Prayers In The Wind: Looking Ahead To The Royals Off-Season
So this season, we didn’t even have to wait until the end of the World’s Series for the Royals to make a jump into the off-season proceedings. Instead of “Getting ahead of the market,” the club has recently leaked that they are listening to offers as it relates to a trade for erstwhile Fan Favorite Billy Butler. I can’t say that I’m particularly surprised that Kansas City is willing to move on Butler. I will say, though, that I’m surprised it is coming this year and not at the end of last season, when Butler’s stock was highest and the Royals were entering their “competition window”. In fact, last season I advocated moving Butler for James Shields, but they decided to trade the Minor League Player of the Year for him instead. C’est la vie.
Going into this off-season, there are three positions the Royals need to fill: 2B, RF, and SP. Moving Butler may take care of one of those, but creates a new set of problems in and of itself. After ruminating on it the past few days, the most logical trade I can come up with is moving Butler to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. The Rangers are wont to roll with Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar in the middle of their infield for the conceivable future, and Kinsler finds himself as the odd man out, both from a fiscal standpoint and a positional one. He is owed $57m over the next four season and has a club option for 2018. Now, this move would represent a sizable payroll increase over Butler’s number for 2014 ($8.5m to Kinsler’s $13m). It also fills a defensive need at second, and finding a designated hitter (though not one who could conceivably match Butler’s production) is quite possibly the easiest thing to do in baseball. Literally every aging player who can still swing a wooden stick with much aplomb is a viable DH.
The Royals could get interesting here. Maybe they’ve got eyes on moving Butler for a second base prospect or right fielder, or even a starting pitcher. This off-season is shaping up to be much more intriguing (and far less painful) than last year’s was.
So, if that’s the plan, moving Butler for a second baseman or right fielder, I can kind of see it. But the truth is, regardless of what they do (keep Butler, move Butler), the biggest thing holding the Royals back next season is going to be money. Regardless of Butler’s future, Kansas City still needs another bat and a starting pitcher, and trading away one guy isn’t going to get it done. In all likelihood, the Royals will need to broach the $100m payroll glass ceiling (and possibly break through it) in order to truly compete next season. Any potential move that may pay off as well as the Santana trade did is going to cost roughly the same amount for several more years.
Note: I’m going to float the names of Matt Garza and A.J. Burnett out there, because¬† they are likely candidates to be targeted by the Royals, at least in the early going. They may get priced out on those guys, and Burnett is talking retirement (unless he returns to Pittsburgh), so it may be just Garza. I wonder if there’s any appeal to him re-joining James Shields in a rotation (they pitched together in Tampa from 2008 to 2010)?
So the Royals will have to increase payroll to compete, realistically. There’s a lot of bluster about bringing Beltran back, which is going to be roughly a $15m proposition. In addition to that, you still have a rotation spot and second base to fill out. There’s a lot that is up in the air right now, but if the talk about moving Butler is revolving around the idea that the Kansas City Royals need to get some payroll flexibility, then the 2014 season is shaping up to be more of the same. The Royals offense has to get better, and the only conceivable way for them to do so is going to be to add payroll. They will have to find a way to replace Ervin Santana, and other than re-signing Santana himself, the only way to do so is going to be to add payroll.
So open it up, Mr. Glass. We’ve got some checks that need to be writ, and since we all know that the new television revenues are filling the coffers even more, we all know that you can afford it.
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