KC Royals: Five Thoughts After the Winter Meetings

The 2016 Winter Meetings saw closers cash in, an AL Central rival go into full rebuild mode and sluggers wondering when they’re going to get paid.

This year’s Winter Meetings kept MLB beat writers busy as two major trades were made, two relief pitchers signed deals worth more than a combined $145 million and the World Series champs saw their leadoff hitter and center fielder leave to go to their biggest rival.

It was good times.

Here’s some post-Winter Meetings thoughts in relation to the Royals:

1. Closers are more valued than ever – and the Royals should have tried to get more for  Wade Davis.

Jorge Soler may very well end up being the second-coming of Andre Dawson or Vladimir Guerrero. That’d be great. But right now, it looks like the Royals needlessly traded one of the best relievers in baseball before the market value was set on relievers.

On Monday, Mark Melecon signed a four-year deal with the Giants worth $62 million. That destroyed Jonathan Paplebon’s previous record deal for a closer, a four-year, $50 million contract he signed with the Phillies before the start of the 2012 season. On Thursday morning, Aroldis Chapman returned to the Yankees for a staggering $86 million over five years.

In between, the Royals traded the reliever with the lowest ERA in MLB history for the Cubs’ fourth outfielder.

That’s a little harsh – if not true – but why didn’t the Royals wait until Chapman and Kenley Jansen signed to trade Davis? What would the Dodgers be willing to pay for a closer if they don’t retain Jansen? What would the Marlins give up if they don’t poach him from Los Angeles? What about the Nationals, who showed they’re in complete win-now mode?

Again, Soler may end up being a fine player for Kansas City. I’m just not sure why the Royals felt they needed to deal Davis as early as they did. Why not wait for teams to get desperate?

2. The White Sox’s rebuild is great news for the Royals in the short-term only.

Props to White Sox’s general manager Rick Hahn for converting his club’s farm system from one of the worst to one of the best in about 48 hours.

You’ve seen the North Siders’ haul – Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Dane Dunning – and it’s as impressive as every gushing MLB writer has made it out to be.

But for next year, the Royals’ likely last run a pennant for a while, most if not all of those guys will be in Double and Triple A. For the 19 games the Royals play against the White Sox this season, they’ll be without Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and who knows who else before Hahn is done.

Yes, every team in the AL Central will have a chance to beat up on the White Sox this season, but that should help the Royals in the Wild Card standings as well.

Long-term, the White Sox came away from the Winter Meetings in better shape than almost anyone not located in Wrigleyville. Moncada could be the next Robinso Cano with more power and Kopech, Giolito and Lopez all have the stuff of a future No. 1. Here’s hoping the Royals take advantage of their rebuilding job while they can.

3. A crowded slugger market could help the Royals land a cheap source of power.

Look at this list of unsigned hitters: Edwin EncarnacionMark Trumbo, Mike Napoli, Brandon Moss, Chris Carter, Jose Bautista, Pedro Alvarez, Billy Butler, Colby Rasmus, Michael SaundersAdam Lind, Logan Morrison and Justin Morneau.

That’s a lot of potential designated hitters with potential landing spots filling up quickly. Encarnacion will get paid, as will Trumbo. But could the Royals entice Napoli, Carter or even Bautista with a loaded one-year deal? Yes, we’ve written about this before.

The Royals interest in one of these bat-first players depends on Kansas City freeing up a spot in the outfield for Soler. If Jarrod Dyson or Lorenzo Cain isn’t traded, Soler likely is the team’s primary DH and there’s no need to go get a Chris Carter or Pedro Alvarez.

4. It’s time for Kansas City to find a new market inefficiency to exploit.

They days of the Royals finding cheap bullpen pieces to shorten games is over. Teams went into full copycat mode after Kansas City’s run to the series in 2014, a revolution that just resulted in a player who averages 53 innings a year earning a five-year $86 million contract.

Your guess is as good as mine for what that market inefficiency is. Extreme defensive shifting? A lineup in which your leadoff hitter has an on-base percentage over .270? (Zing!)

The Royals aren’t exactly showing their cards this offseason as the Davis trade has been their only major move.

Speaking of the lack of moves …

5. All that talk of limiting payroll seems to unfortunately be true.

So, the only move the Royals have made so far is one that will save them about $7 million this season.

We’ve all heard the rumblings that David Glass doesn’t want to add to his payroll this season and there’s been nothing Kansas City has done this offseason that dispels that.

Ideally we’ll see that $7 million reinvested in a pitcher trying to bounce back from a tough year or a slugger looking to prove his worth on a one-year deal before hitting the market again after the 2017 season.

But there’s been nothing other than wistful thinking from fans and media alike that would indicate that money is going anywhere other than back to the Glass family.

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