Major League Baseball free agency officially opens up Monday at 4:00, and the 2017-18 offseason figures to have major implications on the future of the Kansas City Royals.
Before the market takes shape, former New York Mets General Manager Jim Duquette, and current MLB.com columnist, predicted on Monday that Kansas City will re-sign both first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas.
Hosmer and Moustakas join Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jason Vargas and Mike Minor as the team’s top unrestricted free agents this offseason.
Kansas City offered qualifying offers to Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain, which is a one-year deal in the vicinity of $18 million. It’s essentially a formality, as each player is expected to decline the one-year offer in hopes of landing a long-term deal.
The Royals still extended the offer, even knowing the three will all decline, as it helps with draft pick compensation. After extending the offer, if Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain sign for $50 million elsewhere, that team has to give Kansas City a sandwich pick in between the first and second round.
That means if the Royals lose all three players, they would have four picks first round picks since they extended qualifying offers. This also makes it slightly less likely for other teams to sign them, as doing so would cost the team a top draft pick.
This is a clause in the collective bargaining agreement meant to help deter other teams from swooping in on free agents. However, signing a player of the caliber of Hosmer, Moustakas or Cain, in the prime of their career, far outweighs the gamble that drafting high school players in the MLB draft.
Duquette lists Hosmer as the fifth best free agent in all of baseball, with interest outside of Kansas City coming from the Red Sox, Mariners and Mets.
Just two spots below the gold glove first baseman sits Moustakas at seven overall, with interest outside of Kansas City coming from the Cardinals, Yankees, Phillies, Mets and Angels.
Sandwiching Moustakas at number six and eight are a pair of former Royals, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, who also will hit free agency. Duquette does not expect Kansas City to be in the running for either bullpen arm.
Duquette does not predict Kansas City will resign Cain, instead opting for the 2014 World Champion San Francisco Giants. The 32-year old outfielder could also have interest from the Phillies and Mets.
Duquette also has Kansas City in the running for Vargas, Reds shortstop Zack Cozart and Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. With Hosmer and Moustakas expected to garner contracts close to, if not surpassing $100 million, it’s hard to see much more available salary space from Royals owner David Glass.
Still, many Royals fans would view the offseason as tremendous success if the team is able to retain one, let alone two, of their household name free agents.
For Hosmer, Duquette says teams looking for a vocal leader with postseason experience should have interest in Hosmer, and would not be surprised if the 28-year old lands a seven-year, $20 million per year deal.
For Moustakas, Duquette says the lack of demand for Dodger third basemen Justin Turner his free agent haul last offseason, but expects Moustakas to a contract in the $100 million range over five to six years.
For fans hoping for answers in the near future, it’s very unlikely Kansas City will make a splash move early in the offseason. If the Royals want a chance at Hosmer or Moustakas, it will most likely come after the market gets somewhat watered down.
The timeline could play out very similar to Alex Gordon after 2015, as it wasn’t until early January until the Kansas City left fielder dotted the bottom line. The Royals may miss out on free agents from other team’s by waiting on Hosmer or Moustakas, but many in baseball believe if the Royals can’t sign either, that 2018 will be the start of a rebuild.
Still, the thought of signing Hosmer or Moustakas is a headline Royals fans have to like seeing, after many thought they had said goodbye after tearful final regular season game. Every impending free agent has expressed a great desire to return to Kansas City, but asking a 28-year old to turn down an extra $50 million is a hard pill to swallow when push comes to shove.
But if Duquette is right, the immediate future of baseball in Kansas City may not be as rough as once thought.
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