You have to spend money to not spend money, apparently, as Kansas City picked up its options today on closer Wade Davis and shortstop Alcides Escobar, according to Jon Heyman:
royals to pick up wade davis $10M option, alcides escobar $6.5M option— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 3, 2016
Royals GM Dayton Moore has been clear that the Royals are going to cut payroll this offseason, making this seem like a curious decision at first. But given the high prices the Yankees were able to extort from the Cubs and Indians for Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller respectively, Moore has a reasonable expectation that he’ll be able to trade the formerly dominant Davis for a starting pitcher. Heyman wrote earlier this month that the Royals have already received a lot of interest.
Whether anyone is going to step up and meet the Royals’ asking price, however, is the biggest question. While Davis’s ERA (1.87) was fantastic, and he blew just three of 30 save opportunities, his strikeouts fell precipitously. His velocity fell off by almost a full mile per hour and his spin rate dropped dramatically in 2016, and the 31 year old righty was put on the disabled list twice in July with a strained forearm. After returning from the disabled list in September, his velocity was normal and he had a 15-to-1 K/BB ratio in 9.2 innings, looking like the Wade Davis of old. If they can get a cost-controlled starter or more for him, it’ll be a big get for Moore, even as he weakens the Royals’ once vaunted bullpen.
Escobar was as punchless as ever in 2016, hitting just .261/.292/.350. He will occasionally BABIP his way into a decent year, but is otherwise a liability at the plate. In the field, his usefulness is declining as he approaches his 30s. None of the publicly available defensive metrics were particularly high on him, and suggest he may be in decline. While he’s still probably an upgrade over Raul Mondesi Jr., it’s unclear whyt he Royals would want to spend an extra $6 million on a bad shortstop. And if the plan is to trade Escobar as well, it’s hard to see them getting anything of value for him.
The Royals have lots to do this offseason to upgrade their rotation especially behind Ian Kennedy, Danny Duffy, and (presumably) Yordano Ventura. Second base needs a major overhaul as well.