It’s a good bet the new contract that lefty reliever Joe Smith signed with the Angels brought smiles to Royals officials — and not just because it gets him away from division-opponent Cleveland.
Smith, 29, reached a three-year deal worth $15.75 million.
If that’s the price of non-closer bullpen arms on this winter’s market — and not just another in a growing list of suspect Angels free-agent signings in recent years — then the Royals, with their stocked reliever corps, possess some nice potential trade chips.
Club officials privately acknowledge a willingness to trade any of their relievers, including All-Star closer Greg Holland, for the proper return.
“You’ve got to look at all of your options,” one club official said. “Are we actively looking to move Holland? No. But we’ve got to be open-minded to everything.”
General manager Dayton Moore suggested last week that trades are the likeliest step in future attempts to bolster the roster because the signing of free-agent pitcher Jason Vargas pushed the projected payroll to a franchise-record $87 million.
Moore previously said he expects next year’s payroll to mirror the 2013 outlay of roughly $85 million.
The Royals would want a major return for Holland, whom they really don’t want to trade, but rival club officials say Aaron Crow and Tim Collins are very available — while noting both are controllable, relatively affordable and bring a solid track record.
Crow and Collins are each entering their first year of arbitration, which puts them in line for (perhaps significant) raises. Trading either would ease the Royals’ payroll pinch, but neither is likely to approach the $5.25 million that Smith’s deal averages.
And both still have three years remaining before they reach free agency.
Crow, 27, has a 3.19 ERA in 187 games over the last three years. Collins, 24, has a 3.51 ERA in 206 outings in the same span. Both are also power arms, a much-desired quality: Crow has 174 strikeouts in 174 2/3 career innings; Collins has 205 in 190.
“Those are the guys they’d like to trade,” one rival club official said, “because they’re going to start to make a little bit of money. But the key thing for them is they have a lot of other guys ready to step in…guys who might be even better.”
Luke Hochevar and Will Smith replaced Crow and Collins in the closing weeks last season as the primary set-up relievers for Holland. The Royals also have Kelvin Herrera, Louis Coleman, Francisley Bueno, Donnie Joseph and Michael Mariot.
Wade Davis will get a chance to reclaim his starting job next spring but could also wind up back in the bullpen. Swingman Everett Teaford is still around and, like Bueno, is out of options.
It makes for a crowd the Royals would like to thin.Falu on release waivers
The Royals requested unconditional release waivers on utility infielder Irving Falu, whom they designated for assignment Nov. 20 in order to clear space on their 40-man roster to protect players newly eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.
Falu, 30, spent the last 11 seasons in the Royals’ organization following his selection in the 21st round of the 2003 draft. He batted .341 in 24 big-league games in 2012 but played in just one big-league game, the final game of the season, in 2013.
Players on unconditional release waivers can be claimed for $1, but the player then has five days to accept or refuse the claim. Players who refuse become a free agents. Those who refuse the claim during the season forfeit any remaining money on their contract.Vargas breakdown
For those who missed it, here’s the yearly breakdown on Vargas’ new four-year deal for $32 million. He gets $7 million next season, $8.5 million in 2015 and 2016, and $8 million in 2017.Winter details
All-Star catcher Salvy Perez continues to rake for La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League. He has hits in all eight games since joining the club and is batting .371 at 13 for 35. Add three walks, and his on-base percentage is .436.
Infielder Christian Colon is surging at Ponce in the Puerto Rican League with 11 hits in 23 at-bats over the last week. That followed a one-for-20 slide and boosted his average to .284 (21 for 74) through 18 games.
Colon figures to get a long look next spring to make the big-league camp either as the starting second baseman or utility infielder.