There have probably not been two trades that were so overwhelmingly greeted with joy by Royals’ fans than the acquisition of Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist, since…well, Joe Foy for Amos Otis? That said, there was still some angst and a decent amount of grumbling about impending doom in the near future. One has to give to get, and the Royals gave up Sean Manaea, Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, Cody Reed and Aaron Brooks. Five guys who were not going to have major – if any – roles with the team in 2015, but for whom there were modest to sky high expectations in the coming years.
What of those coming years, however? While the Cueto and Zobrist trades are an indicator that the Royals are certainly ‘going for it’ for 2015, that does not necessarily mean that Kansas City is ‘going for broke’. It may be very likely that the Royals best chance for a World Series is 2015, but they won’t drop off the face of the earth before next spring. I actually saw a tweet bemoaning that the Royals were going to be ‘just like the Marlins’ and another comment (here, there, somewhere – I get confused) that ‘the Royals better win this year because they’ll be back in the dark ages in coming seasons’. Sometimes, I think people just like to complain….
Anyway, let’s have a look at the future or maybe more appropriately The Window.
Following is a table of the players, by position, that are under team control in one form or another through 2018. Players who have a player option at the end of their contract (Alex Gordon) or those who have a mutual option (Morales, Volquez and a bunch of others) are not shown in the year an option of that type would have an effect. Team options are noted, buyouts of team options are not.
|C||Perez (1.75)||Perez (2.0)||Perez (3.75 team opt)||Perez (5.0 team opt)|
|1B||Hosmer (5.65)||Hosmer (8.25)||Hosmer (Arb)|
|2B||Infante (7.5)||Infante (7.75)||Infante (8.0)||Infante (10.0 team opt)|
|SS||Escobar (3.0)||Escobar (5.25 team opt)||Escobar (6.5 team opt)|
|3B||Moustakas (2.64)||Moustakas (Arb)||Moustakas (Arb)|
|CF||Cain (2.73)||Cain (Arb)||Cain (Arb)|
|DH||Morales (6.5)||Morales (9.0)|
|BENCH||Dyson (1.23)||Dyson (Arb)||Dyson (Arb)|
|BENCH||Butera (0.9)||Butera (Arb)|
|SP||Ventura (0.95)||Ventura (1.2)||Ventura (3.45)||Ventura (6.45)|
|SP||Volquez (7.5)||Volquez (9.5)||Volquez (10.0 team opt)|
|SP||Duffy (2.42)||Duffy (Arb)||Duffy (Arb)|
|SP||Guthrie (9.0)||Guthrie (10.0 team opt)|
|RP||Holland (8.25)||Holland (Arb)|
|RP||Davis (7.0)||Davis (8.0 team opt)||Davis (10.0 team opt)|
|RP||Herrera (1.66)||Herrera (2.55)||Herrera (Arb)||Herrera (Arb)|
|RP||Hochevar (4.0)||Hochevar (5.5)|
|RP||Medlen (2.0)||Medlen (5.5)|
|INJ||Vargas (8.5)||Vargas (8.5)||Vargas (8.0)|
|INJ||Collins (1.48)||Collins (Arb)||Collins (Arb)|
A quick glance shows three big holes on the 2016 roster: the two corner outfield spots and that which will surely be vacated by Johnny Cueto. Now, you would hope that Kris Medlen joins the 2016 starting rotation and Yordano Ventura returns to his rookie form to give the Royals four solid starting pitchers. The fifth spot could be Jeremy Guthrie’s – if one wanted to pay $10 million for what Guthrie gives you.
Here is the first spot where those who cannot stand to lose prospects sound the alarm. The Royals will need another starter and there is no certainty that Chris Young will return. Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb were certainly two names that would have come into play. Sean Manaea, although the start of 2016 might have been a tad optimistic would have gotten mention, too. All three, obviously, are gone, leaving Kyle Zimmer (stop laughing) and Miguel Almonte as the in-house possibilities. Sure, five names – especially minor league pitching names – is better than two, but it is not a bad two names, either. Not to mention that it is nice to type Cueto and Zobrist into the 2015 roster.
Speaking of Zobrist, he is up there around the other two gaps in the 2016 roster. It would be fun to have the Royals ink a healthy Alex Gordon to a new contract (or have Gordon do them a favor and pick up his $12.5 million player option) AND get Zobrist to sign a decent value two year deal to come back. Hey, it’s easy! Corner outfield spots solved! Of course, we know that scenario is highly unlikely, but nothing that Dayton Moore did in July had or will have any effect on that situation.
The Royals, with only a little bit of luck (Ventura/Medlen) and maybe one big contract (Gordon) could be close to or as good in 2016 as they have been in 2015. Sure, it might be nice to have Manaea and Finnegan hanging around spring training next March, but it seems nicer to have Cueto and Zobrist hanging around the regular season this year.
Come 2017, then maybe we’ll lament the loss of those five arms a bit more, but the Royals’ cupboard will hardly be bare. The future was not mortgaged to get Cueto and Zobrist, not even close. The window will certainly be open in 2016 and, with some breaks, stay open in 2017 as well. In theory, anyway.
Elbows and shoulders come apart, knees buckle, and a time may come when an owner tires of carrying a $120 million payroll. These are things less easy to predict and all real possibilities, but the foundation for the Kansas City Royals to compete this year, next year and the year after that remains intact.