This is not your time of year if you deal strictly in black and white, hard facts and pure fiction and generally have somehow managed to wander through the world dealing only in absolutes. Good for you if you have, I guess, maybe.
This is speculation and here say and conjecture and flat out random guessing season. I love it, frankly, because the discussions (sans those that are just offended by the whole idea of anything not 100% factual – yes, I have an ax today) are both interesting and entertaining.
Ryan Howard to the Royals? Really? Listen, I think it is highly likely that the Royals did ‘internally discuss’ the fading Phillie’s slugger. I think it is highly likely they have also discussed, Torii Hunter, Jon Lester, Evan Gattis, net-neutrality, Obamacare, ebola, the latest episode of ‘How To Get Away With Murder’, several Koreans, a Cuban, the weather and Oxford commas. Did I use one? I don’t care and I don’t know why anyone does.
Ryan Howard is not the guy we all wanted on our fantasy teams five years ago. He’s not even Billy Butler (the 2014 Billy mind you, not the 2011 guy that was so good). He has no positional flexibility, which is something the Royals seemingly crave this off-season. Discussed? Probably, in a ‘hey did you see that rumor that we are supposedly looking at Ryan Howard?’ way.
More likely real discussions, but only slightly better than actually discussion Howard, have probably centered around Torii Hunter. We all know Dayton Moore’s desire to have good clubhouse leaders and no doubt he sees a void with the departure of James Shields, but one would like to think a good leader is only worth it when, you know, they are still valuable on-field contributors as well.
Hunter, who put up 17.5 fWAR with the Angels – who outbid the Royals and others back then – was worth just 0.3 fWAR last season for Detroit. Don’t like the fancy new-fangled numbers? How about a .319 on-base percentage, which was his lowest since 2003. His defense, both sabremetrically and via the vaunted eye-test, has at worst declined and might have gone directly into the dumpster out back. It would have been fun to have Torii Hunter back in 2008, not so much in 2015.
The interest in Hunter, other than the good clubhouse guy thing which I put some but not a ton of stock in, is his affordability. At thirty-nine, he likely won’t demand nor get more than a two year deal. A more interesting target like Melky Cabrera is likely set to get more years and more dollars. Michael Cuddyer just got $21 million for two seasons with the Mets. Hunter will be cheaper, Cabrera longer and more expensive.
To be honest, I’m not sure I’m on board with any of those options. Of course, I have an off fascination with Alex Rios, so take what I say with a grain of salt.
The other big ‘conversation’ centered around Ervin Santana. I like Santana, if only because I thought he would have a bounce back year for the Royals in 2013 and he did, feeding my need for validation. He followed up his 2013 with a very similar 2014. His strikeout rate was much higher for the Braves in 2014, but he had some bad BABIP luck. In the end, Santana was worth 2.8 fWAR in 31 starts for Atlanta last year and 2.9 fWAR in 32 starts for Kansas City in 2013.
Turning thirty-two shortly, Santana will not get Shields money, but he will get multiple years. If I’m a 32 year old starting pitcher who has pitched for three teams in three years, I would give up a little per annum for a contract that spanned past the following Christmas. Would he fit with the Royals on a three year deal? Do we want him to fit with the Royals?
Quite obviously, Kansas City needs to add an arm to the rotation. Even if you believe in Ventura and Duffy, you almost have to accept some regression from the combination of Vargas and Guthrie. Those four combined for 9.2 fWAR in 2014 (Shields was worth 3.7, by the way) and those four combining for a tremendous amount more than that number in 2015 is probably not a logical expectation.
With Kyle Zimmer nowhere close, Brandon Finnegan and all 30 innings of professional pitching experience the next best option and then, well, then who? The Royals need another starter first and foremost. Rushing to sign Torii Hunter because he’s a great guy and then being hamstrung when it came to adding a quality arm to the rotation would be a horrible mistake. Particularly when you could find a platoon partner for Jarrod Dyson and be just as good in the outfield in 2015.
Of course, all of that discussion might just be speculation.