Another year lost.
That is what we have seen this year, like so many other years, from the Royals. Another year of expectations not met, another year of a losing record, another year of failure. But how can it all turn around? They clearly have talent in place in a lot of areas. They have some guys who have the ability to perform next year, such as Alex Gordon in left, Billy Butler at DH, Alcides Escobar at shortstop, Salvador Perez at catcher, Mike Moustakas at third, and Lorenzo Cain in Center.
If you do a quick evaluation of this team, you will see that the Royals currently rank 9th in the AL in On Base Percentage (OBP). You will notice that we have about six regular players with league or better On-base numbers (League average is about a .320 On-base percentage) (Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain, and Chris Getz). If you weed out the players who don’t have above average OBP numbers (Below a .340 OBP), you only get Alcides Escobar, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Salvador Perez. In order to be a winner in 2013 and beyond, we need to constantly be evaluating the team’s on-base stats, and we need to consistently have an above-average overall team OBP (at least .330). You see that teams like the Rangers, the Tigers, the Yankees, the Cardinals, the Red Sox, and the Braves (All fairly consistent winners) have high team OBP numbers. If we want to be a team like those teams, we need to focus on getting on base.
If you dig a little further (And trust me, you don’t need to dig much further to see this glaring issue), you will see that we have practically no starting pitching. We are 11th out of 14 AL teams in ERA, and if you look deeper into the stats, you will see that we do not have a single starter with an ERA+ over 100 (Which basically means we do not have a single starter who is even average). We can safely assume that Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy (our only two starters who can be expected to have ERA+ numbers over 100) are going to be gone for at least most of the season. We can also assume that Jake Odorizzi will not immediately contribute to our starting pitching woes. The bullpen is playoff-caliber, but we need a complete overhaul to the starting rotation.
To recap, here is what the Royals need to contend next year and beyond:
1: An above average team OBP.
2: five pitchers each with an ERA+ over 90.
3: To make some shrewd moves on the market during the offseason to acquire these luxuries.
During the offseason, the Royals will have a payroll of roughly $50 Million and a budget of roughly $20 Million without any additions or subtractions.
If you take Hochevar and Chen’s salary out of the equation, we would have a salary of roughly $30 million this offseason. If you take even 1/4th of Jeff Francoeur’s salary out of the equation, we would have a budget of $33 Million.
With that money (Even if we don’t dump Francoeur) and our resources in the minors, we should have more than enough to acquire 3 starting pitchers who are at least decent, and a right handed bat at second base with a decent OBP (Jeff Keppinger is an example, or we could just call up Johnny Giavotella) to platoon at second with Chris Getz.
There are plenty of options on the starting pitching market this offseason. From top free agent targets such as Zack Grienke, Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson, Shaun Marcum, and (potentially) Jake Peavy, to potential trade targets such as James Shields, Josh Beckett, Josh Johnson, and Jason Vargas, the market is the deepest it has been in years. The Royals should have no trouble finding at least a few legitimate starting pitching options.
There will be a lot more speculation as to what the Royals do this offseason, but I thought I would give you a primer for what to expect from now until Opening Day next year.