Thursday, September 22, 2005

Looking Ahead: Offseason

In the Kansas City Star today, Glass said the Royals' payroll will be "$50 million-plus". To get to $50 million, the Royals will have to spend $25 to 30 million this offseason. Giving Baird that much money to spend this offseason seems like a great way to ensure the Royals won't compete anytime soon. But, perhaps with some extra money to spend, Baird can set his eyes on better players, instead of settling for Limas. I suppose that's the best we can hope for, because Glass also reiterated that Baird will return next year.

The Royals' financial situation is in pretty good shape, with just Hernandez, Brown, and Affeldt arbitration eligible for next year. So, the Royals' base payroll will be around $20 to 25 million. If Mike Sweeney gets traded, that could free up an addition $11 million. What will the Royals do with all this money?

Starting rotation: The first and most obvious need is the starting rotation. The Royals' starters have the worst ERA in baseball, 2 full points below the Twins, Indians, and White Sox. The Royals have some serious work to do. If the Royals aren't going to develop their own starting pitching, they are going to pay a hefty price. AJ Burnett, the only true ace available, will likely command a 4 or 5 year deal worth $12+ million per year. The next tier of No. 2/3 starters includes Matt Morris, Jeff Weaver, Kevin Millwood, and Jarrod Washburn. This group, filled with Boras clients, will likely command 3+ years at $7-10 million each. The Royals, if they can somehow convince one of these pitchers to come to Kansas City, could certainly improve their rotation. However, none of these guys are great starters. That's a big financial commitment, but I don't think the Royals have any other choice.

The second-tier is probably more realistic. This tier includes Paul Byrd, Kenny Rogers, Estaben Loaiza, and Jason Johnson. These starters will probably commmand a two-year deal worth $4-6 million per year. If the Royals could land one of the top tier starters and a pitcher from the second-tier, that should improve the rotation substantially. If Greinke pitches like he has in September and Hernandez's command improves, the Royals could have an average rotation next year.

Position Players: The Royals' second most important need is probably an offensive upgrade somewhere. With the exception of CF and 1B, the Royals could use an upgrade offensively at just about any position. Most likely, this upgrade will occur at a corner outfield spot or a middle infield spot. The Royals have expressed an interest in acquiring and an outfielder and a second basemen and would have the financial resources to do so.

The free agent outfield crop isn't particularly exciting. Johnny Damon, Brian Giles, Sammy Sosa, Jacque Jones, Matt Lawton, as well as many other older, not particularly good outfielders. With Butler, Maier, Lubanski, Costa, and Ambres almost ready to challenge for big league jobs, giving any of these free agents more than a one-year deal would seem unwise.

The second base free agents aren't very exciting either. But, the Royals could find a solid veteran to allow Murphy, Gotay, and Blanco to develop instead of being badly overmatched. Tony Graffanino or Mark Grudzielanek would be good candidates.

Relievers:The Royals could probably use a veteran reliever to help anchor a young bullpen.


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