Kansas City Royals: 2017 season review and offseason preview

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 01: Eric Hosmer
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 01: Eric Hosmer /
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Top Offseason Priorities

According to CBS Sports, the Royals were right in the middle of the pack in team salary, ranking 15th in baseball with a payroll of $141 million on Opening Day. Their two highest-salaried players who will be back with the team, Alex Gordon and Ian Kennedy, had bad seasons. Another starting pitcher, Jason Hammel, will make $9 million and also had a rough year.

This is how the lineup and rotation look for 2018 based on their current roster. The salaries are from Cot’s Baseball Contracts at Baseball Prospectus. For players who are arbitration-eligible, I’ve included their projected salaries, which come from MLB Trade Rumors.

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C Salvador Perez, $7.5 million

1B Brandon Moss, $7.25 million

2B Whit Merrifield, pre-arbitration

SS Raul Mondesi, pre-arbitration

3B Cheslor Cuthbert, pre-arbitration

LF Alex Gordon, $20 million

CF Paulo Orlando,

RF Jorge Bonifacio, pre-arbitration

DH Jorge Soler, $4 million

C Drew Butera, $2.3 million

SP Danny Duffy, $14 million

SP Ian Kennedy, $16 million

SP Jason Hammel, $9 milion

SP Nate Karns arbitration-eligible (projected: $1.4 million)

SP Jake Junis, pre-arbitration

RP Kelvim Herrera, arbitration-eligible (projected: $8.3 million)

RP Joakim Soria, $9 million

RP Mike Minor, $10 million option, $1.25 million buyout

RP Brandon Maurer, arbitration-eligible (projected $3.8 million)

Free agents: 1B Eric Hosmer, 3B Mike Moustakas, CF Lorenzo Cain, SS Alcides Escobar, LF Melky Cabrera, SP Jason Vargas, RP Trevor Cahill, RP Peter Moylan

The top priority for the Royals in the offseason is to determine which of their departing free agents should get a Qualifying Offer. They have to make this decision within five days of the end of the World Series. The compensation for the Qualifying Offer this year is $18.1 million, so any player the Royals make the offer to can accept it and make $18.1 million for one year, then become a free agent after the 2018 season.

If the offer is made and the player rejects it, then the Royals will get draft pick compensation if the player signs with another team. Of the Royals departing free agents, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are slam dunks to get a Qualifying Offer, while Lorenzo Cain is also likely to get one. Melky Cabrera and Trevor Cahill are not eligible because they were not with the Royals the entire season. Peter Moylan won’t get one and neither should Jason Vargas or Alcides Escobar. Vargas won 18 games last year, but his 4.67 FIP and brutal second half make him a risk. As for Escobar, thanks for the memories, but aging shortstops with a career .294 OBP aren’t worth $18.1 million.

Once the offer is extended, the player has 10 days to accept or reject it. With three of the teams top players likely to get a Qualifying Offer, the Royals won’t necessarily know what next year’s team will look like until mid-November. In the meantime, they have to consider the possibility that none of the departing free agents will be back and build a team with that in mind.

Another wild card in the equation is GM Dayton Moore, who is rumored to be a target for the Atlanta Braves General Manager job. When asked during an end-of-year press conference if he would turn down an offer from the Braves, Moore said, “I get the connection there, because that’s where I started in this game. So it’s very natural for someone to ask that question…but again I don’t think it requires me to comment at this point or needs me to comment further.” That’s not exactly a resounding no.

In a Kansas City Star article, Moore spoke about the direction of the team, saying, “We can go one of two ways. We can decide to just gut the team the best we can and save as much money as possible and play for draft picks, and maybe that’s ultimately what we could end up doing. It’s too early to predict that right now.” Gutting the team is one option. Trying to re-shape the team and still compete is another.

If they choose to try to compete next year, then re-signing Eric Hosmer is the top priority for the team. He’ll be just 28 years old and is coming off the best season of his career. The Royals were 13th in the AL in runs scored last year, so the offense definitely needs a good bat at first base.

The other option is the one Moore mentioned, gut the team and save money for the future. Instead of Moustakas and Escobar, the left side of the infield would be Cuthbert and Mondesi. Soler and Bonifacio would be the young players in the outfield, alongside Alex Gordon and his albatross contract. Prospect Hunter Dozier should be given a shot at playing time. If they go all-in, then trading Danny Duffy and Salvador Perez would bring back the most in terms of prospects.

Next: Girardi leaving the Bronx

Next year’s Royals will be markedly different than this year’s team. This group had a good run that included two World Series appearances and the team’s second World Series title, but back-to-back seasons around .500 and free agent departures mean it’s time to turn the page.