With the likes of Jon Lester and James Shields likely out of the their price range, the Royals have turned their attention to trying to sign pitchers Ervin Santana and Francisco Liriano, along with outfielder/DH Torii Hunter, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
The payroll for the 2014 AL Champs came in at just above $90 million, and signing Lester or Shields could take up well over 20% of that. While Santana and Liriano will likely land multi-year deals, it is highly unlikely they'll command an annual salary near $20 million, as Lester and Shields hope to do. Looking for another factor that could knock down the price on Santana and Liriano? They have a qualifying offer attached to their name, meaning whoever signs them will have to give up a first round draft pick in 2015.
Santana, a 2013 Royal, enters the free agent market after a one-year stint with the Braves. He's coming off a season in which he posted a 3.95 ERA over 31 starts, marking the 7th time he's eclipsed 30 starts in his career. The Royals were very pleased with Santana's lone season in Kansas City, as he posted a career-best 3.24 ERA over 211 innings pitched in 2013.
Liriano, fresh off a three-year stint with the Pirates, is no stranger to the AL Central either. After breaking in with the Twins in 2005, Liriano would pitch for the Twins for parts of 7 seasons, before being traded to Pittsburgh in 2012. After his numbers saw a decline in his later years with the Twins, Liriano rejuvenated his career in Pittsburgh, posting a 3.20 ERA over 55 starts. He is looking for a 3-year deala worth $12 million in average annual value, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
As our Chris Cotillo reported last night, the Royals, along with the Twins, are being aggressive in their pursuit of Hunter. With Billy Butler and Nori Aoki wrapping up their final years in Kansas City, the Royals will turn their attention towards Hunter as someone that could fill in RF or DH. Even though Hunter has been regarded as one of the game's top defenders for the last 15 years, his defense has started to decline over recent years. His defensive WAR in 2014 was ranked last among qualified right fielders, according to Fangraphs. Despite the defensive decline, Hunter's bat has remained relatively consistent. His 2014 slash line of .286/.319/.446 stacked up very similar to his career line of .279/.334/.465. Hunter will turn 40 next July, so Kansas City might prefer a one-year contract.