Champs look to fill multiple needs efficiently
Cost concerns hover over search for outfield corners, rotation and bullpen
KANSAS CITY -- As the World Series champions prepare for next week's Winter Meetings, there are significant roster needs at the corner outfield spots, in the rotation and perhaps in the bullpen.
Whether the Royals fill those needs via the free-agent market or through the trade market is the big question. Finances could be a concern in terms of free-agent acquisitions, and a farm system thinned by the non-waiver Trade Deadline deals for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist could deter significant trades.
But Royals general manager Dayton Moore is never one to get too worried this early in the offseason.
"It is really early in the process," Moore said. "A lot of teams, including us, are just getting a feel for what we need and what is out there."
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage on Sunday at 7 p.m. CT. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 10 a.m. CT and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 9 a.m. CT.
At the 2012 Winter Meetings, the Royals made one of the biggest trades in franchise history, acquiring James Shields and Wade Davis for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard.
But the Royals don't often make those kinds of splashes at the Winter Meetings. Last year, for example, the Royals mainly just planted seeds. It was later in December when the Royals signed designated hitter Kendrys Morales, right-handers Kris Medlen and Edinson Volquez and outfielder Alex Rios.
"You're always in conversation with other parties to find ways to improve your ballclub," Moore said, "whether it's at the Winter Meetings or not."
With Rios and left fielder Alex Gordon now free agents, the Royals have voids at both corner-outfield spots. The Royals have not closed the door on re-signing Gordon, but his market value has not yet been clearly established.
The Royals also have interest in super utility man Zobrist, another free agent who was a big factor as their second baseman in their title run. But they also have second baseman Omar Infante signed for two more years at approximately $8 million per year.
With the departures of right-handers Cueto and Jeremy Guthrie, who lost his starting job toward the season's end and was not on the playoff roster, the Royals have a need in the rotation. The 2016 rotation right now would consist of Volquez, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy and perhaps Medlen. The Royals also have had talks with free-agent right-hander Chris Young about his return.
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The bullpen already will be without Greg Holland (Tommy John surgery) in 2016, and Ryan Madson and Franklin Morales are free agents. The Royals have been masterful at finding low-risk signings such as Madson and Young, and likely will explore that direction again.
And while the Royals posted record attendance (2.7 million) in 2015, up nearly 800,000 from the year before, and enjoyed another deep postseason run to the World Series, much of the financial gain could be absorbed by bonuses, buyouts and arbitration raises, according to a source.
For example, Young alone went from a $675,000 base salary to $4.325 million total salary after bonuses were reached. Buyouts of Rios, Guthrie and others exceeded $5 million. Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain each had career years and will get significant salary bumps if they go to arbitration. Duffy and Jarrod Dyson also stand to gain in arbitration.
The wiggle room would possibly come from the $30-plus million that will come off the books with the departures of Guthrie, Rios and Gordon.
Last year's Opening Day payroll was approximately $113 million, though that figure ballooned through bonuses. This year's payroll likely will again break a franchise record, but it again will be up to Moore and his staff to find cost-efficient solutions in the small-market environment.
And that process will get underway Monday in Nashville.