Royals Off-Season Needs: Starting Pitcher

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With a current crop of free agents now free and able to work out new contracts for the 2014 season, now is as good a time as any to take a look at one of the Kansas City Royals needs for next season. We’ve already taken a look at right field so now it’s time to take a look at the other major need, starting pitching. Now, the Royals don’t need as much help in this category as they have in years past, but with Ervin Santana looking to be gone, they will need to replace him AND maybe even pick up a second arm(you know, because injuries do happen). So with that said, let’s look at some of the team’s options at starting pitcher.

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Ervin Santana

I know, I know. I already said he is gone. I firmly believe Kansas City isn’t going to be able to match the years and dollars that Santana is probably due, so he is as good as gone. But…there is that outside chance he could stay. Kansas City followed normal protocol this week and gave him a qualifying offer, which is made just as much for the draft pick the Royals would receive if/when he leaves as much as anything. Santana seems to actually enjoy being in Kansas City and is an upbeat part of the locker room. He even roots for the Chiefs on Twitter! So there is an outside chance he stays. But should he? I hate to say this because I’ve been just as supportive of Santana as anyone else this past season, but part of me wonders if it was a one year thing. Go ahead and look at the career stats. Santana has a history of following a good year with a bad year, or at least doesn’t seem like the most consistent pitcher on the planet. This guy will probably get anywhere from 3-5 years and fairly close to $20 million a season. For those numbers, I just can’t accept that it would be smart for the Royals to re-sign him. I love that he loves this team and wants to be a part of it. But you also have to be smart for the financial sake of the team. So more than likely, Santana will be elsewhere in 2014.

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Bronson Arroyo 

Arroyo seems like just the kind of pitcher Dayton Moore would want to sign, and I’m not completely saying that with snark or sarcasm. On one hand, Arroyo has been about consistent as possible over the years. The man has started over thirty games every year since 2005, and we could probably add 2004, as he started ONLY 29. He obviously is durable and  doesn’t seem to be made of porcelain like some pitchers do. BUT…he also gives up a lot of home runs, and gives up about as many hits per season as innings pitched. In other words, he is close to being a poor man’s Jeremy Guthrie. I like Guthrie, and don’t hate him like some folks, but I also know that part of his success could be attributed to smoke and mirrors. Arroyo is looking for a multi-year deal this off-season, which would seem to scare Kansas City off. But like I said, he seems like the kind of pitcher Dayton likes, so we can’t count him out as a possibility.

Detroit Tigers v Toronto Blue Jays

Josh Johnson

There is a big part of me that hates the idea of Johnson signing with Kansas City. For one, he would be one of those pitchers made of porcelain I mentioned just a moment ago. He just seems to have a hard time staying healthy. But there would be upsides to giving him a go. Johnson only wants a one year deal, as he is hoping for a bounce back season and then cash in on it. If the Royals could get him at a decent price, that would be great. We all know that Johnson has electric stuff and even just last season I was aboard the bus that would gladly bring him to Kansas City. But another injury riddled season has made me more skeptical about whether or not he can hold up. MLBTradeRumors.com predicted last week that he would sign with the Royals, which seems like the team’s modus operandi. Take a chance on a pitcher and get him at a good price. I’m fine with this if a)he doesn’t get paid too much and b)he isn’t counted on to be a major part of the team. Just like the Royals did with Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino this year, if Johnson ends up in Kansas City they should just be happy with whatever they get from him.

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Scott Feldman

This feels a bit like deja vu. I mean, last year I felt like the Royals should go after this guy. Feldman was a reliever for Texas for the longest time before they shifted him to the rotation, where he found a bit of success. The Cubs signed him to a nice deal last off-season, then flipped him to Baltimore for a couple of young arms. A smart move by Chicago, who knew they weren’t going anywhere in the standings. Feldman is a free agent again, and he would seem a perfect fit for the back part of the Royals rotation. Feldman isn’t flashy, but he gives you innings, keeps the ball in the park and keeps the ball down. There is even a good chance he has even more success in a ballpark like Kauffman, the opposite of the parks he has called home in his career(Arlington, Wrigley and Camden). Feldman probably isn’t a top of the rotation guy, but he is a great fit in the back end and could probably be had at a decent price.

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Tim Hudson 

This would be a long shot for the Royals, but I would love to see Hudson in Kansas City blue. Hudson is coming off of a gruesome injury, so he probably isn’t going to get a long term deal, or even one that is pricey. Most expect him to end up back in Atlanta, and that is probably where the safe money is. But Hudson is a former Brave(see that? I just got Dayton Moore’s attention!) and a former top of the rotation starter. He’s not completely what he used to be, but he would still be a great addition for a team that is on the brink of playoff contention. The Royals should at least kick the tires on Hudson and see what it would take to sign him. Seems like a better option than someone like Dan Haren(who’s back issues scare me).

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Phil Hughes

Hughes had an awful 2013 season. Like, REALLY AWFUL! To give you an idea, Hughes had over 30 starts, yet threw only 145 innings this past year! His biggest detriment was the long ball, which accounted for his stats to be so bloated. The positive that teams have taken away from Hughes though is that his ERA away from Yankee Stadium was a decent 3.88. It would seem that throwing in the Bronx, a park with a very short right field, does more damage than good for Hughes. There’s a good chance that Hughes will not be returning to New York and will want to sign a one year deal somewhere. Hughes at ‘The K’ could be interesting. He is at least someone to look into.

BASEBALL: World Baseball Classic-Korea vs Venezuela

Suk-Min Yoon 

I mentioned earlier that mlbtraderumors.com predicted the Royals would sign Josh Johnson, and they also predicted Kansas City would sign Yoon. Yoon has been in the Korea Baseball Organization and is looking to make the jump to MLB. This seems like a weird choice, since Yoon had a rough 2013, as his velocity was down after competing in the World Baseball Classic. Yoon looks to be a back of the rotation arm, but with the decreased velocity might end up in a bullpen somewhere. As we are all aware, the Royals have bullpen arms. They don’t need another. Especially one who’s agent is Scott Boras, which means you will probably overpay for them. Just say no, Dayton. Step away.

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That’s just a look at some options the Royals will have this winter on the free agent pitching market. For all we know, Moore will make a trade and acquire a pitcher that way(for say, Billy Butler?) but if not there are some decent arms on the market. I could mention a few more that interest me(Burnett? Only wants to go back to Pittsburgh. Johan Santana? questions on if he can come back from injury) but these are some good choices. Either way, the Royals need a starter or two for next year if they want to compete. The team was lucky in 2013, as no major injury hit their way, so the chances of that happening two years in a row is slim. For all we know, a guy like Duffy, Paulino or Yordano Ventura will take up a slot and fill a void. Even if that happens, standing pat isn’t an option. Last year Dayton brought in two big starters. Competing means you have to go all in, and the window isn’t open for long. Let’s just hope the Royals are at least smart about this, rather than treat it like Monopoly money.

Wednesday Notes-11/07/12

It’s been a pretty slow past week in baseball, as teams get prepared for the Hot Stove season to begin. So to tide you over until the real action begins(the wheeling and dealing. Not counting Dayton Moore, who always shows up early to the party), here are a look at some players who are on the market and won’t be signed by the Royals(I think;get back with me in 2 months).

Milwaukee bound?

Maybe the biggest free agent out there this winter is Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. Hamilton is a one of a kind talent that can carry a team on his back and take them to the promised land. The problem is he also comes with a cargo plane full of baggage. Everyone knows of his drug and alcohol past and how it cost him a number of years on his baseball career. He’s had a few relapses over the past couple years, so his past looks to continue to haunt him. Add in his lackluster play late in the season, which at times seemed almost lethargic, and his age(31) and you can see a few of the obstacles any team has if they are interested in bringing Hamilton into the fold. Supposedly Josh is looking for a seven year deal, which seems like a lot considering age, a long injury history and the aforementioned baggage. Milwaukee has been the team mentioned the most in the Hamilton sweepstakes and there is a link there, as the Brewers hitting coach, Johnny Narron, is Hamilton’s former “accountability coach”. It’s easy to see how they might target Hamilton, as Narron gives him a comforting spot. The Rangers have acted very lackluster on their interest in bringing Hamilton back, while the Giants have been mentioned as a “dark horse” candidate. Hell, one GM mentioned they thought Kansas City  could be in the hunt. I got a good laugh out of that. Hamilton is at a crossroads in his career and needs to prove to people he wants to play. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with a 4 or 5 year deal for over $20 million a year.

Untapped potential?

Speaking of available outfielders, BJ Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays is an interesting subject this offseason. Upton is only 28 and a former number one draft pick of the Rays. For years, people in the game keep expecting Upton to show his true potential, as it seems he has all the tools needed to be a top notch player. Unfortunately, he has only shown flashes of this talent, which has got to be frustrating for Tampa Bay management. It’s a pretty sure bet he will be leaving Florida, but to be honest I don’t understand why team’s are so high on him. Okay, I get WHY they are high on him. Scouts still think he will tap into his capabilities and be an All Star. The thing is, the numbers say otherwise. Since 2008, he has hit for more power, but his OBP has nosedived. To make a long story short, he is hitting for more power, but not getting on base as much, which is an important part of the game. In my eyes, Upton is what he is; a guy with pop in his bat, above average defensively, with a lack of plate discipline. Some team will overpay for Upton, and will be hopeful he will figure it out. But I wouldn’t put my money on that happening.

Maybe he should build a webpage with pictures of puppies, you know, to show his softer side.

Oh, Melky. The story has been told again and again, so we won’t get into his fall from grace this season. Instead, lets focus on what could happen with Cabrera. I’m pretty sure some team will sign him, but instead of a multi-year deal for over $10 million a year, Cabrera will probably get stuck with a one year deal for possibly as low as $2 million. Basically, Cabrera has a lot of goodwill to rebuild. Teams have to be concerned about a few things with Melky. For one, we don’t know how much of his success the past two years was hard work and how much was added substances. He will have to prove that the Melky we saw the first half of 2012 was for real. The other issue is the website problem that popped up after his positive test this summer. If it looks like Cabrera might have a court date in his near future, it will be less likely a team will want to take a flyer on him.  There is also the issue of his clubhouse presence. He has never been a favorite in the locker room over the years, but seemed to change the last two years. But when his positive test came out, he bolted the Giants clubhouse, which did not sit well with his teammates. Most felt he should have apologized to them in person instead of bolting. If a team can get around all of these obstacles, then Melky could be worth their time. A team like Seattle seems like a good landing spot for the Melkman, but only time will tell.

Dodging a bullet.

Last Friday, the Angels cut pitcher Dan Haren free, as a proposed deal with the Cubs fell apart at the last minute. Haren was actually a target of the Royals at one point before deciding on his teammate, Ervin Santana. To say I was relieved that Kansas City didn’t get Haren would be an understatement. Look, at one point Haren was an elite starter, probably one of the top ten in the game. I would even say if the trade was offered back before 2011, I’d be excited about acquiring Haren. Unfortunately, Haren struggled throughout 2012, and watching a couple of his starts, it seemed apparent that he was not healthy. Haren has had back issues in the past, which is a giant red flag for any team thinking of picking him up. Back issues are notorious for lingering, and could bother a starting pitcher for years. If you throw in all the innings Haren has thrown over the years, and it is very possible that he is on the downside of his career. Sure, Haren could go out there and prove everything I just said wrong. Or his back issues could linger throughout the rest of his career. When it is all said and done, signing Haren would be a gamble for any team taking a chance on him and even a bigger gamble for a team like the Royals. I will breathe easier knowing the Royals aren’t thinking about bringing Haren into the fold.

It will be weird if Soria is not wearing Royal blue come February.

Last week, the Kansas City Royals cut loose longtime closer Joakim Soria. This wasn’t really big news for us Royals fans, as we all knew the team wasn’t going to pay him the rate he was at, not after going through his second Tommy John surgery. Both sides have said they would like for Soria to come back and be a part of the Royals in 2013, but word came out this week that a number of teams are in the hunt for him as well. As a Royals fan, it would be great to have Soria back, as it only seems appropriate for him to only play for one team in his career. But I am also realistic and understand the Royals don’t NEED Soria. Greg Holland is the closer and proved that he deserves that job. Add in the plethora of young arms in Kansas City’s bullpen and you can see how the Royals could afford to lose Soria. I know I will be upset if Soria signs elsewhere, but I get it. No way should the Royals overspend on a guy who will be a setup guy at best. The Royals need to make their decision more with their head than their heart on this one.

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