Spend It or Save It?
The Royals have $25 million to spend this offseason. I will be very surprised if the Royals' payroll is $50 million next year. More likely, it will be something close to last year's payroll at $35-40 million. Overall, this is a very poor free agent market (especially when you consider that Tony Graffanino is a Type "A" free agent and is seeking a 3-year contract).
Esteban Loaiza is off the free agent market, signing a 3-year, $21 million deal with the A's. That leaves Matt Morris, Paul Byrd, and Kenny Rogers as the possible targets for the Royals. Of those three, I'd prefer Morris or Rogers. Rogers has been solid over the past 4 seasons. He had a 3.46 ERA last year in a hitter's park behind a terrible defense up the middle. Rogers might not be the best clubhouse guy, but he can still pitch. As noted in the previous post, there are some trends that indicate that Morris is on the decline. He'd also have to adjust to a new league. But, he's still a pretty good pitcher. All of these pitchers have significant risks, and probably aren't worth a 3-year deal at $21 million. But, that might be what it takes to get them to come to Kansas City.
The Royals best bet might be to offer Byrd and Rogers very generous 1-year deals or 2-year deals. The Royals have good flexibility in the short-term and next year's free agent market is much better. Here's a list of starters who will be free agents next year from Rotoworld:
"Barry Zito (Athletics), Mark Buehrle (White Sox)*, Mark Mulder (Cardinals), Jason Schmidt (Giants), John Smoltz (Braves)*, Jon Garland (White Sox), Mike Mussina (Yankees)*, Kerry Wood (Cubs)*, Andy Pettitte (Astros), Adam Eaton (Padres), Kelvim Escobar (Angels), Jason Marquis (Cardinals), Brad Radke (Twins), Kip Wells (Pirates), Greg Maddux (Cubs), Tom Glavine (Mets), John Thomson (Braves), Ted Lilly (Blue Jays), Jeff Suppan (Cardinals), Randy Wolf (Phillies), Wade Miller (Red Sox), Vicente Padilla (Phillies), Tim Wakefield (Red Sox)*, Steve Trachsel (Mets), Cory Lidle (Phillies), Jaret Wright (Yankees)*, Gil Meche (Mariners), Mark Redman (Pirates), Orlando Hernandez (White Sox), David Wells (Red Sox), Woody Williams (Padres), Bruce Chen (Orioles), Paul Wilson (Reds)*, Chan Ho Park (Padres)"
Wood, Mussina and Wright are good bets to be free agents. Overall, that market has enough good starters to make the market reasonable and give the Royals a much better chance at signing a couple of good starters. Signing Byrd, Morris, or Rogers to a two-year deal with money (with money loaded on the first-year) would give the Royals the ability to sign a solid starters or two next year.
So, let's say the Royals sign Kenny Rogers to a 1-year, $6 million deal and Dessens to a 2-year, $4 million deal. That still leaves $17 million to spend. I've been contemplating one idea for a while:
Sign two corner outfielders: Reggie Sanders and Jeromy Burnitz. Sign Sanders to a two-year deal and Burnitz to a one-year deal. Both hit 20+ HRs last year and are solid defenders. Sanders adds some speed to the team (14 stolen bases in 15 attempts). With Sanders in left and Burnitz in right, the Royals' outfield defense would be much improved. The added offense would make having Andres Blanco at second or shortstop a tolerable solution (since it's what the Royals have their heart set on now). With Berroa at second and Blanco at short, the Royals' infield defense would be a lot better. With Blanco at 2nd and Berroa at short, the Royals' infield defense might be slightly improved. This also allows Butler, Lubanski and Gordon develop as outfielders until 2007, when they'll be ready.
These offseason is crucial for the Royals. Doing nothing to improve the team could lead to another 100-loss season and really hurt the Royals' fan base. The Royals, at the very least, must succeed in making this team respectable and show that the organization is heading in the right direction. A lineup with Sweeney, Sanders, Burnitz, Brown/Stairs, and DeJesus, with a few ABs from Huber, Gordon, and Butler, would be an improved offense. The improvements to the defense would help the pitching out.