Here are key FAQs about Royals' offseason

October 3rd, 2018

KANSAS CITY -- The first year of the Royals' rebuilding project is in the books. There is optimism throughout the organization after the team's young core played solidly over the final six weeks, producing Kansas City's one winning month this season in September (15-13).
That young core -- , , , , , , , , and Jakob Junis, among others -- seemed to revitalize the fan base as well.
So what's the next step? Here are a few frequently-asked questions that the Royals face going into the offseason:

1. How much comes off the payroll?
The Royals' 2019 payroll will drop considerably simply through attrition and potential non-tenders. The contracts of right-hander ($9 million) and infielder ($2.5 million plus a little over $1.2 million in performance bonuses) come off the books, with Hammel's buyout at $2 million. Already gone were the expiring contracts of , , , and Mike Moustakas.
Kansas City will have about $67 million tied up in contracts with , , , Danny Duffy and . It's possible (and logical) that they bring back closer for $3 million on a team option. And they have potential arbitration cases with , and Nate Karns. Still, the payroll is going to dip well below $100 million, probably near $80 million or so. But that's an early guess.

2. Who might be non-tendered?
Maurer ($2.95 million) will enter his third year of arbitration, and Karns ($1.375 million) will enter his second. Maurer was not able to turn his high-powered arm (a fastball that can reach 100 mph) into success (7.76 ERA). He was the first player to go to arbitration against general manager Dayton Moore last year (though he lost), and one would think he would be non-tendered before that could happen again. (It would mean decent savings.)
Karns looked great in Spring Training, but he missed the entire season with right forearm and elbow issues, and he would be a non-tender candidate as well. Orlando ($568,500) is arbitration-eligible for the first time, but his window of opportunity seems to have closed. The cutoff date for non-tenders is Nov. 30.

3. Who will have to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft?
The most notable names that could be subject to the Rule 5 Draft are pitchers Arnaldo Hernandez, Foster Griffin, Scott Blewett and Josh Staumont and first baseman Frank Schwindel. Left-hander Richard Lovelady, the organization's Triple-A Omaha Pitcher of the Year Award winner, does not have to be protected, nor does infielder Nicky Lopez. Schwindel wasn't protected last year, and he was not drafted -- it is somewhat unusual for teams to take first baseman/designated hitter-types of players in the Rule 5 Draft, because it is impractical to stash them on a 25-man roster.
The Royals will have two 40-man roster spots cleared -- Hammel and Escobar -- plus their non-tenders. But they will need more clearance for any other free agents they might want to sign and for the players they need to add to protect from the Rule 5 Draft. Kansas City may also want to keep a spot or two open to participate in the Rule 5 Draft itself.

4. How active will the Royals be at the Winter Meetings?
Payroll is decreasing, but expect Moore and his staff to be diligent in looking for free-agent bargains, especially for the bullpen, which was the biggest weakness this season. The Royals also are always on the prowl for a reclamation project, like , Joe Blanton or Chris Young.
5. Which other prospects might emerge in 2019?
Certainly, players such as Hernandez, Griffin, Staumont, Schwindel, third baseman  and right-hander , among others, will get long looks come Spring Training. So will Lopez and Lovelady -- though, as mentioned, they don't have to go on the 40-man roster presently, and they would really have to wow the Royals to force such a move. Add to that list those coming back from injury, such as third baseman , center fielder Bubba Starling and pitchers and .