It’s probably a sin to talk about the Cardinals’ cross-state rival here, but the Kansas City Royals, willingly or not, seem to have inserted themselves into the free agent conversation these past few days. The Royals are searching for yet another starter to add to the rotation, and they have been tied to a number of different major names.
General Manager Dayton Moore has the unenviable task of finding the best fit for the Royals, whether it be through free agency or trade. Already he has utilized both methods, acquiring Ervin Santana from the
California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels, and overpaying signing Jeremy Guthrie to a three-year deal. As of now, they will team with Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar for four-fifths of the starting rotation.
And yet, none of these four seem to be the best option for that role known as the “ace.” Chen has been the most consistent starter for the Royals, and Hochevar has been the penultimate hit-or-miss pitcher. Guthrie will eat innings and be enough for the fourth spot, and Santana has shown a lot of promise in his career as well.
But Moore still has to go out and find a true number one. This won’t be easy for a multitude of reasons. For starters, Moore’s boss David Glass told the Kansas City Star yesterday that he needs to keep the payroll around $70 million “to break even.” (To his credit, Glass also said he trusts Moore and will increase payroll if he feels it will benefit the team. Duh.) Whether that’s accurate or not is another article (teaser: it’s ridiculous), but that ties Moore’s hands. The Star estimates their current 2013 payroll at around $50 million, and expects that it could reach the $65 million mark. Considering that number, Moore has to figure something out. So let’s talk about how much it will cost him:
Wil Myers, prospects and a touch over $10 million next year: That’s the cost for Tampa Bay starter James Shields, whose name has been tossed around as a potential candidate for the Royals rotation. According to Cot’s Contracts, Shields is pegged to make $10,250,000 with an option for 2014. That’s a pretty fair amount of money to take on.
What concerns me most is that any trade for Shields will most certainly have to include Myers, who is not only the Royals’ best minor leaguer, but maybe the best in the game. Myers had a slash of .314/.387/.600 with 37 home runs and 109 RBIs across AA and AAA. He is probably the best hitting prospect the Royals have had in years, and that says a lot for a team that currently plays Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, and has Bubba Starling waiting in the wings.
Is Shields worth giving up your best young outfielder and money? Maybe. It’s certainly better than:
Wil Myers, prospects, and $11,625,000 next year: Yep. That’s what it will cost to get Boston’s Jon Lester, who it seems Moore really wants. Reports are that Boston and K.C. have been talking about a deal.
To me, that’s a horrible option. From 2008 to 2011 he had great numbers. But his WAR has dropped substantially, from 5.9 in 2009 to 4.1 in 2011 to .4 in 2012, which may have been his worst season as a starter. This is not a guy who you go out and get by giving up your best prospect. The old adage is “Buy low, sell high,” but it seems like Moore has the saying backwards. Maybe instead of trading, he goes the free agent route with …
$90 million over the next six years: That’s the going rate for Anibal Sanchez, who should be the primary target for the Royals on the free agent market. Don’t get cute here — the Royals aren’t going to pay for a return of Zack Greinke, and they would be wasting their time by going after Kyle Lohse (sorry Cards fans). Sanchez is the best option here. His numbers haven’t been as sexy as Shields or Lester, but he has steadily improved. Most “experts” don’t believe he’ll get more than five years, which is how the Royals have to win this thing. Given the Royals and more attractive teams offering five years, Sanchez will turn the other way. But if he gets six years with an AAV of $15 million a year, then he might come to Kansas City.
Let’s look at the benefits here: Sanchez spent part of last season in the AL Central, so there a comfort level here. The Royals show a lot of promise with their young team. He’s got a great bullpen behind him, something he didn’t have in either Miami or Detroit last year. And to quell any concerns Glass might have over payroll, they could backload the deal, give him $10-12 million over the next two years, and that puts them a little closer to the $70 million mark Glass envisions. They play well, they contend, they bring in more fans … now Glass makes a little profit. In my opinion, this is the best option.
Of course, there is the possibility that the Royals stay pat with Chen as their number one (bad idea) or rest their hopes on Hochevar (worse idea, and unlikely since they are rumored to be trying to move him). Or Danny Duffy, John Lamb or Mike Montgomery might just come from AAA and be the surprise boost they needed. But if I’m Dayton Moore (and I’m not, thank goodness), I’m trying to sign Sanchez and bring Wil Myers up this season to move Jeff Francoeur out of right field.
The good news for Moore, above all, is that the Chiefs are terrible. If he can turn this team around, Kansas City may once again be a baseball town before long.