KANSAS CITY -- It’s going to be a busy offseason for the Royals.
Kansas City is in the midst of a transition, as John Sherman is expected to be approved as the club's new owner at the Owners Meetings in November, taking over for David Glass, who ran the team for 20 years.
Here are five questions facing the team this offseason.
1. How will new ownership and a new manager affect the team on the field?
Sources have indicated that Sherman likely will run the team much like Glass did, with an eye on financial stability from year to year. Don’t expect a ton of splashy free-agent signings early. The Royals may dip into the free-agent pool for a cost-efficient starting pitcher or two, and they likely will offer an extension to slugger Jorge Soler, who can opt out of his $4.6 million contract for 2020 and go to arbitration this winter. The front office almost certainly will remain intact.
2. How will the Alex Gordon decision affect matters?
Though Gordon exercised his $23 million mutual option for 2019, the Royals declined it, opting instead to pay a $4 million buyout. A one-year deal now in the range of $5 million to $8 million seems likely. If Gordon doesn’t come back, one would assume that super-utility man Whit Merrifield could be the club's replacement in left field.
3. How are the Royals set in terms of position players?
It doesn't appear that there will be a ton of position battles in Spring Training. Hunter Dozier is a rising star at third base, as is Adalberto Mondesi at shortstop. Nicky Lopez finished strong at second base. First base could be a platoon with Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom. Having catcher Salvador Perez back from Tommy John surgery is like adding a big free-agent signing. Soler was the American League home run leader, with 48, and he will be the designated hitter. The outfield spots are a little less certain, but one could see an early platoon of Bubba Starling and Brett Phillips in center. If Gordon returns, Merrifield would play right field.
4. Will the Royals need more starting pitchers?
Oh, yes. Right-handers Brad Keller and Jakob Junis were both shut down early to limit their innings output. Left-handers Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery are solid veterans. But there is little depth after that. The Royals desperately need someone like Glenn Sparkman, Jorge Lopez or Eric Skoglund, or even one of their young prospects rising through the farm system (Jackson Kowar, Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, etc.) to make a big impression in Spring Training. This is where Moore might convince Sherman to add to the payroll.
5. Who will emerge to shore up a shaky bullpen?
It’s no secret that the Royals’ bullpen was a mess in 2019. Kansas City had the second-worst bullpen ERA (5.09) in the AL behind Baltimore. The answers most likely will have to come mostly internally. The Royals will bring back Ian Kennedy (30 saves) for the final year of his five-year contract. Left-hander Tim Hill finished strong (3.63 ERA) and had 11 scoreless appearances out of 13 total in September. Scott Barlow had a 2.12 ERA after July 15. But the Royals need relievers like Kyle Zimmer, Kevin McCarthy, Heath Fillmyer, Jesse Hahn, Josh Staumont or Jake Newberry to stand out as shutdown relievers in the middle or as additional set-up guys.