A.J. Burnett wants to play for a contender and, for the first time since I had hair, that does not eliminate the Kansas City Royals from consideration.

Now, I don’t have any inclination positive or negative that the Royals should actually pursue Burnett, it’s just nice to not be automatically out of the running.  This is going to be a different kind of winter than we are used to.

Many of the options and perceived targets have been discussed here, there and everywhere, but I’ll throw my two cents in for some Friday distraction.  You didn’t really want to work today anyway, did you?

A qualifying offer was made to James Shields and lip service given to trying to resign him: standard baseball stuff.  The Royals want the draft pick that comes with Shields signing somewhere else and probably are not and definitely should not be serious about throwing five or six years at over $100 million at Shields.  That’s not a knock on Shields, a great guy and excellent pitcher.  It’s just common sense.

Turning thirty-three and coming off EIGHT straight seasons of over 200 innings, you have to wonder just how much James has left.  If the baseball world was turned upside down and you could get Shields for two years, that would make sense.  That ain’t happening.  How comfortable are you about a five or six year deal for Shields and the type of pitcher he might be in years four, five and six of that deal?  Pull up Roy Halladay’s page on Baseball Reference and then answer the question.

Hometown discount?  You want to know the one thing that would make me NOT like James Shields?  Giving a hometown discount, that’s what.

Sure, Shields has made $40 million playing baseball thus far and people will say ‘how much money do you need?’.  Why not sign for $85 million to play for the Royals as opposed to $125 million with the Yankees?  What’s $40 million when you already have that much?  Well, it’s forty freaking more million dollars!  It’s the difference between every kid in your extended family getting to go to the college of their choice and every grandchild of every kid in your extended family picking the college of his or her choice.

Not feeling giving?  It’s the difference between decadence and crazy, stupid, fun decadence.  Forty extra million allows you to routinely use the phrase “Call the jet, will ya?”  Don’t underestimate the ability to say that ten times a month and never once worry about the cost of fuel.

James Shields does not strike me as an idiot.  He won’t and should not take a hometown discount.  Besides, you really should not want him to, either.

Okay, Billy Butler is a free agent as well.  His option was in an amount that did not make any sense.  The Butler we knew from 2009 through 2012 is not the Butler we see now.  There are a number of minor annoyances that the organization has with him, not the least of which is that he can only play first base and only do that marginally.  On a team known for its athleticism, Butler sticks out like a sore thumb.  Maybe he comes back on a sweetheart deal and tries to rebuild his value as a hitter – there’s still time for Billy to get one more big contract – but I don’t think that is Plan A or B in Dayton Moore’s notebook.  The Royals want flexibility and like the current hip and happening ‘rotating DH’ idea.

That leads us to the outfield, where all indications are that Nori Aoki is not coming back.  Aoki ended up being the exact player the Royals thought they were getting and he has value, but he is also replaceable as well.   Especially if the Royals actually allow themselves to commit to playing Jarrod Dyson any time a right handed pitcher starts a game.

I have come around on Dyson as he defense has become more than a fast guy who can outrun mistakes to an outfielder who is simply excellent.  He is not a better centerfielder than Lorenzo Cain, but Cain is almost certainly a better rightfielder than Dyson, so if the Royals want to continue that little dance, so be it.  Pair Dyson with a right hand hitting (preferably power hitting) guy who can mash lefties makes good sense and, quite frankly, won’t cost tons of money, either.

In a perfect world, the Royals sign a player who not only platoons with Dyson in the outfield, but who can also handle right handed pitching well enough to be the designated hitter when Dyson is playing.  On days when a southpaw starts, the Royals could rotate their regulars into the DH spot.  Of course, the more said player (Michael Cuddyer for example) can do that, the more he costs.

How about Alex Rios on a one year deal to rebuild his value?   Motivated to get that one last big contract, could we get the ‘good and interest Rios’ instead of the lollygagging guy that played for the Rangers this past season?  LOLLYGAGGERS!!!!

In the end, this off-season comes down to the obvious:

  • A starting pitcher – go big for a front of the rotation kind of guy or put your faith in Ventura/Duffy and add another Vargas/Guthrie type to the back end?
  • Rightfield/DH – one player or two?  Big money or on the cheap?  Established or the next Melky Cabrera?
  • HDH – should they stay or should they go now?

It’s fun to be thinking about getting BACK to the World Series.  It’s intriguing to think about building from 89 wins instead of 73. If Dayton Moore thought the off-season was nerve wracking trying to build The Process, he has not seen anything yet.