Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the Kansas City Royals
news

Royals News

Inbox: Who will be Royals' biggest surprise?

Beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan answers questions from Kansas City fans
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Royals pitchers and catchers will report to Surprise, Ariz., on Feb. 12. Yep, Spring Training is right around the corner.

KANSAS CITY -- Royals pitchers and catchers will report to Surprise, Ariz., on Feb. 12. Yep, Spring Training is right around the corner.

:: Submit a question to the Royals Inbox ::

With that in mind, let's jump into the first Royals Inbox of 2019:

Tweet from @bcraaum: prediction for biggest surprise player - either positive or negative (please choose positive) ... ?

I'm very high on right-hander Jorge Lopez. I remember after the first couple of times he pitched for the Royals, Salvador Perez pulled me aside and said, "That kid has the best stuff on the staff." That stuck with me. And then we almost saw Lopez throw a perfect game in Minnesota. Most pitchers have one "out pitch." Lopez has several. It's just a matter of gaining experience now.

Tweet from @MarcRowedder: Your prediction of the starting rotation is?

Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis, Brad Keller, Ian Kennedy, Lopez.

I wouldn't be surprised if Kennedy becomes a late-inning guy at some point. He has the command to do it, sort of the way Jeff Montgomery did.

Tweet from @jbengtson79: Will Zimmer make the rotation or will he be a bullpen guy?

Kyle Zimmer might be the biggest wild card in camp this year. He told me he is throwing pain-free for maybe the first time in his pro career. The Royals need a surprise, like Zimmer wowing everyone in Spring Training. It's not unthinkable to envision him becoming a short reliever, cutting it all loose for an inning or two like Wade Davis did when he transitioned to the bullpen. It's a long shot, but who knows?

Tweet from @sethheronemus: Have we ever gotten an answer on how they can justify Hamilton when we need to get looks at Goodwin, Phillips, and Bonifacio?

On the surface, it looks like the Billy Hamilton signing goes against the rebuild. But the Royals have made the decision to return to their 2013-2015 identity of speed and defense. General manager Dayton Moore does not want another 100-loss season and as they transition, Hamilton will save a ton of outs for the pitching staff (a young pitching staff, mind you), and provide a weapon on the basepaths. Brett Phillips and Jorge Bonifacio both have options, so they can still develop in the Minors if necessary.

Tweet from @NotKeithPatton: Four years removed from the World Series title. Dayton Moore seems to be meandering the way forward as far as I am concerned. What exactly is the plan?

Actually, it's only been three seasons since the World Series title. Moore doesn't like to use the word "rebuild" but that's essentially what is happening. There's a ton of talent from that Lexington team (Seuly Matias, Nick Pratto, MJ Melendez, et al.) that isn't that far away. Khalil Lee is already at Double-A. And last year's Draft picks of Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar could help in a year or two. To me, the plan is pretty obvious. You can make the argument that the Royals should have started this rebuild in 2017 but then again, they were just a couple of games out of first place at the Trade Deadline that year and were leading in the second Wild Card spot. It's hard to fault the Royals for going all in back then.

Tweet from @ReelMrPerfect: Do the Royals plan on bringing in any more free agents? Heard some speculation but I don't know if it's true or not

Definitely. Moore and his staff simply are waiting for the price to come down on some free agents, especially relievers.

Tweet from @jlab111b: Who will start 2019 as the royals 1st baseman

Ryan O'Hearn. But expect manager Ned Yost to shuffle his lineup much more than in the past, especially with super-utility guys such as Chris Owings and Whit Merrifield. Ned's favorite phrase of "mix and match" will be even more prominent in 2019.

Tweet from @royalrupert: Who of the young Royals pitchers do you see having the most impact in 2019. Thanks

I mentioned Lopez. I also think Heath Fillmyer will have a significant role in 2019, either in the bullpen or the rotation. And don't be surprised if Zimmer or Josh Staumont emerge.

Tweet from @gsmith601: Was Terrence Gore signed with the expectation of spending most of season in Omaha or KC?

It's unlikely Terrance Gore will see Omaha. He was brought in as a late-inning weapon with the hope he can pinch-run two out of every three games, no matter the circumstances. The Royals want speed again.

Tweet from @Royals_Jun: How will GMDM use Rule 5 draftees, Chris Ellis & Sam McWilliams in 2019?

Expect both Ellis and McWilliams to follow a similar path the Royals set for last year's Rule 5 pick, Keller. If they make the team, it will be in the bullpen at first.

Tweet from @DarrellP1953: Will Lovelady and Staumont get a shot in the bullpen this year?

Josh Staumont already is on the 40-man roster, so he has a chance to make the Opening Day roster. The Royals don't have to put Richard Lovelady on the 40-man until next fall, so he would really have to wow them in camp.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals

How MLB.com writers voted in HOF balloting

MLB.com

Six MLB.com writers were among those eligible to cast ballots in the 2019 Hall of Fame vote conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

• Complete Hall of Fame coverage

Six MLB.com writers were among those eligible to cast ballots in the 2019 Hall of Fame vote conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

• Complete Hall of Fame coverage

As many as four candidates -- and possibly more -- could be elected, according to the public ballots amassed online. Here's a look at how the six voted, and at the bottom you can see what the totals look like among this group:

T.R. Sullivan
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Edgar Martinez
5. Fred McGriff
6. Mike Mussina
7. Mariano Rivera
8. Billy Wagner
9. Larry Walker
10. Michael Young

There are many offensive players who could/should be elected based on their career numbers. I strongly believe McGriff is unfairly overlooked because he was one of the last great hitters before the offensive explosion of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Mussina also thrived as a starting pitcher in the American League right in the thick of that era. It should not have taken him this long to be elected. I'm not big on comparables, but Wagner was every good as a reliever as Rivera or Trevor Hoffman.

Video: MLB Tonight on Mike Mussina's Hall of Fame case

Mark Feinsand
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Edgar Martinez
5. Mike Mussina
6. Manny Ramirez
7. Mariano Rivera
8. Curt Schilling
9. Gary Sheffield
10. Omar Vizquel

Three of the players I voted for a year ago -- Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones and Jim Thome -- were inducted into the Hall, so the holdovers (Bonds, Clemens, Edgar, Mussina, Manny, Schilling and Sheffield) took up the first seven spots on my ballot.

That left me with up to three open spots to fill. Rivera was an obvious choice for one of them in his first time on the ballot, as was Halladay, who, despite a modest win total (203), was one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation. Although I delved into their statistics to confirm what I already knew, these two were no-brainers.

Video: Roy Halladay's case for the Hall of Fame

The final spot was a little more difficult. After a first examination of the 26 players, I narrowed down my choice to Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff, Andy Pettitte, Scott Rolen, Vizquel, Larry Walker and Vernon Wells. (OK, Wells wasn't really on my list, but he was one of my favorite players I ever covered, so I considered using my last spot for him for about 30 seconds.)

Although I probably would have voted for five or six of these players had the ballot been open-ended and without the 10-man limit, my choice ultimately came down to two: Pettitte and Vizquel.

Pettitte is viewed by many as a borderline candidate, a take I can't argue with. While his candidacy might be seen differently by voters, I think he belongs in the conversation. (Based on my voting history, I'm obviously not holding his HGH admission against him.) Having seen similar players such as Jorge Posada, Kenny Lofton and Johan Santana fall off the ballot in their first years, I considered voting for Pettitte in an effort to help him get the requisite 5 percent for him to be on the ballot again next year.

Ultimately, Vizquel's excellence in the field (he took home 11 Gold Gloves and is in the conversation as the best defensive shortstop ever) won out. He might not have been an offensive force, but Vizquel was far from an automatic out, finishing his career with 2,877 hits. Pettitte had a great career and will likely be in the mix for my vote again next year, but my belief that Vizquel should be in the Hall outweighed my hopes of seeing Pettitte remain on the ballot.

Jeffrey Flanagan
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Andruw Jones
5. Edgar Martinez
6. Mike Mussina
7. Manny Ramirez
8. Mariano Rivera
9. Curt Schilling
10. Larry Walker

It was difficult leaving off McGriff and Rolen, but we only get 10 spots, which is why I've always favored a binary system -- simply yes or no to each candidate. As for the PED issue, my stance hasn't really changed: If what they did (or didn't) do is so egregious, the Hall of Fame should take those players off the ballot. Don't make us be the morality judges.

Video: MLB Network debates Bonds, Clemens' merits for HOF

Richard Justice
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Edgar Martinez
5. Mike Mussina
6. Mariano Rivera
7. Scott Rolen
8. Curt Schilling
9. Billy Wagner
10. Larry Walker

Easy calls on nine of the 10. All belong in the Hall. As for Wagner, he's one of greatest closers ever, and if they're part of the game (same for DHs), the best of them should be in the Hall. I didn't like leaving off Andruw Jones, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent, Omar Vizquel, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield, who at least deserve to be in the conversation longer.

Jon Paul Morosi
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Edgar Martinez
5. Fred McGriff
6. Mike Mussina
7. Mariano Rivera
8. Scott Rolen
9. Curt Schilling
10. Larry Walker

I voted for Bonds and Clemens, as I have every year. For now, at least, my policy regarding players tied to PED use remains unchanged: I do not vote for players suspended under MLB's drug policy from 2005 to present, but I support the best all-around players from the complicated era that preceded it.

Rivera is one of the clearest first-ballot Hall of Famers in history, and Halladay's dominant peak (in a hitter-friendly ballpark, against AL East competition) makes him worthy of the Hall. McGriff, overlooked for far too long, hit more home runs -- with a better adjusted OPS -- than first-ballot Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Carl Yastrzemski; McGriff is eminently qualified for Cooperstown.

My toughest decision came among Rolen, Vizquel and Sheffield for the last of my 10 spots. I opted for Rolen, given the overall quality of his career, at a position underrepresented in the Hall. Rolen is one of only three third basemen in history with at least seven Gold Gloves and seven All-Star appearances. The others are Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt.

Video: MLB Network on Edgar Martinez's case for the HOF

Chris Haft
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Jeff Kent
5. Edgar Martinez
6. Mike Mussina
7. Mariano Rivera
8. Curt Schilling
9. Omar Vizquel
10. Larry Walker

Rivera's career forestalls debate. And if you feel free to vote for closers, you should feel free to vote for other specialists, such as Martinez the designated hitter. I dismounted my moral high horse regarding Bonds and Clemens two or three years ago. I needed some persuasion to vote for Walker; by contrast, I remained stubbornly loyal to Kent. Mussina embodied consistency; Schilling dominated the postseason and Halladay finished 98 games above .500 in just 390 starts. As for Vizquel, I pity those who can't or won't comprehend his excellence.

Vote totals of the 6 MLB.com writers

With 75 percent of the vote needed for entry to the Hall, Bonds, Martinez, Rivera, Mussina, Clemens, Halladay, Schilling and Walker received enough support -- the first six appearing on all six ballots, and the other two appearing on five of six ballots (83 percent) -- from MLB.com writers.

Barry Bonds -- 6 votes
Roger Clemens -- 6
Roy Halladay -- 6
Edgar Martinez -- 6
Mike Mussina -- 6
Mariano Rivera -- 6
Curt Schilling -- 5
Larry Walker -- 5
Fred McGriff -- 2
Manny Ramirez -- 2
Scott Rolen -- 2
Omar Vizquel -- 2
Billy Wagner -- 2
Andruw Jones -- 1
Jeff Kent -- 1
Gary Sheffield -- 1
Michael Young -- 1

Duffy focused on reviving velocity, career

After setbacks marred brilliant flashes, Royals' ace using offseason to set up 'pivotal year'
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Royals left-hander Danny Duffy knows he is at somewhat of a crossroads.

A third-round pick by the Royals in 2007, Duffy has both tantalized and frustrated fans and club officials. He quit baseball while in the Minor Leagues, came back, fought through injuries, dazzled opponents and nearly no-hit Tampa Bay in 2016 while striking out a franchise-record 16 batters.

KANSAS CITY -- Royals left-hander Danny Duffy knows he is at somewhat of a crossroads.

A third-round pick by the Royals in 2007, Duffy has both tantalized and frustrated fans and club officials. He quit baseball while in the Minor Leagues, came back, fought through injuries, dazzled opponents and nearly no-hit Tampa Bay in 2016 while striking out a franchise-record 16 batters.

As Duffy appeared to be developing into one of the top left-handed starters in baseball, he signed a five-year, $65 million contract in early 2017. Less than a year later, he was arrested for driving under the influence.

Duffy is 30 years old now, and the clock is ticking. He is in the middle of that lucrative deal that runs through 2021. And he's coming off a disappointing 2018 season, as he struggled to keep his ERA under 5.00, but finished at a 4.88 mark.

While the talent has always been there, Duffy's velocity, which touched 97 mph a couple of years ago, has dropped into the 90-93 mph range. He was as alarmed by the fall-off as anyone. So this offseason, Duffy has vowed to do what is necessary to retrieve that electric fastball and correct his career path.

"It's still in there," Duffy told MLB.com by phone. "I've still got it in me."

Duffy has spent the last few months working to ensure he can regain his former velocity as well as avoid those frequent trips to the disabled list. He said he feels refreshed.

"This offseason has been so different," Duffy said. "This offseason, I didn't feel like I let the whole planet down [like after my DUI]. You have a ton of kids looking up to you. I was standing on a lot of shoulders. This is probably the last time I talk about this, but I needed -- I really needed -- to look in the mirror. And I did.

"Look, I've been called a head case since I was 18. But as you get older, maturity comes along. I feel I'm there. I'm committed to doing what I have to do to help this team win. I want to be a big part of it."

Video: KC@CWS: Duffy hurls 5 2/3 scoreless with 7 strikeouts

Compared to the 2017 offseason, this offseason has been an awakening for Duffy.

"I haven't spoken much about this, but I'm set up with a physical therapist to do what we can do to get my shoulder healthy," Duffy said. "I know I can [hit mid-90s] again. I'm comfortable I can handle the workload. I've left no stone unturned this offseason. I'm 30 and still have potential. That's crazy, but it's true."

Duffy has been working with trainer Mike Swan of the Elite Performance and Rehabilitation Center in Santa Barbara, Calif.

"I'm in there twice a week, three hours at a time," Duffy said. "We're doing a lot of resistance stuff, core stuff. It's not fun, but I can honestly say I've never been this focused on strength training. It's not about being in the best shape of your life and all that stuff that people make fun of. It's just being consistent. It's a pivotal year, and I'll be ready.

"I've worked hard like this before, but never as smart as I have this year. I know I haven't maxed out or anything. I know talk is cheap. I'm just being honest. I think I'm ready to really have a big year. I can't predict the future, but I'm learning as a I go. I had a pretty rough last couple of years, but I have a good grasp of what I can offer."

Duffy also is pumped about what the Royals have done this offseason, adding Billy Hamilton, Terrance Gore and Chris Owings.

Which Royal will be the speediest?

"Our speed is going to be high up there," Duffy said. "Everything I've heard about Hamilton is through the roof. Anytime you get somehow of his caliber on defense, like a Lorenzo Cain, it's going to have a huge impact on the staff."

Video: Flanagan discusses Hamilton's impact on Royals

Duffy now sees the Royals regaining their past identity of gaining an edge on the bases and in the field.

"Back in 2014 and '15, we definitely did everything we could to squeeze every run out of our offense and prevent every run on defense," Duffy said. "That's who we were. We weren't a power team. We were scrappy and won a lot of close games.

"People will laugh at this, but I'm not dreaming at all to say we could compete [for the division]. This division is wide open. I feel like we're good enough. It's there for the taking."

Meanwhile, Duffy, as fans will observe from his Twitter account, is one of the biggest supporters of the team across the parking lot, the Kansas City Chiefs, and their star quarterback, Pat Mahomes.

"I watch every game," Duffy said. "I will get so much crap for this, but I was raised a Broncos fan by my uncle. But I want to see the Chiefs win the Super Bowl. I want to see this, and it's good for the city. I pull for them. What's good for the city is good for us. They were there for us when we won it all."

Duffy said he doesn't have a relationship with Mahomes yet, but he has the utmost respect for Mahomes' arm strength.

"His fastball is better than mine," Duffy said. "The last person to take over this town like he has was Eric Hosmer. The person that [Mahomes] is, he has captured this town, and I'm glad to share a parking lot with him. There are guys who can capture this town. Eric Berry was one, and I think the last was Eric Hosmer."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Danny Duffy

The 1 player most likely to be a Royal in '25

MLB.com @williamfleitch

The 2013 season doesn't seem that long ago, does it? It seems like it just happened. (The passage of time is a crazy thing.) But in the world of baseball, it was a long, long time ago. How long? Look at the top 10 hitters and the top 10 pitchers in WAR in '13. Of those 10 hitters and 10 pitchers, only two players on each list (Mike Trout and Joey Votto among the hitters, Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright among the pitchers) are still on the same teams they were just six years ago. That is an astounding amount of turnover, and reminds us how difficult it can be to predict the future.

Nevertheless: Let's try. Today at the Thirty, we attempt to pick the one player on each team's current 40-man roster who is most likely to still be on that roster in six years. Sticking to the current roster raises the level of difficulty. Otherwise, I could just pick Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the Blue Jays, and every other team's top prospect, and be done with it. For this list, you have to be here now and in 2025. The crazy thing about this experiment of guesses: There will be multiple, maybe double-digit, teams that have none.

The 2013 season doesn't seem that long ago, does it? It seems like it just happened. (The passage of time is a crazy thing.) But in the world of baseball, it was a long, long time ago. How long? Look at the top 10 hitters and the top 10 pitchers in WAR in '13. Of those 10 hitters and 10 pitchers, only two players on each list (Mike Trout and Joey Votto among the hitters, Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright among the pitchers) are still on the same teams they were just six years ago. That is an astounding amount of turnover, and reminds us how difficult it can be to predict the future.

Nevertheless: Let's try. Today at the Thirty, we attempt to pick the one player on each team's current 40-man roster who is most likely to still be on that roster in six years. Sticking to the current roster raises the level of difficulty. Otherwise, I could just pick Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the Blue Jays, and every other team's top prospect, and be done with it. For this list, you have to be here now and in 2025. The crazy thing about this experiment of guesses: There will be multiple, maybe double-digit, teams that have none.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

EAST

Blue Jays: Danny Jansen, C
Unlike Vlad Jr. and Bo Bichette, he's already on the 40-man roster; he hit three homers in 81 at-bats last season. Like them, he's currently a top-75 prospect.

Orioles: Trey Mancini, OF
The toughest call on the board. The Orioles are starting over in every conceivable way, and there will be a lot of turnover here in the next few years. The guess here is Mancini, who is a fan favorite already and could maybe hang around long enough to be a platoon or bench bat in 2025, when he'll be only 32.

Rays: Willy Adames, SS
Attempting to guess who will be on the Rays' roster in two years, let alone six, is a fool's errand, but Adames is the centerpiece of everything the Rays are going to be trying to do over the next decade.

Red Sox: Mookie Betts, OF
He's a free agent after the 2020 season, but the Red Sox should never let a star like this get away. And he wants to stay

Video: Betts signs record deal to avoid arbitration

Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton, RF
As the guy who is signed through 2027, he's the obvious pick here. Aaron Judge hits free agency in 2023, by the way.

CENTRAL

Indians: Francisco Lindor, SS
It's tough to imagine the Indians letting Lindor go … though they may have to choose between him and Jose Ramirez.

Video: Lindor gets his second career Silver Slugger Award

Royals: Salvador Perez, C
He survived the last teardown. He's their Yadier Molina -- he'll survive any future ones.

Tigers: Jeimer Candelario, 3B
He's more likely than anyone else here to be a member of the next contending Tigers team.

Twins: Max Kepler, OF
Kepler feels like the type of player the Twins would come to some sort of modest, Paul DeJong-esque extension with, doesn't he?

White Sox: Yoan Moncada, 2B
With any luck, Eloy Jimenez will be there right alongside him.

WEST

Angels: Mike Trout, OF
Put it this way: If Mike Trout isn't on the 2025 Angels, everything about that franchise is radically different than it is right now.

Video: Guardado on the latest between Angels and Trout

Astros: Jose Altuve, 2B
Alex Bregman seems like the most likely extension candidate -- Altuve's deal runs out after the 2024 season -- but the Altuve-Astros relationship feels like one that shouldn't be broken.

Athletics: Matt Chapman, 3B
The ideal extension candidate, Chapman could be the face of the franchise whenever it moves into its new digs.

Mariners: Justus Sheffield, LHP
He made his debut in September, so he's on the Mariners' 40-man, even if he might not start the season in the Majors.

Rangers: Rougned Odor, 2B
He, Elvis Andrus and Joey Gallo will be free agents following the 2022 season. Here's betting Odor is the one who sticks around, if anybody does.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

EAST

Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr.
He'll actually reach free agency after the 2024 season, if you are counting the days. (That's to say: If you're every other team in baseball.)

Video: Snitker on best lineup spot for Acuna Jr. in 2019

Marlins: Lewis Brinson, OF
Considering he remains the primary haul from their trades last offseason, Brinson will get every possible opportunity to prove himself.

Mets: Brandon Nimmo, OF
Though maybe only because first base slugging prospect Peter Alonso isn't on the 40-man yet.

Nationals: Juan Soto, OF
If the Nationals don't extend him, he'll hit the free-agent market with Acuna.

Phillies: Rhys Hoskins, 1B
This answer could very well change depending on how free agency shakes out this offseason.

CENTRAL

Brewers: Josh Hader, LHP
Yes, yes, he's a reliever, but still: He seems like one of the few relievers on earth worthy of talking long-term, under-market extension with, yes?

Cardinals: Paul DeJong, SS
The extension he signed last year gives the Cardinals team options on him in both 2024 and '25, and if he keeps playing like he has been, they'll happily pick them both up. (It's also possible the answer here is Yadier Molina, and may be through 2035.)

Cubs: Kris Bryant, 3B
This will be the most-watched are-they-gonna-extend-him-soon? story in baseball over the next couple of years.

Video: Kris Bryant is the No. 8 third baseman right now

Pirates: Mitch Keller, RHP
He's already on the 40-man, and he might be the best pitcher in an already underrated rotation by season's end.

Reds: Eugenio Suarez, 3B
He's signed through 2024, and the Reds have a club option on him for '25. Also, top prospect Nick Senzel isn't on the 40-man yet.

WEST

D-backs: Ketel Marte, SS
He's already got options for 2023 and '24, and he'll just be into his 30s when the D-backs have to make their next decision on him. Newly acquired catcher Carson Kelly could be the answer here as well.

Dodgers: Corey Seager, SS
Isn't right now the perfect time to start talking extension with Seager?

Giants: Buster Posey, C
As long as Posey is still playing, he'll be a Giant … right, Farhan?

Padres: Franmil Reyes, OF
It's tough to even imagine this kid being 30 someday.

Rockies: Nolan Arenado, 3B
They did a mega-extension with Charlie Blackmon last offseason, so they are clearly willing to go that route. Arenado is eligible for free agency next winter, so we'll find out his long-term fate pretty soon.

Video: Arenado seeks record $30 million in arbitration

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

Royals bringing 19 NRIs to Spring Training

No. 7 prospect Lopez, right-hander Ynoa among invites to camp
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have invited 19 non-roster players to Spring Training, 18 of which were in the organization last year.

The exception is 27-year-old right-hander Michael Ynoa, once a top prospect in the A's organization who later was dealt to the White Sox.

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have invited 19 non-roster players to Spring Training, 18 of which were in the organization last year.

The exception is 27-year-old right-hander Michael Ynoa, once a top prospect in the A's organization who later was dealt to the White Sox.

The other non-roster invites are pitchers Foster Griffin (Royals No. 29 prospect), Jake Kalish, Richard Lovelady (No. 13), Jason Adam, Andres Machado and Zach Lovvorn; catchers Nick Dini, Xavier Fernandez, Sebastian Rivero and MJ Melendez (No. 5); infielders Nicky Lopez (No. 7), Humberto Arteaga, Erick Mejia, Samir Duenez, Jecksson Flores and Frank Schwindel; and outfielders Bubba Starling and Elier Hernandez.

Pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Ariz, on Feb. 12, with the full squad reporting on Feb. 17.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Michael Ynoa

Helicopter captures Mario Kart on video board

Based on the number of intense workout videos players post on social media, we know that, although the offseason may be a break from the baseball season, it is not a break in any true sense. You see, they have to get ready for the upcoming season.

But not everyone has it as busy in the offseason. Aerial footage of Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday showed that someone in there was enjoying a relaxing offseason game of Mario Kart ... on the biggest screen in the house:

Gore has plenty of competition for fastest Royal

Hamilton, Merrifield, Mondesi should give returning speedster run for his money
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Now that Terrance Gore officially is a Royal again, he knew the question was coming: Is he the fastest player on the team?

The debate isn't about Jarrod Dyson, Lorenzo Cain or Paulo Orlando being faster any more, as it was years ago. The new competition is Billy Hamilton, Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi.

KANSAS CITY -- Now that Terrance Gore officially is a Royal again, he knew the question was coming: Is he the fastest player on the team?

The debate isn't about Jarrod Dyson, Lorenzo Cain or Paulo Orlando being faster any more, as it was years ago. The new competition is Billy Hamilton, Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi.

Who is the fastest Royal now?

"Oh man, here we go again," Gore told MLB.com by phone. "It's just like a few years ago. Who's the fastest? I don't know.

"I do know that if we ever raced like in Spring Training or something, and someone got hurt … oh, boy. Someone's in a lot of trouble then. So I don't think we'll ever know."

Can KC steal 250 bags in 2019? Whit thinks so

MLB.com's Statcast™ could provide some answers, though Gore hasn't had enough Major League playing time to qualify for the Sprint Speed Leaderboard. He has had numerous runs faster than the 30-feet-per-second elite mark, though.

On average, Hamilton has a 30.1 feet per second sprint speed, with Mondesi at 29.9 and Merrifield at 29.0.

Video: SD@CIN: Hamilton swipes second for 30th steal of 2018

"I think eventually Statcast™ will have to settle the issue," Gore said.

Gore is intrigued by the notion of being teammates with Hamilton, who for years has been considered the elite of the elite in terms of speed. But as he gauges speed, Gore notes there are different types.

"I'm like fast right off the bat," Gore said. "My first two or three steps is as fast as I'm going to get. I actually get slower the longer it is. I used to hate running the 60 in high school because I could feel myself slowing down after about 50 yards.

"Mondesi, he gets faster the longer he runs. I don't know who is faster after about 15-20 yards than him. I've never seen Billy run really in person, so I don't know. I know he is really fast, too. Like I said, I guess it comes down to Statcast™."

Video: CLE@KC: Mondesi swipes 2 bases to key rally in 10th

Gore is anxious for Spring Training to start so he can work with Hamilton.

"What I like about Billy -- and I'm going to pick his brain about this -- but when he takes a lead, he never really stops," Gore said. "He's always kind of leaning or moving toward second. When I get my lead, I kind of squat. So I'm definitely going to be picking his brain."

Gore should get plenty of chances at stealing bases. Royals officials believe he could get on base 100 times or so this season, primarily as a pinch-runner. Their analytics people think that could translate into about 70 steals.

"I don't ever come into a game thinking I'm just going to steal second base," Gore said. "I have the intention of stealing second and third. So yeah, the math is right. Give me 100 chances, I should steal that 70, at least."

Gore's reunion with the Royals was somewhat surprising. The Royals traded him to the Cubs in August, he stole a base for the Cubs in the Wild Card Game against Colorado, and he was granted free-agency in November.

Video: NL WC: Gore swipes second base in the 8th inning

There was interest in Gore last fall from the Cubs, Yankees and especially the Rays.

"My agent thought Tampa Bay was set in stone for whatever reason," Gore said. "And I live in [Florida], so it seemed nice, the idea of training down there. But then out of the blue before the Winter Meetings I got a text from [Royals assistant general manager] Scott Sharp."

Gore relayed the message to his agent, and the motion started toward a reunion.

"But then the Winter Meetings come and I see the Royals signed Billy Hamilton," Gore said. "So I just thought, 'Well, that's that. Game over.'"

But the Royals assured Gore the plan was still on. They wanted him. And he wanted nothing more than to come back to Kansas City.

"I talked to my wife about it and my agent, and they asked what place I would feel most comfortable with, and I said without hesitation 'Kansas City,'" Gore said. "I mean, the Royals drafted me, developed me, stuck with me. That's home."

Soon after he signed, the text messages from old friends started pouring in, including one from former coach and base-running instructor Rusty Kuntz, now a Royals roving instructor, that simply read, "Well, that didn't take long."

"I see the plan that [Kansas City general manager] Dayton [Moore] is doing," Gore said. "Nothing really scares opponents like speed. You can see it in their eyes. You can sense it. It's the pitcher, the catcher, the infielders; they can all sense that something disruptive is coming. That changes games."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Terrance Gore, Billy Hamilton, Adalberto Mondesi

1 question for each club before Spring Training

MLB.com

Believe it or not, we're only a little more than one month away from Spring Training. The onset of the new season continues to draw near, and at a rapid rate. Yet even with rosters beginning to manifest, goals taking a clearer scope and aspirations running high, there is still plenty to be sorted out this offseason. 

There's at least one question each club is likely asking itself before beginning camp. MLB.com canvassed its 30 beat reporters to address those inquiries. 

Believe it or not, we're only a little more than one month away from Spring Training. The onset of the new season continues to draw near, and at a rapid rate. Yet even with rosters beginning to manifest, goals taking a clearer scope and aspirations running high, there is still plenty to be sorted out this offseason. 

There's at least one question each club is likely asking itself before beginning camp. MLB.com canvassed its 30 beat reporters to address those inquiries. 

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

BLUE JAYS: Has Russell Martin played his final game in a Blue Jays uniform?
Martin has been on the trading block for months and yet his name barely gets mentioned in rumors. His $20 million salary isn't helping matters, but the Blue Jays are willing to eat a large chunk to facilitate a deal. The 35-year-old was never going to be a primary target for an opposing team but as catchers continue to go off the board, some organizations will be left looking for a competent back-up/platoon. The Blue Jays might be starting to feel a time crunch because ideally there will be a resolution one way or the other before the start of Spring Training so the pitching staff can be prepared accordingly.

Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire and Luke Maile offer alternatives behind the plate and Martin should still have enough left in the tank to help a contending team in a part-time role. The sooner this situation gets resolved the better it will be for everyone involved, especially since Martin was benched for all but two games last September.

-- Gregor Chisholm

ORIOLES: To what extent will the O's address their current roster?
The Orioles' new regime has made no secret that they don't expect to compete in 2019. New executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias has repeatedly called their rebuild a process "with no shortcuts," while planning to focus heavily in the months to come on behind-the-scenes hires and improving through the Draft.
 
But with their priorities set so squarely on the future, what about this year's team? No one expects the O's to make any major splashes in free agency, but the current roster remains full of significant holes at key positions. None more so than in the rotation, which features just three established big league starters, all coming off career-worst seasons. Questions also abound at catcher, in the outfield, and in the bullpen.

-- Joe Trezza

RAYS: Will the Rays add an arm to the back end of the bullpen?
With the unique way the Rays utilize their bullpen, it becomes even more important for Tampa Bay to have a lot of quality arms available. The Rays return most of the bullpen that ranked sixth in all of baseball last season with a 3.80 ERA, but are losing free agent Sergio Romo and his team-leading 25 saves. Romo played a key role in the club's utilization of an opener last season, but the 35-year old also served as manager Kevin Cash's most reliable option in the ninth inning due to his late-game experience. Now that Romo is no longer with the team, the Rays will be looking into ways to improve the back end of the bullpen before pitchers and catchers are set to report to Port Charlotte, Fla., for Spring Training on Feb. 13.

Jose Alvarado, Diego Castillo and Chaz Roe could all get opportunities to close next season, but the trio lacks experience in such situations, combining for just nine career saves. The Rays won't shell out top money for a marquee free agent arm, but they will be looking for ways to add a veteran reliever, preferably one that has experience in close game situations. The Rays, however, could elect to wait and see what prospects Ian Gibaut and Colin Poche, who shined in Triple-A Durham last season, bring to the table during Spring Training before ultimately making any decision on a free agent.

-- Juan Toribio

RED SOX: Who is the closer?
For a team that is otherwise loaded, it is somewhat surprising the Red Sox have no idea at this point who their closer will be in 2019 than they did the day after the World Series ended. This could be by design, as president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is waiting to see if the market can come down for an established closer, be it Craig Kimbrel or someone else.

David Robertson, Zach Britton, Kelvin Herrera, Jeurys Familia and Andrew Miller are among the top late-inning arms who have already found new homes in free agency. But Dombrowski still has options beyond Kimbrel, who has yet to find a deal to his liking. Perhaps most intriguing among them is Adam Ottavino, who had a tremendous 2018 season in Colorado. Cody Allen, who struggled last season after some strong years with the Indians, is still out there. The other option for the Red Sox would be to promote an internal candidate. Matt Barnes is the top choice there after notching 96 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings last year for a 14 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio. If Barnes is promoted, the Red Sox would likely need to add a setup man from outside the organization.

-- Ian Browne

YANKEES: Can they deal Sonny Gray?
In the non-Manny Machado department, the Yankees would love to resolve Gray's situation before pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13. General manager Brian Cashman candidly said in October that he planned to "relocate" Gray to a different club, believing that the right-hander's performance will not live up to expectations in New York. 

Eleven clubs showed interest in the right-hander, including the Braves, Brewers, Mariners, Padres and Reds, but the Yanks' lofty asking price has kept a deal from being reached. Cashman also said that CC Sabathia's December health scare halted negotiations, and that it remains possible Gray could open the spring or the regular season in pinstripes. More likely, someone will eventually snap up Gray, who is eligible for free agency after 2019.

-- Bryan Hoch

Video: Cashman on the club's desire to trade Sonny Gray

AL CENTRAL 

INDIANS: Will the Tribe move Corey Kluber and/or Trevor Bauer?
After acquiring catcher Kevin Plawecki on Sunday, Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said the organization hopes to add a few more players over the next couple of weeks. But the big question remains: Will Kluber or Bauer be involved in any trade?
 
Antonetti said he has never felt a need to trade either of the starting pitchers, but given the Indians' talent, he does not expect the phone calls from other teams to end. Keeping both Kluber and Bauer obviously keeps the team's rotation as strong as possible, but dealing either arm could address some areas of need elsewhere on the roster.

The Indians could use at least one quality starting outfielder, relievers and/or another big bat in the middle of their lineup. Moving a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner like Kluber or a hurler coming off a career season like Bauer would demand a large return. This could be Cleveland's easiest and quickest way to gain strength throughout the roster. But is the team willing to take that hit on its rotation?
 
If not, they will need to find ways -- like making other trades or signing a free agent -- to acquire Major League talent. Antonetti said that conversations around the league have "intensified" since the New Year began, so more moves could be soon to come. Whether those include Kluber's or Bauer's name remains to be seen.

-- Mandy Bell

ROYALS: The bullpen remains a big question mark
As the Royals draw nearer to Spring Training next month, they will have open competition for the right-field spot, and perhaps a spot or two in the rotation. The big question that needs to be answered before pitchers and catchers report Feb. 12 is if they can still improve the weakest part of the 2018 team: the bullpen.

General manager Dayton Moore said he believes part of the solution to improving the bullpen will come from whomever doesn't make the rotation -- perhaps someone like Jorge Lopez, Heath Fillmyer, Eric Skoglund or Glenn Sparkman transitions to the bullpen. The Royals re-signed Wily Peralta, who could close, but outside of Kevin McCarthy and Tim Hill, the Royals are a bit short on setup men. Look for Moore and his staff to find some free-agent bargains to help out.

-- Jeffrey Flanagan

TIGERS: Will Nicholas Castellanos be traded this offseason?
With Castellanos entering his contract year and the Tigers still in the midst of a rebuild, the slugging right fielder's days in Detroit are clearly numbered. With a slow free-agent market clogging up potential trade discussions, however, it's unclear whether the Tigers can trade him by Spring Training for the prospect package they want.

Castellanos is the Tigers' best chance left to restock the farm system with more quality prospects, and general manager Al Avila is putting a correspondingly high price on Castellanos, who is up for arbitration one more time this month. If Detroit deals Castellanos in the coming weeks, it'll have a big void to fill in right field as well as the middle of the lineup, though Miguel Cabrera's return from an injury-shortened season will help on the latter. If the Tigers hold onto Castellanos, they'll put him back on the trade market in the summer ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline at the end of July.

-- Jason Beck

TWINS: Who will be Minnesota's closer?
After both David Robertson and Zach Britton inked deals in the last several days, Minnesota is still in the market for a proven relief arm that might plug in at closer. While the Twins are reportedly nearing a deal with former Angels reliever Blake Parker and have internal options for the back end of the bullpen in Trevor Hildenberger, Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Addison Reed and perhaps Fernando Romero, there's still no clear anchor to a bullpen that finished 22nd in the Majors with a 4.45 ERA in 2018.

The Twins likely won't land Adam Ottavino or Craig Kimbrel, but there are still several options on the market with closing experience, including Brad Brach, who struggled to begin 2018 with the Orioles but recorded a 1.52 ERA with the Braves following a midseason trade. Cody Allen, a former division rival, could also be a bounceback candidate following a difficult 2018 campaign.

-- Do-Hyoung Park

WHITE SOX: Can they land the big fish?
The White Sox have serious interest in outfielder Bryce Harper and infielder Manny Machado, the two premium free agents. The team's rebuild is not at its finishing point, when the White Sox would be looking for players of this ilk, but general manager Rick Hahn has talked about being opportunistic in the open market in knowing his team has to strike when these sort of high-end talents become available.
 
There's payroll flexibility for the White Sox to sign Harper and Machado, although the White Sox currently seem more involved with Machado, who visited the team the Monday after the Winter Meetings. The White Sox have made other offseason moves to improve the team, but Hahn has talked about the team being able to wait for an elite player such as these two to decide.

-- Scott Merkin

Video: Merkin on odds White Sox land Harper or Machado

AL WEST

ANGELS: How should the Halos handle Shohei Ohtani?
Before Spring Training, the Angels must create a hitting plan for Ohtani, who underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Oct. 1, and will be limited to designated hitter duty in 2019. General manager Billy Eppler has been hesitant to give a timeline on when Ohtani will return to action, but manager Brad Ausmus said at the Winter Meetings he doesn't expect Ohtani to be ready for the start of the regular season.

Ohtani, the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year, is scheduled to meet with Dr. Neal ElAttrache in late January, which will help the Angels get a better sense of Ohtani's progress before pitchers and catchers report in mid-February. Ohtani figures to get plenty of playing time at DH once he's healthy, but the Angels have to manage his workload because he'll also be rehabbing his elbow to return to pitching in 2020. It's a unique situation and the Angels know how important Ohtani is to them in both the short term and the long term.

-- Rhett Bollinger

ASTROS: What will the rotation look like beyond Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Collin McHugh?
The Astros have a wealth of young pitching that they love, beginning with top prospect Forrest Whitley. He's not going to be in the rotation to start the year, though. That's more likely to be hard-throwing Josh James and/or lefty Framber Valdez, who showed promise last year when he was in the strike zone. Beyond that, there's up-and-coming prospects Corbin Martin and J.B. Bukauskas.

The Astros envision 2019 as perhaps their best last chance to try to win another championship because they have a young offensive core still intact, and Verlander, Cole and McHugh are in the final year of their contracts. That's why adding another veteran starting pitcher to slide into the rotation is so tantamount. The Astros say they would be OK with a rotation of Verlander, Cole, McHugh, James and Valdez, but having one youngster at the end of the rotation and another veteran arm between now and the start of camp would be ideal.

-- Brian McTaggart

ATHLETICS: Who will be behind the plate?
The December signing of veteran backstop Chris Herrmann to a one-year deal marked progress in the A's push for depth behind the plate, but they still seek a full-timer. Last year, they held out until mid-March to find one, snagging Jonathan Lucroy on a one-year, $6.5 million deal. Lucroy is already off the board this time around, having latched on with the Angels, but options remain for the patient A's. 

Matt Wieters is still out there, and so are Devin Mesoraco and Martin Maldonado. The A's have also not ruled out a scenario in which they stand pat and have Herrmann platoon with Josh Phegley when the season opens. Chances are, though, they get their upgrade as they look to build upon an impressive 97-win campaign.  

-- Jane Lee

MARINERS: Who'll replace Edwin Diaz as closer?
While general manager Jerry Dipoto has made a bundle of moves this winter, the one area that remains in flux is the back end of the bullpen. Seattle traded away Edwin Diaz, Alex Colome and Juan Nicasio and released Nick Vincent, who have 217 career saves between them. Of the current group of relievers, the only ones who've ever saved a Major League game are Anthony Swarzak (six) and Shawn Armstrong (one).

Dipoto's primary goal has been landing younger players with long-term control, but he's still looking to add a veteran arm or two through free agency to help bridge the gap in this year's bullpen. Though the Mariners aren't in line for a top-end closer, they'll look to add to their mix and then see who steps up when given the opportunity.

-- Greg Johns

Video: MLB Now: Dipoto discusses Mariners' offseason plans

RANGERS: How much more are they willing to trade?
After trading Jurickson Profar, the Rangers have to decide how far they are willing to go in trading key players for young pitching that won't be ready this year. Among the candidates who could be dealt are starter Mike Minor, reliever Jose Leclerc and outfielder Nomar Mazara.

All three should be a big part of the Rangers 2019 team. But the Rangers have shown that rebuilding their Minor League inventory of young pitching -- especially starters -- is their No. 1 priority this off-season. The Phillies have shown interest in Minor, the Mets like Leclerc and the Braves are looking for outfield help. All three teams have had trade discussions with the Rangers this offseason.

-- T.R. Sullivan

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

BRAVES: Who will fill the outfield void?
Unless the Braves want to gamble on Adam Duvall as an everyday player, they must fill the outfield void created by Nick Markakis' presence on the free agent market. As long as A.J. Pollock's ask remains above Atlanta's comfort level (in both years and dollars), Markakis seemingly stands as the most likely free-agent option. But filling this need via trade seems more likely when you account for Markakis' second half regression and the resulting hesitance to give him a multi-year guarantee. 

Along with having the necessity to have a warm body round out their outfield trio, the Braves could use another capable bat to place behind Ronald Acuna Jr., Josh Donaldson and Freddie Freeman in their lineup. Detroit's Nicholas Castellanos is a fit from an offensive perspective, but you have to wonder if Ender Inciarte's great range is significant enough to minimize Castellanos' defensive woes. Duvall is just two years removed from consecutive 30-homer seasons and he has always graded as an above-average defender. But while spending the final two months of 2018 with Atlanta, he was an average defender and substandard offensive performer.  

Acquiring a front-line starting pitcher might be the most influential move the Braves could make to enhance their World Series hopes for 2019. But given they have an abundance of high-upside arms already within their system, acquiring an outfielder seems to be the more definitive need.

-- Mark Bowman

METS: Who makes the bullpen? Who starts at first base?
Plenty of competition awaits the Mets upon their arrival in Port St. Lucie, Fla. But even before heading down to sunny Florida, team officials must determine who will play center field for them.

It's clear Yoenis Cespedes won't be ready to contribute until midseason, if he even returns from heel surgery at all. That leaves the Mets with just four healthy outfielders on their 40-man roster: Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, oft-injured Juan Lagares, and newly acquired Keon Broxton. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen has talked about letting Lagares start in center every day, but the club could take a long look at Broxton or make a run at free agent A.J. Pollock. Or, the new GM could acquire a corner outfielder such as Nick Markakis, pushing Nimmo to center.

-- Anthony DiComo

MARLINS: Will they trade J.T. Realmuto?
The most pressing question heading into the offseason remains the Marlins' hottest topic heading into Spring Training. Will Realmuto be traded before pitchers and catchers start working out on Feb. 13?

Still with two seasons of arbitration eligibility remaining, the Marlins are standing pat on their high demands for arguably the best catcher in the game. At this point, the Dodgers, Astros, Padres, Rays and Reds are believed to have the most interest, with other teams, like the Braves, at least monitoring the market for Miami's coveted catcher. 

For much of the Hot Stove season, speculation has been mostly "when, not if" Realmuto gets moved. That may no longer be the case, because Miami is prepared to carry Realmuto into Spring Training, which would create more gossip that he could be dealt either by Opening Day or at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Either way, the Realmuto saga promises to be at the forefront of the club for a while.

If he is dealt, then Miami will have to figure out who will catch? Chad Wallach is the only other catcher in the organization on the 40-man roster.

-- Joe Frisaro

NATIONALS: Will Bryce Harper be back? 
The Nationals offseason got off to an aggressive start, as they swiftly addressed their needs at catcher, reliever, backup first baseman and starting pitcher before the start of the New Year. Yet, the biggest question mark at the start of the winter remains unanswered. Harper's free agency has been the biggest story in D.C. for years and it continues to loom over the organization as he remains unsigned. 

And recently the Nationals have emerged as perhaps the front-runners once again. Even more so since news broke of a reported meeting just before Christmas between team owner Ted Lerner, Harper and Harper's agent Scott Boras. Washington has put itself into position to remain competitive even without it's homegrown star in what is shaping up to be a four-team race in the NL East and the outfield of Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Adam Eaton should still be a strength. Still, the Nationals never ruled out a reunion with Harper, even when their moves suggested the opposite. Perhaps by now they hoped there would be more clarity to this situation, but with a little more than a month before the Nationals head to West Palm Beach, Fla., Harper's future remains uncertain.

-- Jamal Collier

Video: MLB Tonight on chances Harper comes back to Nationals

PHILLIES: Machado or Harper? Or neither? (The horror!)
The Phillies signed David Robertson to a two-year contract last week, and sources told MLB.com that the front office has shifted its focus squarely to the two biggest prizes in free agency: Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. The Phillies met with Machado just before Christmas. They could meet with Harper this week. They hope for a decision regarding one of them soon, although they have no inclination when either might make a decision.

There are plenty of reports out there that suggest: A) the Phillies will sign one of the two; and B) neither player has Philly atop their wish list. In the end, it almost certainly will come down to money. If the Phillies make the best offer to Machado or Harper, they should get one of them. The best bet remains they will.

-- Todd Zolecki

NL CENTRAL

BREWERS: Who will play second base?
It won't be Mauricio Dubon or Keston Hiura on Opening Day. General manager David Stearns has made that clear. The in-house options are Hernan Perez and Tyler Saladino -- or perhaps Travis Shaw if the Brewers acquire a third baseman instead. But Stearns' preference is to return Shaw to third and bring in a second baseman from a deep pool of free agents and trade targets. That market began to move right before Christmas, but plenty of candidates remain to bridge the gap to the Brewers' prospects.

-- Adam McCalvy

CARDINALS: Jose Martinez -- Will he stay or will he go?
The Cardinals still must decide whether Martinez brings more value coming off the bench or as a trade chip. Though he was the team's most consistent offensive performer in 2018, Martinez's defensive limitations have pushed him out of the projected 2019 starting lineup and left his long-term fit uncertain. It's also prompted the organization to field offers for Martinez this offseason.  

Martinez would offer some insurance behind right fielder Dexter Fowler if he stays, but the Cardinals do need to alleviate some of the position player logjam on a right-handed-heavy roster. That leaves the club at a crossroads: Can they better balance their roster and fill another area of need by dealing Martinez? Or are they best hanging on to a proven hitter over whom they still have four years of control?

-- Jenifer Langosch

CUBS: Who will join the bullpen?
Brandon Morrow was effective when healthy last season, posting a 1.47 ERA in 35 appearances around a pair of stints on the disabled list. His second trip to the DL in July effectively ended his season and the late-inning arm underwent a right elbow procedure in November that will likely keep him sidelined into April. Chicago hasn't been playing at the top of the relief market, but is hoping to add some value pieces to the back-end options for the season ahead. Closing experience would be a plus, but not necessarily a requirement. Adding some left-handed depth would help balance out the bullpen alignment.

-- Jordan Bastian

PIRATES: Who's the shortstop?
The Pirates moved on this offseason from their longtime middle-infield duo of Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison. They have a ready-made replacement at second base in Adam Frazier, but it's less clear who will take over at shortstop.

They have expressed confidence in Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman, currently their top options at shortstop, but GM Neal Huntington has continued to explore the market for upgrades. They were interested in Troy Tulowitzki. They asked the D-backs about Nick Ahmed. They reportedly like free agent Freddy Galvis.

The Pirates entered last spring with an unanswered question in left field and wound up acquiring Corey Dickerson, a Gold Glove Award winner, who hit .300 in 2018. Maybe they'll take their time before deciding on a shortstop, too.

-- Adam Berry

REDS: Will they add an ace starting pitcher?
The Reds have been busy this offseason trying to make upgrades, with most of their focus on the rotation. Through trades, they added right-hander Tanner Roark from the Nationals and lefty Alex Wood from the Dodgers. Both seem ready to slot in the middle of the rotation. But president of baseball operations Dick Williams noted the club wasn't done trying to improve in the starting five and that the Reds have both payroll space and prospect capital that can be used. If they want to aim high, Dallas Keuchel remains available on the free agent board. However, Keuchel's asking price is high and the amount of years is long.

On the trade front, either Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer from the Indians would provide an instant jolt but come with an expected hefty return required. Also seemingly available are Sonny Gray from the Yankees and Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays, with both being in need of bounce-back seasons. Free agents like Derek Holland, Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez are also still on the market. Other than the two Cleveland pitchers and Keuchel, few of the other options would likely provide one of the National League's worst rotations the past couple of seasons with any more tangible credibility.

-- Mark Sheldon

Video: Phillies, Reds maintain interest in Keuchel

NL WEST

D-BACKS: Do they acquire a first baseman, second baseman or someone to play center?
The D-backs have to replace first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and they will also likely need to do so with free agent center fielder A.J. Pollock. They have talked about moving Jake Lamb from third base to first and using Eduardo Escobar at third. That would mean they still need a center fielder. If they move second baseman Ketel Marte to center then either Escobar would need to play second with Lamb going back to third, or the D-backs would need to add a second baseman.

However they end up configuring it the D-backs are going to need to add someone. It's just a matter of which position it is.

-- Steve Gilbert

DODGERS: If Not J.T. Realmuto, then who will the Dodgers team with Austin Barnes behind the plate?
Yasmani Grandal, who passed on four years and $60 million from the Mets, already rejected the club's $17.9 million qualifying offer. They only need short-term coverage until their plentiful catching prospects mature, so a free-agent signing like Nick Hundley could be the answer unless the Marlins stop asking for Cody Bellinger in a Realmuto deal.

-- Ken Gurnick

GIANTS: How will they fortify their outfield?
The Giants currently have six outfielders -- Steven Duggar, Austin Slater, Mac Williamson, Chris Shaw, Mike Gerber and Drew Ferguson -- on their 40-man roster, but none of them have experience being an everyday player in the Majors. Duggar is expected to get a shot to start in center field, but the Giants are hoping to add a couple of more seasoned options to help shore up the corner infield spots this offseason.

Bryce Harper is likely holding up the outfield market to some degree, so the Giants may have to wait for him to sign before addressing their holes. Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Dietrich and Avisail Garcia are among the free agents who could be fits for San Francisco.

-- Maria Guardado

PADRES: What to do with Wil Myers?
Three months into the offseason, there's still no clear plan for one of the Padres' best hitters. Myers spent the final month and a half of the 2018 season at third base, allowing Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes to see regular time in the outfield.

The move made sense, with San Diego extremely deep in the corner outfield and extremely thin at third. But Myers' defense was shaky, to say the least. Over the next month and a half, the Padres need to decide whether third base is an available option for Myers. If it's not, they've got a problem on their hands -- too many outfielders and no starting third baseman.

Of course, it's still possible Myers is dealt this offseason. The Padres have have six outfielders who have served in a starting role over the past two seasons. It's hard to envision all six on the roster at the start of camp. In that group, Myers seems likeliest to be traded.

-- AJ Cassavell

ROCKIES: Establish clarity with Nolan Arenado
Arenado is in his last year of arbitration, and the Rockies have hopes of reaching a multi-year contract. Last year, the sides talked but agreed to end discussions before the regular season, and Arenado is not one to let any distractions affect his regular season. The Rockies also have not let off-the-field issues intrude on the season, either. Outfielder Charlie Blackmon's six-year, $108 million deal was completed just days into the 2018 season.

If he doesn't sign, it increases the likelihood that it's his last year in a Rockies uniform, which means staying in contention is the best way to keep contract issues from having an outsize influence within the clubhouse. Not only that, but the only signing so far this offseason has been a club-friendly, two-year deal for Daniel Murphy to play first base. The Rockies would hate to miss out on players they could have had, and face losing Arenado.

-- Thomas Harding

Video: Harding on possibility of Arenado, Rockies extension

Zimmer signs one-year Major League deal

Third baseman Cuthbert designated for assignment
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals on Friday signed right-hander Kyle Zimmer, their first-round pick in the 2012 Draft, to a one-year Major League deal.

In a corresponding move, the Royals designated for assignment third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert.

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals on Friday signed right-hander Kyle Zimmer, their first-round pick in the 2012 Draft, to a one-year Major League deal.

In a corresponding move, the Royals designated for assignment third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert.

Zimmer, 27, had been designated for assignment in 2018 but was re-signed to a Minor League deal shortly thereafter.

Zimmer's new deal is a split contract -- he will get $555,000 if in the Majors and $124,000 if in the Minors, a source told MLB.com. Zimmer has one year of options left.

Zimmer, who has battled numerous arm and shoulder injuries over his career, spent several months in 2018 at the revolutionary Driveline Baseball training program in Seattle at the suggestion of Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo. That program focuses on weighted baseballs in an effort to strengthen muscles while also improving mechanics.

"It feels like I've been given a new life," Zimmer told MLB.com in October as he worked at the Royals' Spring Training facility.

Zimmer reported then that he was throwing pain-free for perhaps the first time in his professional career.

There may have been interest from other teams in Zimmer, but Royals general manager Dayton Moore told MLB.com on Friday night, "This was based on our evaluation of Kyle from our people seeing him in the instructional league."

Cuthbert, 26, had a promising 2016 season filling in for the injured Mike Moustakas. Cuthbert hit .274 with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs in 128 games.

But Cuthbert's 2018 season was derailed by injuries, most notably a lower back injury, and he appeared in only 30 games.

Cuthbert had been expected to compete with Hunter Dozier for the starting third-base job.

Dozier now would appear to be the front-runner for the position, with utility man Chris Owings, signed last fall, as the primary backup.

"I think we're satisfied with what we have at third base with Hunter Dozier and Chris Owings," Moore said. "We also have Kelvin Gutierrez [the Royals' No. 17 prospect, per MLB Pipeline]. And certainly, Emmanuel Rivera is someone who is on our radar."

It's possible the Royals will bring in a veteran corner infielder.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Cheslor Cuthbert, Kyle Zimmer

Can KC steal 250 bags in '19? Whit thinks so

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- It's not often a player can go from leading the Major Leagues in stolen bases one season to perhaps being only the fourth-best base stealer on his own team the next.

But that may be the case for Royals budding star Whit Merrifield, who led the Majors in hits (192) and stolen bases (45) in 2018.

KANSAS CITY -- It's not often a player can go from leading the Major Leagues in stolen bases one season to perhaps being only the fourth-best base stealer on his own team the next.

But that may be the case for Royals budding star Whit Merrifield, who led the Majors in hits (192) and stolen bases (45) in 2018.

But with the emergence of shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, who stole 32 bases in less than half a season in 2018, and the additions of blazers Billy Hamilton and Terrance Gore, Merrifield will be hard-pressed to again lead his own team in steals, let alone the Majors.

And Merrifield is totally OK with that.

"The more speed, the better," Merrifield told MLB.com by phone Wednesday. "It will help all of us offensively to have that much speed on the bases. All you have to do is distract the pitcher a little, and it will help the hitter. We're going to have that all over the place next season."

Merrifield envisions a Royals team that could easily steal 200-250 bases in 2019. And that could translate into many more RBIs for Merrifield, who in his first full season in '17 drove in 78 runs despite hitting mostly from the top of the order.

Video: CLE@KC: Merrifield singles to take MLB lead in hits

"There's no question: I like hitting with men on base," Merrifield said. "And when you have guys with speed on base, it just opens up so many opportunities for you."

Royals manager Ned Yost wasn't giving any hints at the recent Winter Meetings where he might hit Hamilton, the speedy new center fielder, in the lineup. The Reds primarily put Hamilton toward the end of the order, and if Yost uses the same strategy, it could help Merrifield not only in terms of RBIs but with his on-base/batting average as well. Merrifield, a highly proficient hit-and-run candidate, hit .304 last season, a number that could spike with Hamilton prancing around the bases.

"I'm really looking forward to it," Merrifield said. "Plus you've got Mondi hitting behind me, and that's a lot for the opposing pitchers and defenses to account for.

"It would be great if guys like Gordo (Alex Gordon) and Salvy (Salvador Perez) could be in position to drive in 100 runs or so. It's very possible. Gordo already is the best defensive left fielder in the game, and if he continues the offensive resurgence he had last year, we could have a really productive lineup. With him and Salvy and [Jorge] Soler, I mean, no one can hit a ball farther than Soler."

Royals officials have theorized that Gore, even if just used as a late-game pinch-runner, could get 100 or so opportunities in a full season to steal bases. If Gore were to get 70 steals, and Merrifield gets 40-50, and Hamilton and Mondesi get 60-70, it's easy to see where that projection of 200-250 team steals comes into play.

Video: NL WC: Gore displays elite speed in NL Wild Card Game

"We could have an offense that would be hard to contend with," Merrifield said.

Merrifield is realistic about 2019, especially for a team coming off 104 losses. But he also sees hope.

"I like what our young pitchers were able to do last season," Merrifield said. "If we get a couple of guys who suddenly break through, whether it's in the rotation or the bullpen, we could sneak up on some teams. I don't think a lot of people are thinking too much about us.

"But, at least in the clubhouse, we know there is talent there. We know how good we can be. We have weapons on offense. We have that potential with the pitching staff. I think it will be really important for us to get off to a good start - that's what kind of killed us last year. But if we get off to a good start, hey, you don't know what can happen in our division."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Whit Merrifield

Royals still have work to do before '19 season

Veteran infielder, bullpen help may still be on Moore's radar
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- As the Royals gear up toward Spring Training, they still have some work to do before they embark on Surprise, Ariz.

Here are three things the club needs to do before Spring Training:

KANSAS CITY -- As the Royals gear up toward Spring Training, they still have some work to do before they embark on Surprise, Ariz.

Here are three things the club needs to do before Spring Training:

1. Find a bullpen arm or two
Royals general manager Dayton Moore has only a few million to spend to keep under his targeted payroll limit of $92 million, so expect Moore to be patient with the relievers market and wait until Spring Training nears before he makes his move. Typically, some bullpen arms hold out through January in hopes of landing $5 million or $6 million deals. When there are no takers, that's when the bargains come. Expect Moore to land a veteran arm or two in the $2 million range to bolster a bullpen that clearly was the weakest link on the 2018 team.

Finances, though, aren't the only reason the Royals won't spend big for a bullpen arm. There will be a lot of sorting out of their staff in Surprise. The club has eight or nine rotation candidates, and those that don't make the rotation likely will be utilized in the bullpen -- and that may include veterans Danny Duffy or Ian Kennedy. "We have to be open-minded about the roles," Moore said.

Shrewd moves at Meetings bolster Royals

2. Add a starter?
It wouldn't be a surprise if Moore and his staff found a cost-efficient veteran starter to add even more depth to the rotation. This may come in the form of a reclamation project, which the Royals have become somewhat famous for -- Chris Young, Joe Blanton, Ryan Madson, etc. Again, if they find such a player, it will be at a bargain price. The club needs to distinguish what young pitchers fit into its future plans, and adding too much veteran depth will only clog up the process. But certainly adding one couldn't hurt.

Video: Royals add versatile Chris Owings with one-year deal

3. Add a veteran infielder
The Royals did sign utility infielder Chris Owings and they have suggested he will back up Whit Merrifield at second base and Adalberto Mondesi at shortstop. But Moore likely will add some veteran depth, affordably so, to guard against injury. The club is excited to have Owings, but in the event of injury, it doesn't want to have to rush Nicky Lopez, ranked as Kansas City's No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline, if it doesn't have to. The Royals would prefer to let Lopez, who doesn't have to go on the 40-man roster until next fall, continue to develop at Triple-A Omaha until they make him a full-time starter for the future.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals

James is Royals' fastest prospect

MLB.com

When MLB Pipeline identified each farm system's top power-hitting prospect in November, 28 of the 30 sluggers were featured on our organization Top 30 Prospects lists. That came as no surprise, as power is a highly valued commodity.

Today we look at the fastest players in each system, and only 16 of them currently reside on our various team Top 30s. Why? That's because pure speedsters can be lacking in offensive upside because they don't have much power or consistency with their hitting ability.

When MLB Pipeline identified each farm system's top power-hitting prospect in November, 28 of the 30 sluggers were featured on our organization Top 30 Prospects lists. That came as no surprise, as power is a highly valued commodity.

Today we look at the fastest players in each system, and only 16 of them currently reside on our various team Top 30s. Why? That's because pure speedsters can be lacking in offensive upside because they don't have much power or consistency with their hitting ability.

There are exceptions, of course. Blazing-fast outfielders Victor Robles (Nationals), Luis Robert (White Sox) and Cristian Pache (Braves) all made MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list because of their ability to impact a game in a variety of ways. 

Even if they don't possess all-around talent, the players below still could make their presence felt at the big league level. Dave Roberts helped end an 86-year World Series championship drought in Boston with a timely stolen base, and Terrance Gore scored the winning run in the 2015 Fall Classic.

American League East

Blue Jays: Roemon Fields, OF
Fields, 28, set a Vancouver Canadians' club record with 48 stolen bases in the Class A Short Season Northwest League back in 2014 and swiped 46, 44 and 50 bags in each of the next three years, respectively. He struggled offensively in 2018, resulting in a career-low 25 steals, but he can absolutely fly on both sides of the ball, consistently putting pressure on opposing defenses and pitchers while holding down center field defensively.
Likely 2019 level: Triple-A Buffalo

Orioles: Kirvin Moesquit, 2B
A year after finishing second in the organization with 29 stolen bases, Moesquit, a 24th-round pick from the 2015 Draft, swiped a system-best 49 bags over 112 games at Class A Delmarva in 2018. That total topped the South Atlantic League and was good for a shared fourth place on the Minor League leaderboard. Overall, Moesquit has stolen 100 bases in 130 attempts in 256 games as a professional.
Likely 2019 level: Class A Advanced Frederick

Rays: Vidal Brujan, 2B, (TB No. 12)
The 20-year-old switch-hitter's plus-plus speed was on full display during his breakout 2018 campaign, as he slashed .320/.403/.459 with 112 runs scored and 55 stolen bases, the first- and second-highest totals in the Minors, respectively. With a combination of game-changing speed, pure hitting ability and on-base skills, Brujan has all the ingredients needed to one day hit atop a big league lineup.
Likely 2019 level: Class A Advanced Charlotte

Red Sox: Jarren Duran, OF/2B
A plus-plus runner who flashes some top-of-the-scale times to first base, Duran had a spectacular pro debut after signing as a seventh-rounder out of Long Beach State in June. He hit .357/.396/.516 with 24 steals (albeit getting caught 10 times) in 67 games while advancing to low Class A.
Likely 2019 level: Class A Greenville

Yankees: Isaiah Pasteur, OF
Pasteur, who was the 2018 Atlantic 10 Conference player of the year in his first season at George Washington after transferring from Indiana, ran a 6.2-second 60-yard dash before the Draft and routinely clocked 3.9-second times to first base from the right side of the plate. A 13th-round pick, he stole 31 bases in 34 attempts as a redshirt junior before swiping six in 28 pro games.
Likely 2019 level: Class A Charleston

American League Central

Indians: Quentin Holmes, OF
The Tribe's second-round pick from the 2017 Draft hasn't produced much during first two pro seasons, and was sidelined by a hamstring injury for much of 2018, but he remains the fastest player in the organization with his elite, top-of-the-scale speed. Prior to being drafted, Holmes famously ran a 6.15-second 60-yard dash at Perfect Game National in 2016.
Likely 2019 level: Class A Lake County

Royals: Tyler James, OF
The Royals try to find at least one 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale in every Draft, and they landed James in the 25th round out of William Carey (Miss.) in 2017. He led the Rookie-level Arizona League with 31 steals in his pro debut and the Rookie-level Pioneer League with 38 last summer.
Likely 2019 level: Class A Lexington

Tigers: Derek Hill, OF, (DET No. 28)
Hill has finished first or second in the organization in steals three years in a row, and was third back in 2015. In all four seasons, he's swiped 25 or more bases, including the 35 he collected in 2018. His speed helps him be a plus defender as well.
Likely 2019 level: Class A Advanced Lakeland

Twins: Aaron Whitefield, OF
The Australian speedster burst on the scene by stealing 31 bases in 51 Gulf Coast League games in 2016, then followed it up with 33 more in his full-season debut in 2017 and 20 in just 65 Florida State League games a year ago.
Likely 2019 level: Class A Advanced Fort Myers

White Sox: Luis Robert, OF, (CWS No. 4; MLB No. 44)
Robert has well above-average speed and raw power to match, which is why he commanded the second-largest bonus for an amateur ever ($26 million) when he signed as a Cuban defector in May 2017. A series of injuries has limited him to 78 Minor League games in his first two seasons, though his 30-30 upside was evident in the Arizona Fall League.
Likely 2019 level: Class A Advanced Winston-Salem

Video: Luis Robert wins Fall League Hitter of the Week

American League West

Athletics: Jorge Mateo, SS, (OAK No. 7)
Long considered to be one of the fastest players in the Minors with 80-grade speed, Mateo has amassed 259 steals in 326 attempts (80 percent) in 583 career games. He led the Minors with 82 steals in 2015, added 36 the following year and then tied for third with 52 in '17. He didn't fare as well in Triple-A this past season, going 25 for 35 on the basepaths, though much of that was a result of his worst offensive campaign to date (.230/.280/.353 in 131 games).
Likely 2019 level: Triple-A Las Vegas

Angels: Jordyn Adams, OF, (LAA No. 6)
The Angels signed Adams away from playing football and baseball at the University of North Carolina last June, and while it might take some time for his raw tools to get sharpened, there's no question about his speed. Some amateur scouts gave him an 80 on the scouting scale, and he should be a base-stealing threat and an outstanding defender as a result.
Likely 2019 level: Class A Burlington

Astros: Myles Straw, OF, (HOU No. 15)
Straw parlayed his double-plus speed into the Minor League stolen base title (70 in just 79 attempts) and a spot on the Astros' playoff roster in 2018. A 12th-rounder in 2015 from St. John's River (Fla.) CC, he also used his quickness to beat out hits -- he led the Minors with a .358 average in 2016 -- and cover a lot of ground in center field.
Likely 2019 level: Triple-A Round Rock

Mariners: Ian Miller, OF, (SEA No. 26)
Miller's speed is his carrying tool, receiving plus-plus grades from scouts, and he has a lengthy track record of applying it on the basepaths. Since the start of the 2015 season, he's posted annual stolen-base totals of 50, 49, 43 and 33, respectively. The latter total ranked second in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2018.
Likely 2019 level: Triple-A Tacoma

Rangers: Bubba Thompson, OF, (TEX No. 10)
Thompson's plus-plus speed also served him well in football, where he drew Southeastern Conference scholarship offers and quarterbacked McGill-Toolen High to the 2016 Alabama state 7-A championship game with 3,860 all-purpose yards and 43 touchdowns. The 26th overall choice in the 2017 Draft, he placed third in the low Class A South Atlantic League with 32 steals this season despite playing in just 84 games.
Likely 2019 level: Class A Advanced Down East

Video: Top Prospects: Bubba Thompson, OF, Rangers

National League East

Braves: Cristian Pache, OF, (ATL No. 6; MLB No. 68)
Pache still hasn't learned to use his outstanding speed on the basepaths consistently as he stole just seven bases in 2018 and has been thrown out trying to steal 35 percent of the time, leading some to prefer Ray Patrick-Didder and his 27 steals in 2018. But Pache will learn to use his wheels offensively, and he already uses them to be perhaps the best defensive outfield prospect in baseball.
Likely 2019 level: Double-A Mississippi

Marlins: Connor Scott, OF,