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Inbox: Who will be Royals' No. 5 starter?

Beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan answers questions from Kansas City fans
January 5, 2017

KANSAS CITY -- Spring Training is roughly six weeks away, and Kansas City fans have plenty of questions about the 2017 Royals.So let's get to it, with the first Inbox of the new year.

KANSAS CITY -- Spring Training is roughly six weeks away, and Kansas City fans have plenty of questions about the 2017 Royals.
So let's get to it, with the first Inbox of the new year.

Yes, the long-term goal is for Strahm to be a starter. But the Royals have four starters locked into the rotation now, and while he will get a look as the No. 5 guy in Spring Training, the guess here is that he will become a setup man for closer Kelvin Herrera. Kansas City went to two straight World Series on the strength of arguably the best bullpen in the league, and a shutdown bullpen is a cornerstone of any Dayton Moore roster. Strahm simply is too good in the bullpen right now to move him elsewhere.

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The Royals truly believe Staumont, who was sensational in the second half last season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and who can hit 100 mph, can contribute this season in the bullpen. Moore has told me several times he will not hesitate to call up young arms for his bullpen (see: Strahm).

Well, the first four are easy: Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, Ian Kennedy and Jason Vargas. The fifth starter will be determined at Spring Training among Mike Minor, Christopher Young, Strahm or maybe even a Jonathan Sanchez. Some fans have forgotten Young's contributions to the World Series title and easily dismiss him because of his dreadful 2016. The Royals have not forgotten him. The Royals believe that, with a full offseason, Young will bounce back and perhaps grab that No. 5 spot.

That's a great question, Seth. I would tend to agree. The rotation is set through the first four. But that great bullpen of recent memory -- Wade Davis, Greg Holland, Luke Hochevar, Duffy, Ryan Madson and Herrera -- is down to just Herrera. The Royals are hoping Joakim Soria, who must bounce back, and Strahm and Brian Flynn can set up Herrera. They also need some other arms to emerge, like Staumont, Minor and maybe even the oft-injured Kyle Zimmer. There's still a chance they could re-sign Hochevar and Holland.

The Royals have worked Cuthbert at second base in the Minors and in the instructional league, and results have been so-so. Cuthbert certainly has the hands, but the footwork at second base is much different than third. Chances are it's not a practical alternative. More likely, the second-base job goes to either Whit Merrifield or Christian Colon, or maybe even Raul Mondesi if he has a big spring. Cuthbert seems destined to man the designated-hitter role.

Not sure any of them get traded before the Deadline, but none of them are untouchable if the right deal comes along. The guess here is the Royals ride it out with those pending free agents (Dyson included) with the hope that one or two can be signed long term. Duffy almost surely will get signed to an extension. Mike Moustakas, too, could be affordable long term.

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