With the Mike Moustakas contract settled at the end of last week, the final tumbler in the Royals payroll is in place. Before we get to the big picture, let’s look at the Moustakas contract.
As I wrote on Wednesday, the gap between player and club, while wide, wasn’t an enormous divide. Percentage-wise, it was the same that separated the two sides last winter, although with smaller raw numbers. Given that Dayton Moore has never gone to a hearing, (did you know that?!?) it wasn’t a surprise in the least the two parties would reach an agreement at exactly the midpoint. It’s a fair number for a player with four years of experience, coming off of what could be a true breakout season.
I overshot my estimate of the second year at $10 million, but in retrospect, it’s easy to understand why that number was a reach. Lorenzo Cain will make $11.5 million in his final year of eligibility, and is a bona fide MVP candidate at a premium defensive position. As nice a year Moustakas had, he’s not in Cain’s talent area code. To have him at $1.5 million less than Cain wasn’t the best guess on my part. I did amend my guess on 810 WHB (the proof is in the podcast) so moral victory for me.
By giving two year deals to Moustakas and Cain, the Royals have given themselves a measure of cost certainty heading forward. It will be an interesting contrast when we arrive at next offseason where only four key Royals will be eligible for arbitration, with all of them in their final year of eligibility. Technically, it’s five players, but the way the Royals go through backup catchers, I would be surprised if Tony Cruz is around at the end of the year. Since the core came of age, the list of arbitration candidates has been massive.
2014 – 12 players eligible for arbitration
2015 – 9
2016 – 8
2017 – 5
This is something you don’t want to hear, but if the Royals stumble in 2016, the cost certainty of most of their core would help facilitate a trade or two, should the Royals decide to move with haste toward a teardown. Now, I’m not saying that I think it’s likely, only that the players under contract for 2017 have a little more added value. Prepare for any eventuality. That’s just good General Managing.
With Moustakas signed, there are just two spots on the 25 man roster that need to be filled. Since those two will be around the major league minimum, we can get a firm idea of where payroll will land as we get closer to Opening Day nirvana.
As usual, some reminders:
— The 2016 total does not include the buyouts from Alex Rios and Jeremy Guthrie. Those are included as reference since I have them listed in columns for players with options beyond 2016. Buyouts happen when the option is not exercised, so they are applied to the year just completed.
— The Jason Vargas insurance money is not figured in this total. Again, that will be paid out at the end of the season to the Royals.
— Louis Coleman was released but had already signed a 2016 contract. Once he cleared waivers and became a free agent, the Royals owed him 30 days (or one-sixth) of his salary for 2016. That money is applied to the current season.
— Last season the Royals renewed a bunch of contracts on March 3. I would expect similar timing this year on Colon and Orlando.
The safe assumption here is the Royals aren’t done with their payroll for 2016. Dillon Gee is on the 40-man roster on a split contract where he will collect $2 million if he’s in the major leagues. It’s also doubtful the Royals will keep three catchers on their 25 man roster. They could trade either Drew Butera or Tony Cruz and remove that money from the books, or eat some cash in the same way they did with Coleman. Another factor is Cruz has options, while Butera does not. Either way, the 25 man roster I have above will most assuredly look different come April.
With the Moustakas contract covered, the heavy lifting is complete, though. Time for spring training.