How the Royals Should Handle Their Upcoming Free Agent Situation
It is well known by now that the Royals have five standout players who will be hitting the free agent market at season's end in: 1B Eric Hosmer, 3B Mike Moustakas, OF Lorenzo Cain, SS Alcides Escobar, and SP Jason Vargas.
While the impact of all five of those players is of varying degree, there is no question that each one had a significant impact on the Royals postseason success in 2014 as well as the team's World Series Championship in 2015. Not only did each one provide an unmatched level of team chemistry, they really brought joy to Kansas City for the first time since 1985 and gave Royals fans something to cheer about especially since they are all home grown players.
Without many of these five players, the Royals will have a new identity to create, most likely less success, and will once again find themselves on the difficult path of a rebuild full of tough decisions and moments that require patience from Kansas City's front office and fans alike.
Although their window is going to close quickly depending on how this season goes, that does not mean that they will say goodbye to all five players or that all hope is down the drain in regards to bringing one or two of those players back in the future. How exactly the Royals should address the situation has yet to be seen, but here is a potential way to approach the issue.
A few weeks ago, there were rumors that the aforementioned, Eric Hosmer, and the Royals front office staff, were in the midst of talking about a possible extension, but those reports were later dismissed and have been put on hold to the best of everyone's knowledge in the baseball world.
In regards to the other four remaining free agents, there has been little to no dialogue as far as everyone knows and that doesn't look to change anytime soon especially since Spring Training is about to conclude and many players don't like to discuss extensions after the start of the regular season.
With that being said, the Royals most likely would be best suited to try and reach an extension with either Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas along with one other player, not named Eric Hosmer, before Opening Day if at all possible. Certainly, payroll restrictions are going to come into play given the Royals market size and the amount of payroll the team already has on the books for the coming season. As it stands right now, the Royals will go into the season with an Opening Day payroll of $125.475 million dollars.
If the Royals cannot get something done prior to Opening Day, then they need to base their decision off of how the team performs during the regular season. Dayton Moore & Company certainly made the necessary additions to the team this winter in an attempt to contend one last time while the five pending free agents are guaranteed to be a part of the team. However, if the Royals find themselves out of contention come the trade deadline in July, then many speculate that a fire sale will begin taking place.
With a potential fire sale looming, that would mean that any trade that does occur would most likely be with a contending team and would bring prospects back in return to Kansas City. Obviously, that would mark the first step towards the rebuilding process, but it doesn't close the door on any of the free agents not returning prior to the start of 2018.
The Royals can always trade from that group of free agents at the trade deadline, depending on where the team stands in contention, get prospects back in return, and then try to retain one or two next offseason. For instance, they could always trade Mike Moustakas to the Angels at the trade deadline, get a prospect or two back in return, and then try to lock him up along with someone else next offseason. If they decide to trade Eric Hosmer in July and pursue him next offseason, then he will likely be the only one out of the five that they are able to bring back since he is expected to command a lot of money.
Either way, the Royals know that this is their one last big playoff push for a while and know that they have to deliver big, but that doesn't eliminate what lies ahead for Kansas City's front office staff. There will no doubt be some tough decisions that have to be made over the course of the next several months.