After the Royals extended qualifying offers to Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain this week, one industry source expressed pessimism that the club ultimately will retain any of them.
The reasoning: They're all likely to receive more generous free-agent offers elsewhere, and Kansas City sees wisdom in collecting compensatory picks (and slot bonuses) for next year's MLB Draft. After nearly six years of trading prospects in an effort to win championships, the small-market Royals are poised to return to their draft-and-develop roots.
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That plan, somewhat fittingly, could include a truly homegrown free-agent signing.
If Hosmer departs, as many in the game expect, then Kansas City native Logan Morrison is a natural fit to replace him.
"That would be a dream come true," Morrison said Thursday on MLB Network Radio, when asked about the possibility of playing for the Royals. "My dad taking me to Kauffman Stadium when I was little -- that's kind of where I saw for the first time what I wanted to do in life. To be able to put that uniform on every day would be a huge, huge ... accomplishment for me."
While Morrison was born in Kansas City, he moved around the U.S. throughout his childhood as his father, Thomas, served in the military. But Morrison always returned to K.C. in the summers, and Thomas, who died of lung cancer in 2010, taught him about the greatness of George Brett, who became Logan's idol.
"It would be fulfilling a dream," Morrison said of possibly playing for his favorite team. "I would be more than honored, privileged, all the words you can find to be able to do something like that. It would be amazing, for my grandma to come watch me play, who helped raise me. All of that stuff would be fun, but we'll see what happens."
Morrison, 30, won't receive the same years or dollars as the 28-year-old Hosmer, who this week became a four-time Gold Glove Award winner and earned his first Silver Slugger Award. But the recent statistical gap between the two is not as dramatic as you might think: According to Baseball-Reference.com, Hosmer produced 5.1 Wins Above Replacement over the past two seasons; Morrison was not far behind at 4.1.
Morrison suffered through an injury-plagued 2016, and he actually took a pay cut to sign a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Rays for '17. But he responded with a career year, establishing highs in home runs (38), RBIs (85), OPS (.868), games played (149) and strikeouts (149).
One potential complication: Morrison's profile overlaps somewhat with that of first baseman/corner outfielder Brandon Moss, who remains under contract with the Royals for next year at $7.25 million.
But if Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain all leave, Kansas City will need to find offense from someone in 2018. And Morrison would love to come home and provide it.
Red Sox eyeing J.D.
One rival executive believes the Red Sox are poised to make the strongest run at free agent J.D. Martinez among all Major League teams. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is on record as saying he's not concerned with remaining under the 2018 luxury tax threshold, and he has a long history of dealmaking with Martinez's new agent, Scott Boras.
The Red Sox also have an uncommon need for power, in these homer-friendly times: They produced the fewest home runs of any team in the American League in 2017, only the second time a Red Sox team has done so since 1934.
Over the past four seasons, Martinez, 30, ranks third among regular MLB outfielders in OPS+, behind Michael Trout and Giancarlo Stanton -- and just ahead of Bryce Harper.
Free-agent closers Wade Davis and Greg Holland are among nine players who must accept or reject $17.4 million qualifying offers by next week. The conditions are ripe for both right-handers to test the open market.
Davis, Holland and Brandon Kintzler -- who was ineligible for a qualifying offer after a Trade Deadline move to the Nationals -- are viewed as the top available closers, at a time when multiple contenders are interested in adding one: the Cardinals, Angels, D-backs, Twins, Cubs and Rockies.
Pace of play
When MLB general managers meet next week in Orlando, Fla., club representatives are expected to receive data regarding recent trends in pace of play and home run rates. Commissioner Rob Manfred has spoken publicly throughout his tenure about a strong desire to eliminate dead time from games. It's doubtful that formal 2018 rule changes will be adopted at the session, but the forum of top team executives and officials from the Commissioner's Office likely will establish a direction for conversations -- both internally and with the MLB Players Association -- over the coming weeks.