Christian Colón would likely be promoted from the minors to play short if an injury forced Escobar to miss more than a few games.
“We had a similar situation happen to us in Atlanta when Rafael Furcal went out in the late ’90s,” Moore recalled, “and we had to call up Mark DeRosa, who was just an OK shortstop. He wasn’t ready for the major leagues.
“You don’t want to be in that position, but we’ve got enough guys in the system right now who, if Escobar was out for a long period of time, could be fast-tracked. Colón or maybe (Alex) McClure, who can really catch the ball.”
Colón, 23, was the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft and is batting .300 in 18 games for Ponce in the Puerto Rican Winter League after batting a combined .301 in an injury-filled season that limited him to 85 games in the minors.
McClure, 23, was an 11th-round pick in 2010 who batted .216 in 10 games for Surprise in the Arizona Fall League after batting .217 while splitting 119 games at Class AA Northwest Arkansas and Class A Wilmington.
The Royals would prefer to find a veteran willing to accept a utility role – and a corresponding salary.
“We did that last year with Yuni (Betancourt),” Moore said. “He was the perfect guy if he would have accepted the role. He can hit a ball out of the ballpark.”
The Royals signed Betancourt on Dec. 20 to a one-year deal for $2 million but designated him for assignment on Aug. 5 after he expressed displeasure at not being the club’s regular second baseman.
Interest in McCarthy
The Royals are among eight teams showing interest in free-agent pitcher Brandon McCarthy, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. That’s no surprise; the Royals showed interest a year ago in McCarthy.
The Chronicle cites the Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, Diamondbacks and Twins as expressing interest with the Angels and Rangers “expected to join in.”
McCarthy, 29, was 8-6 with a 3.24 ERA in 18 starts for Oakland before he underwent brain surgery after being hit by a line drive in a Sept. 5 game against the Angels. He is expected to make a full recovery.
Manager Ned Yost expects the Royals’ new hitting approach under coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David to generate a sizable increase in home runs.
“I think Salvador Perez can hit 20-25 home runs,” Yost said. “I think (Eric) Hosmer can hit 30. Moose (Mike Moustakas) can hit 30. Gordy (Alex Gordon) can hit 30. I think (Lorenzo) Cain can hit 20.
“I think, eventually, Wil Meyers can hit 30 homers. We’ve got guys who can do this. Billy Butler could hit 40. He’s got that kind of pop. I want to us to open up our offense a little more and start using the long ball to our advantage.”
Yost’s desire for more pop prompted the Royals to fire hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, who preferred an approach where hitters tried to hit the ball up the middle or to the opposite field.
“I would rather strike out than hit the ball deep to the center-field wall and have it caught,” Yost said, “unless there’s a man on third base. I’d rather open up the offense a little bit.
“I’d rather start taking some good swipes at the ball and try to put the ball in the stands because I think we’ve got guys who can do it.”
The Royals replaced Seitzer by promoting two of their minor-league instructors; Maloof will serve as hitting coach with David as his assistant. Yost said their familiarity with the club’s hitters should aid in helping those hitters maximize their power potential.
Yost said Maloof is already working with Hosmer, who struggled through much of last season after an impressive debut in 2011.
“Jack knows him inside out,” Yost said. “He knows what makes him tick. When something goes wrong, he knows what it is, and he knows how to fix it. … By the time spring training comes around, I think we’re going to see a pretty dynamic Eric Hosmer.”
Moore dismissed a report that surfaced Monday suggesting the Royals had sufficient payroll to make a major push in pursuit of a free-agent pitcher, such as Anibal Sánchez, without a corresponding cut in salary.
Sánchez is believed to be seeking a five-year deal in excess of $75 million and perhaps pushing closer to $90 million. The Royals, presumably, would need to outbid the field to land him.
Moore is operating with a budget that projects a $70 million payroll as the break-even point, although owner David Glass recently expressed a willingness to fund a small deficit. The club’s projected payroll for the roster as currently constructed is $64 million.
“You compete for the players who are available,” Moore said, “and you do your best to win the negotiation. You push it as far as you can. Hopefully, it’s good enough but, sometimes, it’s not. Nothing has really changed.”
• Ex-Royals closer Joakim Soria’s two-year deal for $8 million with the Rangers became official when he passed his physical examination. Soria isn’t likely to pitch before July as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. The deal includes a club option for 2015.
• The Red Sox appear close to an agreement with outfielder Shane Victorino on a three-year deal for $39 million.
• The Nationals reached agreement with right-hander Dan Haren for one year at $13 million.
• The Diamondbacks signed first baseman/outfielder Eric Hinske to a one-year deal believed to be about $1 million.