Dayton Moore confronted a vexing situation here on the first day of the Winter Meetings. The Royals general manager’s suite Monday at the Manchester Grand Hyatt served as a way station for agents and team officials, all underscoring the team’s dilemma as it searches for a pair of hitters and a starting pitcher.
The market for bats is barren. A plethora of pitchers exist, but Kansas City still considers the proposed prices exorbitant. As the industry waits for free-agent ace Jon Lester to choose a team, the Royals appear caught in something of a waiting game. Rival executives believe pitchers such as Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano and Brandon McCarthy are waiting to see how Lester’s choice alters the terrain.
Until then, the Royals will continue to be active, if unable to display much progress. The team met with agents for Melky Cabrera on Monday night. Their list of other candidates includes players such as Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios. ESPN connected the club with Colby Rasmus. At 28, Rasmus displays both All-Star talent and a brittle frame that has been incapable of handling a full big-league season. He posted a .748 OPS and averaged 124 games a season the last three years in Toronto.
Asked whether the free-agent market or trade market was more plentiful with hitters, Moore said, “It’s not very good either way.”
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He added, “The one thing on the market right now is pitching. There’s going to be pitching available in spring training.”
Moore indicated the team may have to pluck from the pile of back-end free-agent starters, a group that includes veterans such as Jake Peavy, if they whiff on the higher-profile candidates. Moore is hopeful his team’s defense and lockdown bullpen can compensate for any deficiencies.
He also downplayed his team’s interest in dealing any of its top-flight relievers. The Royals are believed to be open to moving pitchers Greg Holland, Wade Davis or Kelvin Herrera, but Moore insisted, “We’re not in a hurry to break up our bullpen.”
It is unclear if a reliever could fetch an everyday player in a trade. The Royals may be content with acquiring just one additional hitter to fill the void in right field.
Manager Ned Yost reiterated his interest Monday in utilizing the designated hitter spot as a place of rest for everyday players such as outfielders Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain and catcher Salvador Perez.
Perez started 158 games between the regular season and the playoffs. Yost conceded Perez’s offensive collapse in the second half was related to his overexposure behind the plate.
“I can’t catch Sal 150 games again,” Yost said. “I can’t. I’ll kill the kid.”
During spring training, Yost intends to assign four of the team’s starting pitchers to Perez. The backup catcher would be paired with a fifth starter. That way, Yost explained, his schedule would call for built-in days of rest for Perez.
Yost identified both Paulo Orlando and Carlos Peguero as internal candidates to help the lineup next season. Peguero cracked 30 home runs for Class AAA Omaha in 2014, but played in just four games for the Royals after a September call-up. Yost did not feel comfortable giving Peguero a tryout during a playoff chase. But the team may be willing to try a similar experiment next spring.
“If you want to give him a look, you’ve got to give him a fair look,” Yost said. “You can’t just throw him out there for two weeks and if he struggles, bag him. That’s not going to work.”
Part of the reason for the team’s fiscal conservatism this winter relates to the rising costs for their own players. The team tendered nine contracts to players in arbitration earlier this month. The Royals could seek extensions with Cain, Gordon, Eric Hosmer and others. So Moore may be reticent to spend excessively, especially in a market without many quality hitters and plenty of affordable pitchers available down the road.
“We’re in an interesting spot in the sense that a lot of our players are going to start making more money,” Moore said. “We want to be able to potentially execute contracts that, perhaps, keep them here beyond their free-agent year.”