Under the leadership of general manager Dayton Moore, the stated priority of the Kansas City Royals has always been pitching. As the club rebuilds its roster after a World Series championship, the team’s emphasis has not changed, even as the club faces the prospect of parting with franchise cornerstone Alex Gordon in free agency.
The Royals seek to bolster their starting rotation during this week at the Winter Meetings here at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, and could depart this five-day junket with two additions. The team remains hopeful about a reunion with Chris Young, and has engaged with other free-agent arms, including southpaw Scott Kazmir.
Kansas City will remain present in contract discussions with Gordon, as the team’s roster currently features vacancies in the corner outfield spots.
Moore and his lieutenants arrived in Nashville on Sunday and convened for meetings. Moore did not meet with the media, but he is expected to do so on Monday. Manager Ned Yost will also conduct a session with the media on Monday.
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By then, the Royals could have finalized a contract with Young, the 36-year-old veteran who aided the club as both a starter and a reliever in 2015. Young has expressed interest in returning to Kansas City. He posted a 3.06 ERA in the regular season and a 2.87 ERA in a four postseason appearances.
Kazmir appeals to the Royals due to his recent success (a 3.54 ERA with Cleveland and Oakland from 2013 to 2015) and his left-handedness. The Royals have committed to fellow lefty Danny Duffy as a starting pitcher, but the team could choose to shift him back to the bullpen if he continues to struggle in the rotation. Duffy pitched in the 2015 postseason as a reliever.
And the Royals will require some additions to their bullpen, as key contributor Ryan Madson departed for the Athletics on Sunday. Madson agreed to a three-year, $22 million contract with Oakland, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person requested anonymity because the contract is pending a physical. The contract was first reported by ESPN. Madson missed all of 2012 to 2014 due to complications from Tommy John surgery.
Madson, 35, posted a 2.13 ERA for the Royals during the regular season, with 58 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings. He struggled at times during the playoffs, with a 5.40 ERA, but he still served as the team’s primary setup man in October.
The Royals had interest in retaining Madson, but he served as perhaps the second-most attractive reliever on the free-agent market. After Darren O’Day reportedly inked a four-year, $31 million contract to stay in Baltimore, Madson moved to the top of the list.
Kansas City has shown interest in a reunion with former closer Joakim Soria, according to people familiar with the situation. The team is also trying to re-sign Greg Holland, who was non-tendered last week and will not pitch in 2016 as he recovers from elbow reconstruction.
With Madson gone, the remnants of the Kansas City bullpen include closer Wade Davis, All-Star reliever Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar and Tommy John recipient Tim Collins.
As the Royals look for starters, there are still those holes in the outfield. The Royals are not believed to be serious contenders to sign Ben Zobrist. He visited the Mets last week, and will visit the Giants soon, according to a report from Fox Sports. The Nationals are also believed to be suitors.
As for Gordon, his market has yet to fully develop, rival executives say. He joins a glut of outfielders including Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton. All four could receive contracts worth more than $100 million, though Gordon’s price will likely fall slightly under that market. Time will tell if the Royals can win the bidding, even after letting Gordon reach the open market.