The winter meetings are over.
The Royals spent the week at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, fielding calls and texts from baseball executives interested in Danny Duffy and Scott Alexander and Whit Merrifield and Kelvin Herrera. The rebuild is coming.
The Royals made no deals this week, save for some maneuvering in the Rule 5 draft. That could change as the offseason continues. But for now, let’s get to the mailbag. The music recommendation of the week is Sheer Mag.
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This is the question of the moment. Let’s start with a couple things: The Royals are never going to use the work tank. General manager Dayton Moore talked this week about fielding a young team that will play hard and remain positive and seek to be entertaining to watch. That’s about as close as you can get to speaking in rebuild code. But they’re not trying to lose games.
But they’re going to, of course, and yes, it might be the best course of action.
The Royals’ No. 1 goal at the moment is rebuilding the farm system to the point at which they’ll be able to contend again for a long window. Nobody knows when that window will open. In conversations with club officials, you hear 2021 or 2022 or around then. But if we’re being honest, those might be the seasons in which the next wave arrives, similar to 2011 and 2012. Listen, we’re all just guessing here.
But to that end, the next two to three seasons will be dedicated to developing players that could be part of that window or acquiring low-cost assets that could then be flipped for players that could be part of that window. And, of course, the next two to three years will be dedicated to acquiring high draft picks that could speed up the process.
The Royals could have five picks in the top 50 in 2018. That’s a good start. But high picks (and large bonus pools) in 2019 and 2020 could help as well.
So, yes, the Royals should definitely listen to trade offers for all their best assets, sentimentality be damned. But while there could be some motivation to move Kelvin Herrera, Scott Alexander and Whit Merrifield this offseason, there’s theoretically no rush to deal Danny Duffy and Salvador Perez.
Yes, they are under control for four seasons, which increases their value. But if Duffy pitches to his ceiling during the first half of 2018, they would still be dangling 3 1/2 years of a premium left-handed pitcher at a reasonable rate. Or perhaps he puts together a strong season and they take him back to the market next winter. In that respect, they don’t have to settle. (I will say: I think the point made here about Duffy and Jose Quintana is a good one. Compare those players as assets at your own risk.)
For the moment, the Royals appear hesitant to part ways with Salvador Perez. Moore said in two different interviews that while he’s received calls on almost all his players, he had not received one on Perez.
This may be because the price would be astronomical. It may also be because he’s not wild about the headline "Royals listening on Salvador Perez" appearing on the internet or in The Star.
And finally, there are many reasons the Royals are in this situation. In some ways, this is simply the reality of small-market baseball. Win cycles come and go. Players become too expensive. It happened in Cincinnati. It happened in Tampa Bay. It’s happening in Pittsburgh.
The Royals have missed on too many first-round picks in the last decade. They also parted ways with talent to win a World Series. None of those players have become stars. But in another time, Sean Manaea would be a young starting pitcher in a promising rotation with Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. Brandon Finnegan and Cody Reed have value, too.
The Royals made a decision to go for it in both 2016 and 2017. That decision might have delayed the rebuilding process and pushed the potential payoff back a year or two. But even if the club had dealt its core at the trade deadline or last winter, they’d likely be in the same position in 2018. Maybe 2019, too.
They didn’t. They doubled down and tried to return to the playoffs. So if you’re looking to fairly second guess anything, perhaps start with the Wade Davis trade last winter.
Hunter Dozier? Miguel Almonte if he’s healthy? Nicky Lopez if there’s an opening? Richard Lovelady?
Well, the good news is the Royals are now positioned to let Bubba Starling and Kyle Zimmer play, and fail, and play more at the major-league level.
Look, there are big questions surrounding both: Starling has to prove he can hit. Zimmer has to stay healthy. And there is no guarantee that either will be part of the next group that wins in Kansas City. In fact, most would probably bet against it.
But the Royals have a lot of invested in both players. Their values have flatlined over the last few years. But now they could have the opportunity to build some of that value back up. Whether they’re part of the future or not, that’s important when you’re going through a rebuilding process.
The pace of the free agent market has been glacial thus far. There is some thinking that slugger J.D. Martinez could loosen things up by signing somewhere. But I think think Moustakas and Cain are in line to sign for more than $50 million, which would ensure a compensation pick following the first round. The market for Cain has been quiet but appears strong. I still think the Dexter Fowler contract (five for $82.5 million) is a decent comp. Fowler was one year younger at the time, so perhaps it’s closer to four years, $65 million.
Moustakas is young enough that it seems likely he’ll sign a deal long enough to get him past that $50 million threshold, even if his market isn’t as strong as most have expected.
If the Royals have had communication with Hochevar, it’s been minimal and informal. Some club officials are still unsure if he’ll pitch again.
It’s a matter of health, but if Hochevar can throw and would be willing to return on a no-risk, minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, I’m sure the Royals would entertain that idea.
Last offseason, the Royals had some early discussions with Moylan, but it essentially went like this: Moylan wanted a major-league deal. The Royals wanted to wait. And when no great offers surfaced by spring training, Moylan returned on a minor-league deal.
Moylan was fantastic in 2018. He’s worth a guaranteed contract. He’s also 39, which hurts his cause. Here’s guessing that the Royals are willing to wait again. They’ll also be a little worried about the price, considering their financial constraints. They’re watching every penny.
Many years ago. I feel like this is not as weird as it sounds, especially when the chips are quite thick, like pub chips. I mean, they’re basically fries, no?