With the December Winter meetings almost on tap (December 7-11), let's see what our division rivals might have up their sleeves while in San Diego...
The Royals almost reached the pinnacle after 29 years, but were unable to get that last victory they needed to win the World Series. Still, they were able to break their playoff drought of the same length. The Tribe had a winning record against the Royals (10-9) but still finished four games back. Once in the playoffs, the Royals knocked off the A's in the Wild Card game, swept the Angels in the Division Series, and swept the Orioles in the AL Championship Series before the playoff magic beans ran out. (Or maybe Madison Bumgarner was just that good.)
The Royals offseason isn't likely to be as exciting as the Tigers', but that doesn't mean changes are not coming. Operating on a similar budget to the Tribe, let's see what tweaks may be in store.
The regular lineup had one free agent, Nori Aoki, and one player they had to make a decision on, Billy Butler. He had a $12.5M team option that was bought out for $1M. Given his freedom, he subsequently signed with the A's.
The infield appears to be set for the next few years. Salvador Perez isn't likely to leave early as he is on a very team friendly deal with his final team option in 2019 only $6M. Eric Hosmer will likely net $5M in his first year of arbitration and is a free agent in 2018. Omar Infante's deal is through 2017 with a $2M buyout in 2018. Alcides Escobar will only pull in $3M in 2015 and has two very affordable options in 2016 and 2017 ($11.75M total). Mike Moustakas is also scheduled for his first arbitration year and is also a free agent in 2018.
Alex Gordon makes $12.M in 2015 and has a player option for 2016. Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson both are first year arbitration guys and one of them might take over Aoki's spot in right. Or Moises Sierra, claimed off waivers from the White Sox could end up in right. There does not appear to be a DH on the roster but Ned Yost could just rotate players in there.
A number of bench/role players are gone though. Josh Willingham retired and Raul Ibanez is likely to follow suit. Brett Hayes, Pedro Ciriaco and Justin Maxwell were also cut loose. Erik Kratz and Terrence Gore both should have reserve roles, but the backup infielders are definitely up in the air.
Like the Tigers, the staff does have one huge free agent in James Shields. Unlike the Tigers, the Royals will not likely be involved in any discussions to retain him. Jeremy Guthrie will make $9M in 2105 and has a $10M team option in 2016. Jason Vargas is signed through 2017 (at $8M or less) and also has an $10M affordable team option in 2018. Danny Duffy likely will get around $2.5M in his first arbitration year and Yordano Ventura won't reach arbitration until 2017. It is the final spot that is wide open. There are only two other starters on the 40, Aaron Brooks and John Lamb, although Casey Coleman could move back from the pen. One potential option, Liam Hendriks wsa dealt to the Blue Jays for a catcher in high A ball.
Although Jason Frasor and Scott Downs won't return, the bulk of the bullpen will remain intact, including probably the best back three of Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera. But that top three will cost almost double the amount, growing from ~$10M to ~$18M. Davis is in the final year of a contract he signed in Tampa Bay, but the Royals hold two option years on him. Holland is a free agent in 2017. The rest of the pen will likely be fleshed out by the young arms they have, including 2014 draftee Brandon Finnegan.
Counting the entire 40-man roster, the Royals paid out just over $100M. With the current roster and expected raises, the Royals are expected to be around $85M. I would not expect them to go much above the $100M mark again in 2015, giving them ~$15M to play with.
With an obvious hole in the rotation and at the DH spot, I doubt the Royals spend on any high ticket items unless they part ways with someone like Wade Davis in a separate deal. They could look for an outfielder and also need a few bench players as well. They will also sign a few minor league invite rotation guys to get some depth in Omaha.