While we wait for the Royals to make the Ian Kennedy signing official (Is it a front-loaded contract? Back-loaded? Or was Dayton Moore just plain loaded?) it seems things have settled back into the mid-winter slumber.
The Kennedy numbers are important, not only to see how the salary picture looks for Opening Day this year, but how the money is spread will affect the opt out clause, I would imagine. If the Royals are pushing a bunch of the salary to the back half of the five years, it makes it less likely Kennedy would return to the open market after the 2017 season. If there is more cash up front, then it feels more plausible he would grab the cash and look to improve his station for 2018 and beyond. Still, there are plenty of variables in place so speculation at this point is kind of silly. But, it’s January. What else is there to do?
— If you’re the Tigers, you look to keep pace with the Royals.
How fun is that? Detroit, watching their hegemony in the AL Central disintegrate, signed Justin Upton to a six year deal with an average annual value around $21 million. Big money that comes with the now obligatory opt out after the second season.
The Tigers have made some moves to compensate with the loss of David Price and Yoenes Cespedes, but the core bats are still aging and now this lineup skews heavy to the right. There’s still plenty of off season left, but it feels to me like the Tigers won’t fade like 2015. Plus, now that Cespedes is the lone impact outfielder available, it will be interesting to see if the Chicago White Sox join the party. He seems like a natural fit on the South Side. The AL Central is shaping up to be tough.
— The Royals released their schedule with game times, so if you want to start planning a random August weekend, now is the time.
It looks like they’re following the Cleveland experiment and starting weekday games in April and September at 6:15. Insert your own attendance smack here. I suppose that makes some sense in Kansas City. Demand for tickets will be high and this gives those young minds an opportunity to go to The K, see the game, and not miss their bedtimes. Whatever helps the future generations. Then, you have weekday games starting at 7:15, which is later than usual. Otherwise, it’s your garden variety baseball schedule. Although there is a World Series champion trophy present.
— Missed the hullabaloo of the Kennedy deal was the Royals agreeing to a two year contract with Lorenzo Cain, buying out his final two seasons of arbitration eligibility. He will earn $6.5 million this season and $11 million in 2017.
I love LoCain, but this is a bit of a head scratcher to me. I’m not sure the benefit of locking him in for his final year of arbitration is at this point. If he had another stellar season where he finished in the top three of the MVP vote, how much more than the $11 million the Royals are now committed to paying would he have earned? It feels like picking at nits, but it just kind of seems like a gamble on the part of the Royals in an effort to gain some cost certainty.
Having said that, I went searching for comps for what Cain could earn in arbitration as a third-time eligible players. This year, MLB Trade Rumors estimated Mark Trumbo, who has just over five years service time (an amount similar to where Cain would be at this point next year) would make a shade over $9 million. Seattle traded Trumbo to Baltimore and settled on a deal that will pay him $9.15 million. Before you start hammering the comment button, I’m not comparing Cain to Trumbo. I’m comparing their situations. Clearly, Cain is a better player, so maybe that $11 million they are going to pay him in 2017 is a bargain. We’re only guessing at this point. You could justify either outcome.
— Word ahead of the Cain deal was his camp was looking for a six year deal from the Royals, effectively buying out his final two years of arbitration, along with four years of free agency. That would take Cain through his age 35 season. I can’t fault Cain for wanting to maximize his earnings at this point in his career. It sure feels like he will have the opportunity for one large payday, a la Alex Gordon. While Cain has defied the aging curve to this point, it doesn’t make a lot of fiscal sense for the Royals to tie up so much money on two-thirds of their outfield when those players will be approaching their mid-30s.