Eric Hosmer waved his hands in front of chest to bat aside the question.
“Don’t jinx it,” Hosmer said as he burst out laughing. “Don’t jinx it, man. Do not jinx it.”
The topic involved the All-Star Game, a subject with which the Royals appear to have reached a saturation point, and Hosmer had little interest discussing the $50,000 bonus he would receive from his employers for the honor of appearing in the game.
A viral movement has spirited eight Royals players into the starting lineup for the American League. The fallout from the phenomenon is ongoing. As the other 29 clubs ponder how one team conquered the voting process, the Royals are preparing to dole out a seven-figure sum in bonuses on top of their already record payroll.
If the voting patterns hold until the ballot box is closed July 2 and those eight Royals make the All-Star Game, the team will owe the participants $1.25 million in incentives and escalators in the coming years, according to people familiar with the situation.
Second baseman Omar Infante would receive $500,000 split between 2016 and 2017. The Royals would spread an additional $350,000 total across the three options on catcher Salvador Perez’s contract. The honor also bolsters the impending arbitration cases of outfielder Lorenzo Cain and third baseman Mike Moustakas.
The organization, of course, is fully aware of the financial implications wrought by the surge of online support. The executives joke about it sometimes, as they too were caught off-guard by the waves of voting. General manager Dayton Moore cast the upcoming bill of bonuses as a badge of honor for the organization.
“Every single night, you pull hard for your players,” Moore said. “I hope they reach all their goals. I hope they reach all their bonuses. It’s good for them.”
The Royals offer a standard, $50,000 All-Star Game award bonus for contracts tendered to free agents or players eligible for arbitration. So if all eight starters reach the Midsummer Classic, the Royals owe a $400,000 bill. The Royals inherited Wade Davis’ contract from Tampa Bay. If Davis makes the All-Star team, he receives a $25,000 bonus.
The more expensive developments occur in future years. The four-year, $30.25 million contract for Infante features an escalator clause triggered if he makes an All-Star team. In addition to his bonus, he earns an additional $250,000 for each subsequent season. So the Royals would owe him $8 million in 2016 and $8.25 million in 2017.
The Royals hold options on Perez for 2016 ($3.75 million base salary), 2017 ($5 million) and 2018 ($6 million). Those prices are not fixed. His contract includes escalators for All-Star Game appearances, Gold Gloves, Silver Slugger awards and appearances in the Most Valuable Player voting.
So those options will cost more: $50,000 more for 2016, $100,000 more for 2017 and $200,000 more for 2018. If Perez wins his third Gold Glove this season, as the organization expects he will, the salaries will jump again. This could all become irrelevant if the team reworks Perez’s contract, as Perez has said he desires and as the Royals are expected to consider.
The discussions with Perez will likely be tabled until the offseason. At that point, the Royals face a variety of financial questions. In addition to Alex Gordon’s impending free agency, the team must decide whether to pursue long-term deals for Hosmer, Cain and Moustakas.
Hosmer will not enter arbitration this winter because he signed a two-year deal that pays him $8.25 million for 2016. Rival executives view the Royals as unlikely to retain Hosmer when he reaches free agency after 2017. The prospects for keeping Cain and Moustakas look brighter.
Cain is open to a long-term extension with the Royals, but he is expected to see how free agents such as Gordon, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton fare in free agency to better understand his value, according to people familiar with his thought process. A year ago, Moustakas had only recently returned from a demotion to the minors, so his interest in an extension may be more keen.
Either way, both Cain and Moustakas will experience sizable raises through arbitration. It is difficult to place a price on the financial value of All-Star Game appearances for these proceedings, but they do play a role. So Moustakas should expect a sizable raise from his current $2.64 million salary, and Cain should experience something similar with his current $2.73 million salary.
The Royals understand these issues facing their club. For now, they do not fret over them, at least not publicly. The club is in the midst of a renaissance, with a reinvigorated fanbase, a national profile and a chance to reach the playoffs once more. If they have to pay a seven-figure bill for the All-Star Game phenomenon, they will do so.
“We put those (incentives) in there as an organization with the expectations that they earn them,” Moore said. “When they do, it’s important that we celebrate it.”
Potential All-Star bonuses and salary escalators
Here’s what the Royals would have to pay if these players make the All-Star team:
▪ C Salvador Perez: $50,000 bonus and $350,000 in salary escalators
▪ 1B Eric Hosmer: $50,000 bonus
▪ 2B Omar Infante: $50,000 bonus and $500,000 in salary escalators
▪ SS Alcides Escobar: $50,000 bonus
▪ 3B Mike Moustakas: $50,000 bonus
▪ LF Alex Gordon: $50,000 bonus
▪ CF Lorenzo Cain: $50,000 bonus
▪ DH Kendrys Morales: $50,000 bonus
▪ RP Wade Davis: $25,000 bonus
▪ Total bill: $1.275 million (if all nine make the team)