What’s in store for the Royals this winter?

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When the Royals traded Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi to the Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis, they were settling themselves up to win in 2013 and 2014. Now, Shields is a free agent, as are Billy Butler and Norichika Aoki, and the Royals have to decide just how much they’re willing to spend to keep their World Series team relatively intact.

The Royals’ payroll this year was $92 million, and a bunch of the incumbents are due raises. Here most of what’s coming off the books:

Shields: $12 million
Butler: $8 million ($1 million buyout of $12.5 million club option)
Luke Hochevar: $5.21 million
Aoki: $2.5 million
Josh Willingham: $2 million ($7 million salary was acquired in August)
Aaron Crow: $1.475 million (arbitration eligible, likely traded or non-tendered)
Jason Frasor: $800,000 ($1.75 million salary was acquired in July)

And what’s staying on:

Alex Gordon: $10 million to $12.5 million
Jeremy Guthrie: $8 million to $9 million
Jason Vargas: $7 million to $8.5 million
Greg Holland: $4.65 million to $8 million – arbitration
Omar Infante: $5 million to $7.5 million
Davis: $4.8 million to $7 million (club option)
Eric Hosmer: $3.6 million to $5.5 million – arbitration
Lorenzo Cain: $550,000 to $3.5 million – arbitration
Alcides Escobar: $3 million to $3 million
Mike Moustakas: $550,000 to $2.5 million – arbitration
Danny Duffy: $530,000 to $2.3 million – arbitration
Salvador Perez: $1.5 million to $1.75 million
Tim Collins: $1.3625 million to $1.6 million – arbitration
Kelvin Herrera: $520,000 to $1.5 million – arbitration
Jarrod Dyson: $530,000 to $1.1 million – arbitration

That’s $51.6 million going up to approximately $74.75 million among the returnees, plus the minimum salaries of guys like Yordano Ventura and Brandon Finnegan. If you take those 15 guys and add in 10 minimum salaries, you’re already at $80 million.

Fortunately, that’s a pretty well rounded group of returnees. It includes four-fifths of a rotation, the league’s best bullpen and seven members of the lineup. I am assuming that the Royals keep the bullpen intact. It’s not ideal for a small-market team to pay $15 million to two relievers in Holland and Davis, but those guys aren’t typical relievers. If the Royals could trade Holland for a quality young starter or right fielder, that could be worth doing. But they shouldn’t simply dump either over payroll concerns.

With that group, the Royals would enter next season with an extreme lack of depth, but they could conceivably just sign a cheap DH and compete in the AL Central.

Ideally, though, the Royals would push their payroll up to around $100 million-$110 million and either re-sign Shields, which should take $18 million-$20 million per year, or bring in a quality replacement. Let Butler test the market, and when he finds it’s not so much to his liking, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Royals are able to re-sign him for $6 million-$7 million. My guess is that Aoki is in line for a two-year deal in the $15 million range, which is probably too steep for Kansas City. The Royals could save money by signing Chris Denorfia to share time with Dyson in the outfield.

Will it happen? The World Series run makes it a whole lot more likely. If the Royals had lost the wild card game, I’m pretty sure the intention would have been to cut payroll slightly. After all, they really stretched it to get to $92 million. It was $10 million more than they had ever spent before, and they had to manuever to stay down that low (they released Emilio Bonifacio after offering him arbitration, they converted $3 million of Guthrie’s salary into a 2016 buyout and they backloaded the deals given to Vargas and Infante).

Now, after the events of October, the Royals need to seize momentum. I’d like to think that many of the dollars they spend this winter will make it back to them in increased attendance. Keep the fans excited and ownership will be rewarded.

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”