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.

Justin Verlander laughed at after saying Astros were “technologically and analytically advanced”

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Justin Verlander was at the annual Baseball Writers Association of America banquet last night, on hand to accept the 2019 Cy Young Award. Normally such things are pretty routine events, but nothing is routine with the Houston Astros these days.

During his acceptance speech, Verlander made some comments about the Astros’ “technological and analytical advancements.” The comments were greeted by some laughter in the room as well as some groans. At least one person on hand claimed that other players present were visibly angry.

It’s hard to tell the context of it all without a full video — maybe Verlander meant it as a joke, maybe the reactions were more varied than is being described — but here’s how reporters on hand for it last night are describing it:

If it was a joke it was ill-timed, as not many around the game think the sign-stealing stuff is funny at the moment. Especially in light of the fact that, despite having several opportunities to do so, Astros players have failed to show any accountability for their cheating.

And yes, that includes former Astros Dallas Keuchel, who was praised for “apologizing” at a White Sox fan event on Friday, but whose “apology” was couched in a lot of deflection and excuse-making about how it was just something that was done at the time and about how technology was to blame. Keuchel also tried to minimize it, saying that the Astros didn’t do it all the time. Which is rich given that the most prominent video evidence of their trash can-banging scheme came from a blowout Astros win in a meaningless August game against a losing team. If they were doing it in that situation, please, do not tell me they weren’t doing it when games really mattered.

Anyway, I’d like to think Verlander was just trying to take a stab at a joke here, because Verlander is the wrong guy to be sending to be sending any kind of messages diminishing the cheating given that he has a pretty solid track record of holding other players’ feet to the fire when they get busted.

For example, here he was in 2018 after Robinson Canó got busted for PEDs:

Of course, consistency can be a problem for Verlander when his teammates are on the ones who are on the hook. Here was his response to Tigers infielder Jhonny Peralta being suspended in the wake of the Biogenesis scandal:

“Everybody makes mistakes. He’s my brother. We fight and bleed and sweat together on the baseball field. If my brother makes a mistake, especially if he owns up to it and serves his time, I don’t see how you can hold a grudge or anything like that. “It’s one thing to step up and be a man and own up to his mistake.”

Verlander, it should also be noted, was very outspoken about teams engaging in advanced sign-stealing schemes once upon a time. here he was in 2017, while still with the Tigers, talking about such things in a June 2017 interview with MLive.com.

“We don’t have somebody, but I’m sure teams have a person that can break down signals and codes and they’ll have the signs before you even get out there on the mound.  It’s not about gamesmanship anymore. It used to be, ‘Hey, if you can get my signs, good for you.’ In the past, if a guy on second (base) was able to decipher it on a few pitches, I guess that was kind of part of the game. I think it’s a different level now. It’s not good.”

Which makes me wonder how he felt when he landed on the Astros two months later and realized they had a sophisticated cheating operation underway. If the feelings were mixed, he was able to bury the part of them which had a problem with it, because he’s said jack about it since this all blew up in November. And, of course, has happily accepted the accolades and the hardware he he has received since joining Houston, some of which was no doubt acquired by virtue of a little extra, ill-gotten run support.

Anyway, wake me up when someone — anyone — associated with the Astros shows some genuine accountability about this.