After nearly 30 years of anguish, the Kansas City Royals were finally back in the mix of baseball supremacy. With only a measly one winning record from 1994 through 2012, the Royals finally achieved that again in 2013. Although they missed out on the playoffs that year, the Royals won the Wild Card in 2014, then swept through the American League to the World Series, before losing to the San Francisco Giants in seven games.
Kansas City was expected to fade into obscurity in 2015, but the team had different ideas. They finished the season with the best record in the American League and took care of unfinished business, winning the 2015 World Series in five games against the New York Mets. The recent success inspired the Royals to lift the glass ceiling on their spending.
With that in mind, the Royals sought to make it back to the playoffs for the third-straight time. However, lack of production and a plague of injuries thwarted their plans. They finished at 81-81, ending their season with four-consecutive losses and missing out on the postseason once again.
Kansas City Royals 2017 Payroll
Looking Into the Crystal Ball
The group of guys that forever altered baseball in Kansas City basically have one last season together. That much is clear. What isn’t exactly clear are the plans for payroll in 2017. Earlier this month, general manager Dayton Moore put cause for concern in the minds of many fans when he said the team’s payroll will likely regress from the franchise record that approached $140 million in 2016.
The problem that comes from this is that the Royals are already somewhat committed to a hefty payroll. According to Spotrac.com, if all options are picked up, the team’s commitment for the 2017 season is already $143.7 million, and that’s before the arbitration eligible players are figured in.
Who Stays and Who Goes?
Playing next season with a smaller payroll than last season would likely also mean trading someone like Wade Davis. Another interesting case would be pitcher Edinson Volquez, where there is a $10 million mutual offer. At this juncture in his career, Volquez isn’t worth that price tag. But unfortunately the free agent market for starting pitchers is very diluted this offseason. This could possibly inflate his worth for both parties. Either party could opt out of this contract. The Royals can opt out if they want to cut payroll, and Volquez can if he thinks he can sign for more somewhere else.
However, Royals’ owner David Glass could be open to persuasion and the organization could manage their payroll for 2017 with some inventive moves. One example could be Danny Duffy, the breakout star pitcher. Duffy is scheduled for free agency after next season, but the Royals have planned on discussing an extension this winter. He is likely set up to make roughly $9 million through arbitration in 2017. but a long-term deal could be structured to pay him $5 million or so next year.
The other pitcher to look at would be Luke Hochevar. He has a mutual option for $7 million. It’s doubtful that the 32-year-old would want to walk away at this point in his career. But since he just underwent surgery addressing thoracic outlet syndrome, the Royals probably won’t look to spend that amount of money there. The good news is that the two parties could work to sign a lesser deal to keep Hochevar in Kansas City.
One more player to discuss is Kendrys Morales. It’s almost a guaranteed certainty that he will not accept his option at $11 million. Seeing as how he’s the first Royals player since 2000 to hit 30 home runs, the Royals would love to have him back at that price. Although it is a crowded designated hitter market, Morales could bring some value. Here comes the hard part. If Morales opts out, the team can offer him a qualifying offer at $16.2 million. If the Royals make that offer and he declines, they will get a compensatory draft pick. The scary thing for Kansas City is that he may see that offer as fair market value and accept. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but for a team that is trying to cut payroll, this adds some serious dollars.
It appears that the adaptability and success of the 2017 Royals season will depend on Moore’s ability to sell his boss into once more spending past his initial comfort zone. Those two have a very close relationship, as much as any owner and general manager in baseball. With Moore’s help, Glass has spent record dollars on amateur talent, and taken the 25-man opening-day payroll on a steady rise from $38 million in 2011 to nearly $140 million in 2016. This may be their greatest task yet. At the end of the day, David Glass is the only voice that counts.