Baseball never stops. Well, the games stop. But the business… The business of baseball never stops.
That’s why, just a couple of days removed from a gathering of 800,000 of your closest friends, the Royals brain trust reassembled and began making the necessary adjustments to the roster for the 2016 season.
The Royals declined their portion of the mutual option for Jeremy Guthrie.
When Guthrie signed as a free agent following his brief tour with the Royals in 2012, it was for a straight three-year contract for $25 million. A year later, the Royals asked him to restructure, taking $3 million off his 2014 salary and placing it into a buyout on a mutual option valued at $3.2 million. It’s basically money that was deferred with a little interest tacked on as a thank you.
And thank you, JGuts. You were an asset to this community and an all-around stand-up guy. Every team needs someone like this – a guy you feel good rooting for. Sadly, the contract was a massive overshot by Moore and his staff. Guthrie clears over $25 million and finishes his Royals career 4.38 ERA with a 4.70 FIP and an ERA- of 93. Those are massively substandard numbers for a guy with that kind of contract. According to Fangraphs, he was worth 0.6 fWAR during the life of his contract, providing the Royals with roughly $5 million in value.
Coming off his age 36 season, it’s difficult to imagine Guthrie getting a major league deal this winter. I think it would be outstanding if the Royals find a place for him in their front office. That’s the kind of deal that would be worth it, just to keep him in the community.
The Royals declined their portion of the mutual option for Alex Rios.
As if there was ever a question. Rios was hurt early, struggled upon his return, got chicken pox, played himself (probably) onto the postseason roster with a solid September, and had a fine October. He had some big hits in the ALDS and the ALCS, which ensures he will be Forever Royal.
The Royals acquired him to be a solid, if unspectacular bat, and for a solid, if unspectacular glove in right. What they got was more underwhelming than anything. Since 2013, his production has declined sharply at the plate. His wRC+ numbers from 2012 onward – 126, 105, 91, to 72 with the Royals – tell you everything you need to know about the bat. Forgetting how many outs there were in a World Series game tells you everything you need to know about his concentration.
Alex Gordon declined his player option and will become a free agent.
Oh, the angst. This is the big one. I know, I know… Gordon has said he would love to stay. He even hinted that he would consider picking up the player option for $14 million for 2016. But come on. That was never, ever going to happen. Gordon has become too good a ballplayer for such foolishness. Put yourself in his shoes. You’re among the best in your profession. You have an opportunity to start a bidding war for your services. Yet, you do like your current job. Of course you are going to shop around. You owe it to yourself to find out exactly how much you are worth in the open market.
Besides, there is the small matter of the qualifying offer, which the Royals announced they would exercise for Gordon. Not that he’s going to take the QO (nobody ever does) but that offer is $1.8 million more than his player option. Even if Gordon was planning to stay, the smart thing to do would be to decline the player option and get yourself a little raise. Baseball economics are funny.
Will Gordon return to Kansas City. My Magic Eight Ball says, “Ask me again.” I think Gordon is in line for a four year, $70 million deal. The Royals have never given a free agent more than $55 million. His production has been rocksteady the last couple of years, so there’s no reason to think he’s about to fall into a rapid decline due to age. But I have some serious questions about his health. He’s had a wrist injury and of course the groin injury from last summer. He’s the kind of guy who takes brilliant care of his body, yet the way he plays is enough to make me worry about future injury.
The Royals certainly want to keep him. Can you imagine the backlash if he signs somewhere else? Never mind. It’s too painful to consider. Yet the Royals can’t blow up their economics just to keep one guy in the fold. You’re going to be paying him for the beginning of the decline phase of his career. How steep a decline is dependent upon his health. And that’s a gamble.
I think the Royals will do everything in their power to keep him. That could mean, a creatively structured contract that pays him beyond the normal life of his time on the field. I hope the two parties can work something out that is mutually beneficial to both.
The Royals exercised their option on Wade Davis.
Do you want to know why the Wade Davis Trade was do great? Because the key to the trade came with three club options. So if the Royals hadn’t put Davis in the bullpen, so if he had been awful as a starter, at some point, they could have just walked away. Instead, they have the best reliever in the game on an extremely club-friendly contract. I mean, damn.
Davis will make $8 million next year and the team holds another option for 2017 at $10 million.
The Royals exercised their option on Alcides Escobar.
As crazy as the Sal Perez contract is, consider Escobar. At six years of service time, he would have been a free agent. Instead, the Royals pulled the trigger on an option that will pay him $5.25 million in 2016. Oh, they also hold the option for ’17 at $6.5 million. Oh, they also paid him a grand total of $9 million to cover his three years where he was eligible for arbitration. Just over $20 million for five years of #PeakEsky? Sign me up.
Watch this space for future angst over Escobar leading off next summer. But scoreboard! Right?