KANSAS CITY -- Who's on first?As the Royals embark on Spring Training next week (pitchers and catchers report on Tuesday), the 2018 club has numerous questions that need to be answered, and the most notable is: Who is the mystery man that will play first base?When the Royals recently dealt
KANSAS CITY -- Who's on first?
As the Royals embark on Spring Training next week (pitchers and catchers report on Tuesday), the 2018 club has numerous questions that need to be answered, and the most notable is: Who is the mystery man that will play first base?
When the Royals recently dealt Brandon Moss to the A's, they subsequently traded their only experienced first baseman on the 40-man roster. Of course, this has led to much speculation that the Royals still are very much in the Eric Hosmer sweepstakes.
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But if Hosmer signs elsewhere, who are the Royals left with at a position the organization always has regarded as highly significant?
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Royals general manager Dayton Moore said at the team's recent Fan Fest that they have options. There is third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, who has played first base in Spring Training and also played there six times at the big league level in 2017.
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But if Cuthbert were to move to first base, the Royals then would have a hole at third base (assuming they will not sign free agent Mike Moustakas).
Another option at first base, Moore said, would be prospect Hunter Dozier, who was drafted as a shortstop in 2013, then moved to third base. Dozier also has played corner outfield. Dozier, ranked as the club's No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline, has played 12 games in the Minors at first base.
"Hunter Dozier is athletic enough and has good enough hands to play first base," Moore said.
Dozier, though, was ravaged by injuries in 2017 and played only 33 games total in the Minors. The Royals remain high on his future, however.
"He has been developing at a good pace," Moore said. "He's not that far away."
There aren't many other options at first base, other than Samir Duenez, a 21-year-old who is the club's No. 13 prospect.
The Royals also could tap into the free-agent market for someone like Logan Morrison, a 30-year-old Kansas City native who had a career year in 2017 with 38 home runs for the Rays.
But signing Morrison, who made $2.5 million in 2017 and likely would be due for a big raise, could be problematic for the Royals in terms of payroll: The club's primary free-agent focus this offseason has been Hosmer, and even signing him would require dramatic payroll slashing to accommodate.
Would the Royals be comfortable slashing $7-8 million in payroll to land Morrison, who has accumulated an OPS over .800 just twice in his eight-year career?
"The economics of our situation is a reality," Moore said. "Whatever we add we will have to compensate for in terms of payroll. That's where we are."
Stay tuned. An answer likely is coming soon.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.