So This is What the Window Looks Like? A Look at the 2015 Kansas City Royals

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Photo: David Eulitt/Getty Images

Photo: David Eulitt/Getty Images

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Next man up. You hear that term more often referred to in the injury prone NFL universe, but it will soon be the mantra by which the Kansas City Royals have to live by if they want to tread water, let alone become and remain relevant near the top of the standings.

 

 

This was originally supposed to be a “How the Royals Can Re-Sign James Shields” piece (which just in good fun, I will still touch upon at the end). However, after just the preliminary research, it became painfully clear that 2014 was the window for this particular crop of boys in blue. 2015 will be the true “next man up” testament as to how far the organization has come as a whole in the Dayton Moore era.

Thirteen current Kansas City Royals will be eligible for arbitration in 2015. Thirteen. Over half the roster. The total salary of those 13 players in 2014 is $16,810,750, the largest chunks going to Holland ($4,675,000) and Hosmer ($3,600,000).

Of those thirteen, eight are currently making within $300,000 of the major league minimum, meaning they are in line for fairly hefty pay raises. Holland and Hosmer, both on the verge of becoming elite at their positions, should see their salaries jump substantially. The other three big pieces of that pie (Maxwell – $1,325,000, Collins – $1,362,500, Crow – $1,475,000) are performing at a level that would indicate they should receive increases as well. Okay, maybe not Maxwell, but SOMEONE has to play right field for the Royals in 2015. We’ll explore that a little bit later.

Predicting future arbitration numbers is a pretty daunting task, especially for someone like me who has a day job, a life, and no real experience with the ins and outs of the system. Therefore, without a full season’s worth of statistics to analyze, all of my projections have been dumbed down to an “Idiot’s Guide to MLB Arbitration” level. I took the results of the 2013 and 2014 arbitration process and eyeballed each of the 13 Royals into those numbers. I compared based upon what other similar players received (everyday vs bench players and WAR mostly, with a slant towards offensive numbers). Admittedly, this exercise is very rudimentary and far from scientifically perfect, but it gives us at least a ballpark idea of what we’re looking at.

Here is the breakdown:

pos player 2015 Salary Projection type
c perez, salvador $1,750,000 contract
1b hosmer, eric $7,000,000 2-arbitration
2b infante, omar $7,500,000 contract
ss escobar, alcides $3,000,000 contract
3b moustakas, mike $1,200,000 arbitration
lf aoki, norichika no contract in place
cf cain, lorenzo $1,700,000 arbitration
rf gordon, alex $13,250,000 contract
dh butler, billy $12,500,000 club option
bench dyson, jarrod $1,325,000 arbitration
bench valencia, danny $1,200,000 arbitration
bench maxwell, justin $1,325,000 2-arbitration
back up C hayes, brett $1,000,000 2-arbitration
sp1 shields, james no contract
sp2 vargas, jason $8,500,000 contract
sp3 guthrie, jeremy $9,000,000 contract
sp4 ventura, yordano $510,000 not arbitration eligible
sp5 chen, bruce $1,000,000 contract
p coleman, louis $1,200,000 arbitration
p duffy, danny $1,200,000 arbitration
p herrera, kelvin $1,200,000 arbitration
p collins, tim $1,600,000 2-arbitration
p crow, aaron $1,700,000 2-arbitration
p davis, wade $2,500,000 contract
p holland, greg $7,300,000 2-arbitration
Totals
$46,500,000 2015 Players Under Contract
$12,500,000 2015 Billy Butler Option
$28,950,000 2015 Expected Arbitration
$510,000 2015 Not Yet Arbitration Eligible
$88,460,000 2015 Expected Payroll

As we can see, the Royals are currently on the hook for $46,500,000 worth of payroll for the 2015 season (for 8 players: Perez, Infante, Escobar, Gordon, Vargas, Guthrie, Chen, and Davis). In addition, they have a $12,500,000 club option for Billy Butler. Given his one dimensional skill set and poor performance so far in 2014, I predict there is no way they will pick up that option.

However, let’s initially assume they do. That brings us to 9 players at $59,000,000. If the 13 arbitration players make what I (probably very poorly) predict that they will, it totals to a staggering $28,950,000. Factor in Yordano Ventura’s projected $510,000 (which could very easily end up higher if the Royals feel the need to reward him), this brings our total payroll up to $88,460,000.

That is 88.5 million, and does not include a starting right fielder (Aoki is only under contract through 2014) or the starting pitcher spot currently being held by Shields. Most reports would tell you that Moore had to sell his soul to the Glass family to push the payroll up to 90 million this year. It is very unrealistic it will be allowed to stay that high, especially if the team fails to make the playoffs.

So what does this mean exactly? It means Billy Butler’s tenure as a Royal ends this year. Billy will turn 29 during spring training next year. He may only have one skill, but when he is right, that is a powerful and desired tool. Someone will pay him 10-12 million per year this off-season. It will not be the Royals.

Ned Yost, Billy Butler, Jordan Baker

It means the end for Hayes, Valencia, Maxwell, and Dyson as well. All will be arbitration eligible and predict to make 1 to 1.5 million. A defensive backup catcher and a utility infielder can be pulled from the minors for the major league minimum. However, as I referenced earlier, there is no starting right fielder under contract for 2015. The Royals may be able to resign Aoki if they want to, probably even in the same neighborhood as they are paying him now (2-3 million per year). I suppose Maxwell or Dyson could get the nod as well, but the organization doesn’t see either as an everyday player. I envision all 3 in different uniforms come spring training next year.

It means at least one more year of the Mike Moustakas experiment. Yes, he has been a bust by all indications other than defense. Yes, he is a constant reminder of our inability to develop anything in the minors other than relief pitching. Yes, everyone (especially Danny Clinkscale) is ready to run him out of town.

But because he has been so bad, he will be cheap. He is arbitration eligible for the first time and given his performance and the position he plays, I’m predicting somewhere between 1 and 1.5 million. That is very cost effective for a “starting” third baseman. Get used to it, Kansas City. Moose may end seeing Triple A for a bit this year, but he isn’t going anywhere in the long run.

It means Guthrie, Vargas, Gordon, or Infante could get moved this offseason (though I seriously doubt more than one of these players is traded). These 4 players add up to almost 40 million in payroll, or almost half of what the Glass family is truly comfortable with. Conventional wisdom tells us that is too much for 4 players, none of which are “stars”.

It means we will have a pretty massive bullpen overhaul. These 7 players are projected to total $17,000,000 in payroll in 2015. Again, there is no way that can happen.

Do we trade Holland or Davis? Do we give up on control issue prone Herrera? Do we slide Duffy into one of the starting spots? Is Chen a starter or a 1 million per year long reliever? There are several options worth considering here, but the overall point remains the same. It will not be the same dominant bullpen we have enjoyed for the past 2+ seasons.

I will stop just short of saying the team is in line to be blown up this offseason. However, all of these factors combined mean that it is truly time for the “next man up”. If Ventura takes over the “ace” position of the rotation, we need a 4th and 5th starter that can give our team a chance to win every day. We need someone to DH. We need someone to play right field. We need reliable bench players that can spell our regulars when a day off or trips to the DL arise. We need reliable young arms out of the pen to lock down the mid innings.

Most importantly, given our current payroll situation, we need all these players to make at or around the league minimum. Consider this an official notice to Kyle Zimmer, Sugar Ray Marimon, Paulo Orlando, Brett Eibner, Johnny Giovatella, Jorge Bonafacio, Brian Fletcher, Matt Fields, an endless slew of relief pitchers, and many other prospects in the Royals system that Spring Training 2015 is going to be open season for major league roster spots.

james-shields

And oh yeah, just for “fun” I said I would try to offer a solution on how to free up the money to resign James Shields. Given the recent contracts signed by free agent starting pitchers and their relative ages, I would guess Shields is going to sign in the neighborhood of 20 million dollars per year. If the Royals need to end up in that 75-80 million dollar range I think is most preferred by the Glass family, this means the 2015 Opening Day roster would probably have to look something like this:

C – Perez
1B – Hosmer
2B – Infante
SS – Escobar
3B – Moustakas
LF – Major League Minimum Player
CF – Cain
RF – Major League Minimum Player
DH – Major League Minimum Player
Bench – Major League Minimum Player
Bench – Major League Minimum Player
Bench – Major League Minimum Player
Bench – Major League Minimum Player

SP 1 – Shields
SP 2 – Ventura
SP 3 – Vargas
SP 4 – Guthrie
SP 5 – Duffy
RP 1 – Chen
RP 2 – Major League Minimum Player
RP 3 – Major League Minimum Player
RP 4 – Major League Minimum Player
RP 5 – Major League Minimum Player
RP 6 – Major League Minimum Player
Closer – Holland

Expected Payroll – $76,000,000

You could keep Gordon in left and trade Guthrie instead, but that would push the overall payroll up to almost $80,000,000.

And keep in mind the cost of these players goes up more and more each year as their arbitration years and contracts advance.

I give this scenario a less than 1% chance of happening. The Royals cannot field a team so unproven behind their handful of core starters and Shields would have absolutely no interest pitching for this potential 100 loss team. Enjoy James Shields as he comes through Kaufmann stadium next year in an opposing team’s uniform.

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Author: Zach Hodson

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5 Comments

  1. lukegoosen

    I wonder what revenues this year will end up being if the Royals are actually in the picture most of the year, could be a way to keep payroll at more the current level…but that may be wishful thinking on many many counts

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  2. Well that was depressing!
    Great article, very informative, but depressing!

    Post a Reply
    • lukegoosen

      Your a Royals fan Robert…its all depressing

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  3. i se this beeing much more the scenerio…

    LF Gordon
    CF Dyson
    RF Cain
    1ST Hosmer
    2nd Infante/Colon
    SS Escobar
    3RD Moose
    C Perez
    DH TBD

    Bench TBD
    Bench TBD
    Bench TBD
    Bench TBD

    SP1 Vargas
    SP2 Ventura
    SP3 Duffy
    SP4 Hochavar/Davis/TBD
    SP5 TPD
    RP1 Crow
    RP2 Hererra
    RP3 Beuno/TBD
    RP4 Coleman/ TBD
    RP5 Collins/TBD
    RP6 TBD
    Cl Holland

    this puts them around 60-66 Mil. (depending if they keep or trade infante) that would mean not picking up option on BB, Chen, Downs, and they trade guthrie.

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  4. Players to trade while they still have some value. Moose because he shows no signs of being anything other than a good defensive infielder. Hosmer a first baseman that hits 53% ground balls is of no use. Dyson will be 31 and speed players deteriorate very quickly. Butler has no trade value Mr. Moore could trade him Kendry Morales one for one.

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