Baseball’s general manager meetings are this week in Arizona and you can bet Kansas City GM Dayton Moore is going just to get a tan.
The Royals have work to do as they attempt to follow up a World Series appearance.
Kansas City has a few key free agents (James Shields, Billy Butler, Nori Aoki) and some needs (starting pitching, right field, designated hitter) to address.
The Royals have moved past a need to blow things up and start over. The franchise has been stabilized and there’s no reason to think KC can’t contend for the playoffs next season, even if the Royals lose their ace pitcher, Shields.
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Young right-hander Yordano Ventura is on the verge of stardom. Left-hander Danny Duffy was outstanding at times and veterans Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas are returning. Kansas City could move young lefty Brandon Finnegan into the rotation in 2015 and former first-round draft pick Kyle Zimmer could pitch with the Royals next season after he recovers from shoulder surgery.
The Royals need only to tweak their roster. But there are some moves that could make Kansas City even better, potentially moving the Royals into the 92- to 95-win area after they won 89 games in 2014.
Here are three additions Kansas City should try to make:
Starting pitcher Francisco Liriano
Liriano was 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013 but didn’t fare as well last season, when he was just 7-10. But Liriano’s other numbers – those the sabermetrics experts like – held up well. He allowed only 130 hits in 162.1 innings pitched and struck out 175.
Liriano won’t be cheap and he’s only 31. There is a question of his durability though; Liriano has never pitched 200 innings in a season and has battled a few injuries in his career. But he’s a top-of-the-rotation talent and a guy who could give the Royals Sheilds-like production at a lower cost.
Here’s guessing the Royals could get Liriano for three years, $36 million.
Right fielder Torii Hunter
The ageless wonder, who will be 39 next season, batted .286 with 17 homers and 83 RBI last season with Detroit. Nice numbers and not big slippage from what they had been the previous couple of seasons. But you always wonder when a player Hunter’s age will start to decline sharply. He’s still in great shape and still able to play above average defense in the outfield. Plus, the Royals would be taking a key piece from the Tigers, their AL Central rivals.
Hunter made $14 million with the Tigers last season. He’s not worth that any more, but the Royals might be able to entice him with a two-year, $24 million offer.
Designated-hitter Adam LaRoche
The problem here could be convincing LaRoche, who won a Gold Glove at first base with the Washington Nationals in 2012, that it’s time to become a full-time DH. LaRoche, though, could spell Eric Hosmer some at first base. Just too bad he’s left-handed and can’t play third to give Kansas City an alternative to Mike Moustakas.
LaRoche has hit 79 homers during the past three seasons with Washington. He has power and that’s something the Royals crave. He’s probably not the pure hitter Butler is, but that power makes LaRoche, a Fort Scott native, a nice fit. But he doesn’t hit left-handers very well and is almost as slow as Butler on the bases. But that home-run pop is appealing. Maybe something like two years, $25 million gets the conversation started.