Monday, October 8, 2012

Don't Stop Until You Reach Three

Unfortunately, Rany beat me to a post that I have been daydreaming about in my head for quite some time, but I am going to ahead and write it anyway. If I am merely echoing his sentiments that is fine, but here are my thoughts on how the Royals should approach the rotation moving from 2012 to 2013.

From where it stands right now, I believe that if the Royals are serious about winning in 2013, they need to bring in at the very least two starters better than what they currently have in the organization. If the Royals really want to win, then I think three is the number that they should strive for. If the 2013 season started tomorrow, here is the rotation Kansas City fans would have to look forward to:

  1. Luke Hochevar
  2. Bruce Chen
  3. Luis Mendoza
  4. Jake Odorizzi
  5. Will Smith
  6. Everett Teaford
  7. Nate Adcock
The reason that I am listing seven pitchers, is because for once the Royals need to approach the rotation with depth in mind. Last year, they made it blatantly clear that they didn't want to bring in anymore starters because it would block their own prospects from reaching the Bigs. Here is the deal, these things will work themselves out. So not only should this offseason be about filling out the rotation, but it should also be about creating a situation in which there are other options available should the starters that open in the rotation falter or fall to injury.

The Royals absolutely and unequivocally need to cut ties with Luke Hochevar. Interestingly, by cutting ties with Hochevar, you actually improve the flexibility necessary to build a stronger rotation with more depth. The reason for this, is that if Hochevar's rotation spot has an opportunity cost, that equates to not only having to deal with Luke Hochevar in the rotation, but also it means that you have one less rotation slot available in which to improve. 

I don't think I am breaking any ground by suggesting the Royals cut ties with Hochevar. Based on my payroll charts, if the Royals cut tie with Hochevar they will be sitting in the low $50 million range for financial commitments in 2013. Now Bob Dutton speculates that the Royals have between $20-23 million in payroll space for 2013. However, in 2009 the Royals payroll reached nearly $80 million, so depending on estimates it isn't beyond reason to believe that the Royals could have up to $30 million to play with this offseason.

Should he Royals spend that much in one offseason? That debate is for another post. Do the Royals have that much space long term? Probably not. However, it is pretty clear that for the first time in my memory the Kansas City Royals and their ownership have made it clear that money will be spent in the offseason. If not for any other reason, that makes me extremely excited for the hot stove to heat up.

So back to pitching. Obviously, I would love to see the Royals bring back Jeremy Guthrie, but only at the right price. I know he was fantastic in his time in Royals blue, but we can't forget that he was dreadful in Colorado and we need to remember that the market probably won't forget either. However, based off some of the comments we have seen recently it appears that Jeremy Guthrie has become a pivotal part of the Royals offseason.

Secondly, the Royals need to go out and bring in a starter that is just as good or better than Guthrie. This is the guy that is likely to really force the Royals to really break the bank. Will they be willing to go all in for the Zack "the Prodigal Son" Greinke? I seriously doubt it. However, guys like Shaun Marcum, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse, and Anibal Sanchez would also strengthen the Royals current rotation.

Finally, and here is where we get to the depth part of the discussion, I want to see the Royals take a flyer on a buy low guy. A guy like Ervin Santana would be the kind of high upside that would be great in this role. Another guy that would interest me would be the Twins' Scott Baker should they decline his $9.25 million club option. 

So here's what our rotation would look like moving into 2013. I'm going to go with the guys my gut tells me are the most likely fits.

  1. Shaun Marcum
  2. Jeremy Guthrie
  3. Ervin Santana
  4. Luis Mendoza
  5. Bruce Chen
  6. Jake Odorizzi
  7. Will Smith
  8. Everett Teaford
  9. Nate Adcock
But there is one more thing I think the Royals need to absolutely do in an attempt to turn around their rotation and that is to truly attempt a conversion of Aaron Crow from the bullpen to the rotation. I agree with most everyone in that he profiles better as a reliever than a starter. However, there is a part of me that strongly believes that if the Royals are looking for cheap high upside options in the rotation, they should look no farther than the former Missouri Tiger.

The Royals should commit to Crow's conversion to the rotation for at least the first half of 2013. If Crow isn't cutting it, you have Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy ready to break into the rotation.

If things were to shake out as planned in Spring Training you would have a rotation of:

  1. Shaun Marcum
  2. Jeremy Guthrie
  3. Ervin Santana
  4. Aaron Crow
  5. Bruce Chen
As far as the depth goes, you would have quite a bit of it. Luis Mendoza, arguably the best starter on the team in 2012 would be the swing man in the pen.Jake Odorizzi and Will Smith, two near Major League ready starters, would go to Omaha to receive more development knowing that to earn spots they have to force the organization's hand. Finally, there is Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy, possibly the best two starters in the organization at the moment, returning sometime in July. Providing the Royals rotation with two very strong alternatives to any injuries or poor performance. 

No the rotation doesn't have an ace. However, this is a rotation that absolutely could give Royals fans a summer to remember. The upside is absolutely there. Even if Aaron Crow doesn't handle the transition,  Ervin Santana continues his tailspin into awfulness, or Bruce Chen continues to give up the gopher ball, there is depth available to improve.

It is probably asking for a lot to state that the Royals need to acquire three starters. I will also readily admit that I am no expert when it comes to predicting player's value on the open market, but hey neither is Dayton Moore. For example, in order to acquire the aforementioned starters, the Royals would likely need at least $20-25 million to play with. One would have to hope the Royals could nab Guthrie for around $7.5 million, Marcum for a nice hometown discount at around $8 million, and Santana for an incentive laden deal with a base around $6 million. (We will try to look at many of these targets much more in depth over the coming weeks.)

Whoever the targets are, let's just hope Dayton Moore can grab them at the best cost possible and the Royals don't just stop at one addition. I truly believe this team is close. I have an anxious feeling regarding the 2012-13 offseason and I can't help but think that it will be the defining moment of the Dayton Moore era. One way or another the next few months should be exciting.

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