The end of the World Series puts the Royals on the clock in terms of picking up the 2010 options on catcher Miguel Olivo, outfielder Coco Crisp and reliever Yasuhiko Yabuta.
The Royals show little inclination to do so with Crisp ($8 million) and Yabuta ($4 million), although the buyouts aren’t cheap: $500,000 on each player _ or more than the club is likely to pay next year to any player not yet eligible for arbitration.
Even so, the uncertainty surrounding Crisp’s surgically-repaired shoulders and the near-certainty regarding Yabuta’s ability scream in support of buyouts.
Olivo’s pending $3.3 million deal is a tougher call.
First, it’s a mutual option, which means Olivo can choose to become a free agent even if the Royals are willing to pony up. The only difference is Olivo gets $100,000 as a buyout if the club says yes; he gets nothing if he walks on his own.
The Royals must make their decision within three days of the Series’ conclusion _ and figure to take all three days.
“The landscape of the industry can change so fast and so much,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “The decision on Olivo is a difficult one. The free-agent market (for catchers) is very thin.”
Olivo, 31, had a career-best and club-leading 23 homers last season and exhibited better defense in the closing weeks but still batted only .249 with a .292 on-base percentage. He also grades out below average on most defensive metrics.
If Olivo, as expected, continues to push for a multi-year deal, the Royals figure to look elsewhere _ especially since they have until Dec. 12, the deadline for tendering contracts, to evaluate alternatives to reinstating John Buck as their starting catcher.
Arbitration puts Buck, 29, in line for a raise from $2.9 million _ pretty high for a guy with a .235 career average and a poor track record for throwing out base-stealers. But club officials view Brayan Peña as a backup and believe minor-leaguer Manny Pina, acquired in September from Texas, to be at least one year away.
Decisions on Crisp and Yabuta must be made within five days following the Series’ final game. The Royals continue to express interest in negotiating a new contract with Crisp that contains a low guarantee with significant performance bonuses.
Crisp, 30, played just 49 games last season before undergoing surgery in June to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He underwent surgery in July on his right shoulder.
Pending free agents
Veteran pitchers Jamey Wright and Bruce Chen are the only Royals eligible for free agency pending the resolution of options on Olivo, Crisp and Yabuta.
Filing for free agency starts the day after the Series concludes and continues for 15 days. A player’s former team retains exclusive negotiating rights for that 15-day period.
Two starts are in the book for Aaron Crow in the Arizona Fall League, and the numbers aren’t impressive for the club’s first pick in the 2009 draft: six runs, nine hits and two walks in just 7 1/3 innings.
The Royals contend the numbers are deceptive.
“Reports are very good,” assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. “His fastball velocity is good, slider is sharp and changeup has been good. He’s left a few balls on the plate, but our scouts have been happy with what they have seen.”
Third baseman Mike Moustakas is the only Royals prospect among the 51 players selected for the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars Game.
Moustakas, 21, was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft. He is batting .269 with three homers and 13 RBIs through 13 games for the Surprise Rafters.
The game can be seen at 7:15 p.m. Saturday on the MLB Network.
Other winter numbers