In looking for Hosmer replacement, Royals signal coming rebuild

The Royals’ Hunter Dozier will start spring training taking most of his reps at first base.
The Royals’ Hunter Dozier will start spring training taking most of his reps at first base.

As Eric Hosmer prepares for his first season in San Diego, the Royals are unlikely to search for his replacement on the free-agent market or seek a reunion with third baseman Mike Moustakas, general manager Dayton Moore said Sunday.

The club could search for a cost-friendly alternative at first base — perhaps a veteran on a one-year deal — though they appear unlikely to go after Logan Morrison, a Kansas City native coming off a career season. They also appear reluctant to spend money on Moustakas as they begin a rebuilding process that will likely be defined by leaner payrolls and younger rosters.

When asked about Moustakas on Sunday, Moore pivoted to a talking point he has used much this offseason.

“Our two main objectives are we have to build our farm system back to the level it was in 2010, 2011,” Moore said. “We also need to get our payroll at a level that gives us more flexibility going forward.”

Royals general manager Dayton Moore spoke to reporters Sunday in Surprise, Arizona, following the free-agent departure of Eric Hosmer to the Padres.

Moustakas, 29, remains available after watching former teammates Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain sign deals with the Padres and Brewers, respectively.

The Royals remain interested in looking at Cheslor Cuthbert and Hunter Dozier at third base. They also see both players as options at first base, along with Whit Merrifield and prospects Ryan O’Hearn and Frank Schwindel.

In the short term, the plan would appear to foretell a significant step back in the standings. The Royals are officially rebuilding. But club officials see value in focusing on the future. As a result, any long- or medium-term free-agent signing is highly unlikely.

“That phase of who we are is over,” Moore said. “We need to move on.”

Still, the Royals have a fairly large hole at first base. They also have just one first baseman, 21-year-old Samir Duenez, on their 40-man roster. Duenez, who spent last season at Class AA Northwest Arkansas, does not appear close to the major leagues.

Dozier, who has limited experience at first base in the minors, will begin spring training taking most of his reps at the position.

Royals manager Ned Yost said Sunday that he was still formulating a solution at first base. He did not rule out the possibility of looking for a veteran with experience at the position. There aren’t many options available.

Morrison is available. So is former Mets and Rays first baseman Lucas Duda and veteran Mike Napoli. None is an above-average defensive player.

“It’s gotta be the right guy,” Yost said. “It’s gotta be a guy with tremendous makeup, team player, preferably maybe left-handed if we can get it.”

Is Morrison, who attended Blue Valley West before finishing high school in New Orleans, the right guy? Maybe not.

“We’ve always admired his ability,” Moore said. “But again, I go back to the economic part of it. That’s very real to us. That’s very real.”