2012 was a year of hope for the Royals...and they lost 90 games, mainly due to a horrendous pitching staff. With a young, cost-controlled core though, the Royals likely won't be completely reshaping their team in 2013.
Pitching, pitching, and more pitching. The Royals are set at nearly every offensive position on the diamond with the exception of second base, where Chris Getz, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Johnny Giavotella got most of the playing time and were awful. Jeff Francoeur was also terrible in right field, but stud prospect Wil Myers should be the Opening Day starter. Where will the Royals focus their offseason? Pitching, of course. The team's best starter was Jeremy Guthrie over 14 starts, who is a free agent that the team should look to retain. Former number one overall pick Luke Hochevar was awful and might be a nontender candidate entering his third of four arbitration years. Veteran Bruce Chen will also be around after signing a two year extension prior to 2012. The Royals bullpen is deep and cheap, meaning that they won't look to upgrade at all there.
Bringing back Guthrie, who thrived in Kansas City after a disastrous half season in Denver, should be a priority for the Royals. The $8 million he earned in 2012 might be a little much though. I think the Royals are going to make a play for a top-flight starter this offseason. Former Royal Zack Greinke has been loosely mentioned as a possibility, but I believe he'll be priced out of their range. I think Anibal Sanchez could be a good fit (hopefully better than Jonathan Sanchez last season), and Shaun Marcum could also slot very nicely into their rotation. If I were the Royals though, I'd focus on Dan Haren. Haren has pinpoint control, ate innings like they were covered in bacon grease prior to 2012, and has probably seen his asking price slip a bit after a disappointing 2012. As for the second base job, one man seems destined to be a Royal: Kelly Johnson. Johnson was drafted by the Braves in 2000 when Dayton Moore was director of player development and scouting in Atlanta, and Moore clearly has an affinity for his former team's players. Johnson will likely come very cheap after a poor 2012 with the Blue Jays, and would be a great fit in Kansas City.
FRANCOEUR FRANCOEUR FRANCOEUR. After a breakout 2011 with the Royals (a breakout year at age 27, in his seventh year in the majors mind you), Francoeur was rewarded with a two year, $13.5 million extension through 2013. Predictably, he turned back into a pumpkin last season and had a putrid -1.2 fWAR season. With Wil Myers having an incredible 2012 season at age 21 in AA and AAA, Francoeur has gotta go. But if a team isn't willing to bite on him, the Royals might be forced to entertain offers for superstar left fielder Alex Gordon. They'd likely be able to get a lot mroe value for Gordon than they would for Francoeur, but at the same time, Gordon/Myers is a much better outlook for the future than Francoeur/Myers. I don't think the team will really be listening on anyone else, but after last offseason's Joakim Soria debacle, they should at least entertain the thought of dealing Aaron Crow or any of their other young, flamethrowing relievers.
The Royals are already awash with prospects, and they don't need to keep the rebuilding cycle ongoing. With the arrival of Myers in 2013, their goals have shifted to "win in X years" to "start winning now". If they're going to trade anyone aside from Francoeur, the team needs to look at getting young, major league ready pitching in return. And hell, even if they do deal Francoeur, a team might be willing to give up a pitcher that's getting expensive in arbitration that is struggling...guys like the Jair Jurrjens/Tommy Hanson type (not that the Braves would *ever* trade for Francoeur again). But if they would move Gordon in case of not being able to trade Francoeur, young studs in the form of Randall Delgado/Julio Teheran would definitely be on the table, and those are the guys the Royals needs. The 19-year old A-ball players would do nothing for this team right now, especially if Moore wants to keep his job past 2013.
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