For weeks, Royals general manager Dayton Moore has insisted his club lacks interest in breaking up its vaunted bullpen. Here at the Winter Meetings, rival executives say he has lived up to that pledge.
The Royals have told interested clubs that Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera are not currently available in trade discussions, according to multiple league officials who spoke with The Star on the condition of anonymity.
The stance could change as the winter progresses, but for now the team continues to hold firm, despite escalating prices and holes elsewhere on their club.
“We’re not in a hurry to break those guys up,” Moore said Tuesday afternoon at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. “That’s certainly been one of the main strengths, the consistent strength of our pitching staff. The dominant part of our pitching strength. But if there’s something that truly makes sense, we’re open-minded with it. But we have to maintain our strengths.”
The White Sox reportedly locked up former Yankees closer David Robertson late on Monday night. With Robertson and Andrew Miller signed, the relief market is now bereft of top-flight talent — and their contracts make the salaries for Holland and Davis suddenly seem far more reasonable.
The Yankees inked Miller on a three-year, $36 million contract. Robertson is said to have a four-year deal worth $46 million. Kansas City possesses two more affordable options now. Davis can earn up to $25 million over the next three seasons. Holland could recoup as much as $23 million during his final two seasons of arbitration.
While shielding the relief trio from would-be suitors, the Royals have pondered another solution for reshaping their roster: Trading second baseman Omar Infante with three years remaining on his contract. The team identified Infante as the solution to their long-standing vacancy at the position last winter. But a middling season, one marred by injuries and ineffective at-bats, has made him available to other clubs, according to rival executives.
Fox Sports first reported Infante’s availability on Tuesday morning. Moore downplayed his team’s zeal for shedding Infante, but he did not deny the discussions.
“We don’t try to shop any of our players,” Moore said. “Everybody knows that we’re always open to different ideas that might make sense. But there’s nothing to say specifically about Omar.”
The Royals backloaded Infante’s contract. They owe him $25.25 million through 2017. They could utilize that cash toward free-agent targets such as outfielder Melky Cabrera and starter Ervin Santana, or holster the cash for potential extensions for such incumbents as Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer or Lorenzo Cain.
But rival executives do not expect a robust level of interest in Infante. He turns 33 later this month and showed little reason for optimism about a revival in 2015. He posted a .632 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He spent time on the disabled list in June, and his right shoulder was troublesome throughout the second half.
So unless another club offers Kansas City an escape hatch, the Royals must hope Infante rebounds with better health and a livelier bat. They will still survey other clubs for solutions to their openings in the outfield and in the starting rotation.
The New York Post identified the Royals as a serious contender for the services of Mets pitcher Dillon Gee.
Gee, 28, is set to make as much as $5 million in his second year of arbitration. He missed two months in 2014 because of a strained latissimus dorsi muscle behind his right shoulder. He has a 3.88 ERA in 103 career starts.
As teams awaited the final decision of southpaw ace Jon Lester, the Royals saw another pitcher sign elsewhere. Francisco Liriano returned to Pittsburgh on a three-year, $39 million deal. Kansas City had initially shown some interest in Liriano, but Moore did not exactly appear wounded by the decision.
“He’s a very talented left-handed pitcher, left-handed starter,” Moore said. “Pittsburgh obviously knew him better than anybody else. He had a lot of success there. So we weren’t surprised that he went back there. I’m glad that Pittsburgh was able to get him back. They did a good job with him. It’s probably the right move for everybody.”