To trim space on their 40-man roster, the Royals on Tuesday night declined to offer a contract to left-handed reliever Francisley Bueno for 2015. They tendered deals to all of their arbitration-eligible players, a group of core players including closer Greg Holland, first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, outfielder Lorenzo Cain, outfielder Jarrod Dyson, pitcher Danny Duffy and reliever Kelvin Herrera.
Despite minimal contributions in 2014, both Louis Coleman and Tim Collins also received tenders. Kansas City still seeks bullpen depth, even after trading Aaron Crow to Miami for a pair of minor-league pitchers last week. Bueno, 33, saw little action down the stretch and finished the season with a 4.18 ERA.
Holland will be one of the most expensive Royals in 2015. He is expected to earn $9.3 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors’ projection system. The system also expects Hosmer to earn $5.2 million, Moustakas to earn $2.7 million, Duffy to earn $2.6 million, Cain to earn $2.3 million and Herrera to earn $1.5 million. Collins projects at $1.5 million and Coleman lands at $700,000.
The players must exchange salary figures with the team on Jan. 16. An overwhelming majority of cases result in settlement.
Holland, 29, has established himself as one of the most consistently devastating relievers in baseball across the past four seasons. He reached his second consecutive All-Star Game in 2014 and matched a sterling 2013 campaign with 46 saves, a 1.44 ERA and a 4.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
But Holland missed a good portion of September with a sore arm, and some rival evaluators worry about his breakdown potential. His value on the trade market is mitigated by both the injury concern and his escalating price tag.
Herrera emerged as a force in the second half of 2014, rebounding from a rocky season the previous year. He held opposing hitters to a .473 on-base plus slugging percentage after the break. He did not yield a home run all season. Though his peripheral numbers, like only 7.6 strikeouts per nine, were underwhelming, he finished the year with a 1.41 ERA.
Hosmer, 25, was unhappy with his regular season. He regressed at the plate, missed a month with a broken hand and never established an offensive rhythm. A sterling October reminded of his potential. Hosmer catalyzed the Kansas City offense with a .983 OPS. With Billy Butler now in Oakland, the club is banking on Hosmer putting together a full season of similar performance.
Hosmer was a known commodity before the playoffs began. Cain was not. He starred in the spotlight, building off a solid regular season (a career-high .751 OPS in a career-high 133 games) with a transcendent October. Cain batted third for the duration of the playoffs, populated the highlights reels all month with his defense and won the American League Championship Series MVP trophy. He turns 29 in April, and his best years may still be in his future.
Moustakas, 26, revived his value in October. After a dreadful start and a demotion in May, Moustakas completed his worst offensive season as a professional. He responded with a franchise-record five home runs in October. Despite Moustakas’ shaky hitting, the team remains committed to him at third base.
Dyson, 30, saw his role expand in 2014. Manager Ned Yost utilized him as a more than pinch runner — though he still stole a team-best 36 bases. Dyson became a late-game defensive replacement for starter Nori Aoki. He would handle center field during the final three innings with Cain shifted into right.
Duffy may have been the Royals best starting pitcher for much of the summer, as he posted a 2.55 ERA in 25 starts. He missed most of September because of shoulder inflammation, and then suffered a stress reaction in his ribcage in the final week of the season. He resided on the sidelines for almost all of October, contributing only 4 2/3 innings in relief. He is still considered a vital cog for the future.