There’s a lot going on today in the Royals (and baseball) world, which is nice for a change, since it’s been a pretty tame and quiet off-season. So, instead of focusing on just one topic, I am going to just touch on a few different ones, since I didn’t feel like I could go as “in-depth” as I typically do in posts. I will probably pick up the “21 in 21” series over the weekend, but I felt as a Royals fans, I had to address the topics above in some way.
So let’s take a look as I go into some analysis on the recent Royals happening the past couple of days.
Mondesi and Keller avoid arbitration
Today was the last day for teams to agree a contract with arbitration-eligible players. As characteristic of Dayton Moore, the Royals will avoid any arbitration hearings this year (Brandon Maurer has been the only player under Moore to reach arbitration hearings). Adalberto Mondesi and Brad Keller were the last unsigned Royals this off-season, and the Royals made this announcement on their Twitter today:
Here is what the Royals agreed to with Mondesi, according to Athletic Royals beat writer Alec Lewis:
When I made my initial arbitration projections, I thought there was a strong possibility that Mondesi would be given an extension by the Royals. The Royals gave an extension to Alcides Escobar when he was eligible for arbitration, and though Mondesi has struggled with injury, I thought he showed enough the past two seasons to warrant a contract that would eat up the remainder of his arbitration-eligible years. However, my guess is that while an extension was on the table, negotiations fell through, and they ended up settling on a one-year deal.
The Royals may be banking on Mondesi carrying over his strong second half in 2020 into a full and healthy 2021 campaign, and then extend him next Winter. That being said, if the Royals do that, it could be a lot more expensive, and the most logical window to extend him would actually be now, as the asking price wouldn’t be that much. (After all, would Mondesi have said no to 3-year, $12 million extension?)
Granted, it is a possibility that the Royals front office may be a little cautious with Mondesi, and may be ready to move on from him should Bobby Witt, Jr. be as good as advertised in the Minors in 2021. I know many believe Witt and Mondesi can play together on the same infield (as do I), but I find it interesting that the Royals wouldn’t extend Mondesi when they had the chance, especially considering how they have stood behind him as a player over the past couple of years, despite his struggles and inconsistency. Furthermore, Moore has a history of buying out position players’ arbitration-eligible years, so to not do it in this case was also a bit puzzling, especially since it doesn’t seem as economic factors have affected the Royals very much this Winter.
As for Keller, here’s what Lewis said in a corresponding tweet to the Mondesi announcement:
Pitchers are a bit more of a risk, and I’m not surprised that Moore only settled on a one-year extension for the former Rule 5 pick. Keller has arguably been the best Royals starter the past couple of years, and I wrote about yesterday how his slider was one of the best pitches in baseball, metrically. However, the Royals have so much depth when it comes to pitching, both at the Major League and Minor League level, and it makes sense that Moore and the Royals are taking things on a year-to-year basis.
That being said, if one of the top prospects flails a bit next year, or if Moore somehow trades one of them away this off-season or in 2021 to acquire a veteran bat (Andrew Benintendi seems to be all the rage), then it is possible that the Royals could re-visit a long-term extension as soon as next Winter. For now though, expect this process to be the same for Keller (i.e. one year deals) over the next couple of seasons.
Royals add promising Latin American talent as international signing period begins
The International Signing period (which normally takes place in July) kicked off today, and the Royals, who were in the second-highest tier when it came to pool money ($5.89 million), made this splash today:
Vazquez is a toolsy, athletic shortstop who has gotten comparisons to Fernando Tatis, Jr. and even Manny Machado by scouts. Here is what Ben Badler of Baseball America said about Vazquez in his Royals International Signing preview:
Vazquez has trended in the right direction as he’s grown into a taller, lean frame with high physical upside and athleticism in the middle of the diamond. He moves around well at shortstop with fluid actions and body control, along with a short righthanded swing with good bat-to-ball skills and power that should come as he fills out his 6-foot-2, 158-pound frame“Kansas City Royals 2020-21 International Signing Preview” by Ben Badler; Baseball America
MLB.com writer Jesse Sanchez also posted high praise about the 17-year-old, implying that Vazquez has the potential to be a five-tool talent up the middle for the Royals in the future.
Long and lean, the 17-year-old Vazquez has a lot of room to grow. He projects to be an everyday shortstop with a plus hit tool and average power in the big leagues one day. There’s a belief he will hit around 15 to 20 home runs and sport a batting average somewhere in the .285 range while hitting at or near the top of the batting order. For now, he makes a lot of contact with his smooth and repeatable swing.
On defense, he shows good hands and projects to be a plus defender because of his range and a plus arm. He features a quick release and the ability to throw from all angles. He also shows average speed and projects to be an above-average baserunner.“KC to ink int’l prospect who draws Tatis comp” by Jesse Sanchez; MLB.com
Vazquez isn’t the only player the Royals have signed during this period. Royals Review reported in their roundup that they also signed “shortstop Yosmi Fernandez, catcher Osman Bravo, shortstop Diego Guzman, outfielders Sebastian Ramirez and Junior Marin from Venezuela, and catcher Steven Cespedes, shortstop Yeison Vargas, and outfielder Angel Parra from the Dominican Republic.”
While the number of shortstops may seem surprising to most Royals fans (especially with Mondesi and Witt), this is what Max Rieper said in his post:
If you are confused as to why the Royals are signing so many shortstops, it is because every athletic high school player either plays shortstop or centerfielder and can move off the position as they grow up and fill out their frame. This is a very hitter-heavy class – the only pitcher ranked in MLB.com’s top 30 is Cuban 19-year old right-hander Norge Vera. The Royals have been fairly aggressive in recent international signing periods, inking outfielder Erick Pena to a $3.8 million bonus in 2019.“Royals sign top Dominican shortstop as international signing period begins” by Max Rieper; Royals Review
The Royals have put considerable resources in Latin American scouting since Dayton Moore took over as Royals general manager, and their recent international signing classes show the fruits of the Royals front office’s hard work and development in this area. The Royals have produced success stories such as Salvador Perez and Yordano Ventura, and there is hope that Pena could emerge as one of the Royals’ top three prospects if he performs over a full Minor League season (which he hasn’t yet). While it may be a few years until we see these prospects at any serious level of Minor League ball (i.e. A-ball or higher), this appears to be a promising class, with Vazquez being the signing with the most upside down the road.
Royals attend Corey Kluber workout
The two-time former Cy Young winner is currently a free agent, and on Thursday, he put on a pitching workout for interested teams to show that he is fully healthy and ready to go after making only 8 starts and pitching 26 innings the past two seasons. Apparently, the Royals were also one of the teams in attendance for the former Indians ace’s showcase.
It seems like a long shot that the Royals will sign Kluber, as their rotation seems pretty set, and they may not want to spend the kind of money that other teams may be offering (or thinking of offering). If the Royals were to get Kluber, it would most likely have to come on a Minor League deal or something just slightly above. With other interested clubs having much bigger payrolls and more pressing rotation needs, I think Kluber commands more than what the Royals would want to offer, which should put Kansas City out of serious contention.
However, their attendance at the workout may be a sign that they are looking for maybe one more arm to add to the rotation in 2021. This probably stems from their desire to preserve the health of their young arms next season, especially after a wonky 2020 where many arms in their organization (such as Kowar, Lynch, and Lacy) did not play against Minor League competition. The Royals have already added Ervin Santana on a Minor League deal, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Moore add another starting pitcher or two on a Minor League deal shortly before Spring Camp begins in mid-February (as everything seems to be in order for an on-time start).
300th post on the Royals Reporter
It’s crazy to think that I have gone from 100 to 200 to now 300 posts so quickly. It’s been quite a journey on this blog over the past year. What started up as just another “blog” of mine has turned into a true passion project and outlet, as I have definitely grown in my baseball love and fandom through the Royals Reporter. This blog has also opened up some different opportunities with both the IBWAA’s “Here’s the Pitch” newsletter and Pitcher List, whom I wrote my first post for earlier this week, as I analyzed Giants second baseman Donovan Solano (it was nice to write about the team I grew up with for a change):
I have usually done special posts for these kinds of benchmarks, but with so much newsworthy stuff going on, I felt obligated to cover that instead. That being said, I do want to thank all those who have supported, followed and shared this blog over the past year. I continue to be grateful for Max and the team at Royals Review, as they have not only shared my work with their audience, but also do a great job of promoting other Royals sites and bloggers out there who do awesome work on Kansas City’s baseball team. Also, I want to thank everyone on baseball twitter who have read my work and also shared their awesome work with me as well. I’m grateful for you guys, and as I have said before on this blog, I am simply happy to be part of a baseball writing community that in my opinion is more robust than ever.
Baseball may have its share of problems, but the Twitter, blogging, and writing community isn’t one of them. It is promoting and nurturing the game in the right way, and I’m lucky to know all of you who have helped me as a writer and person over this past year.
Here’s to another 100 posts!