After the conclusion of a disappointing year for the Kansas City Royals it is time to look at what sort of improvements they can and should make in the offseason. Although some are obvious, like pitching, the Royals do not have unlimited means and will be reluctant to give away too much of the talent in their minor league system.
The Opening Day starters at five positions are if not carved in stone, then at least stencilled into a stone whilst someone sharpens a chisel and selects a hammer. Barring injury or a shattering trade Alex Gordon will start in left, Mike Moustakas will be at third, Alcides Escobar at short, Eric Hosmer at first and Salvador Perez will be behind the plate. It’s also likely that Jeff Francoeur will be in right field, though it is possible that he will be traded. Even at the other positions, however, the competitors all seem to be within the organisation. There is not an obvious need to bring someone new in at any defensive position.
Even the bullpen is well stocked with young arms and they actually set an American League record for strikeouts in a single season this year. (And although they were very good that record comes with the caveat that they also had a huge number of innings pitched due to the poor season of the starters.) the bullpen actually stands to get better next year with the return of Joakim Soria from Tommy John surgery. It is not known whether he will be properly back to his old self, but Greg Holland has shown his skill in the ninth inning anyway.
So the needs for the Royals almost begin and end with starting pitching. They will want to sign probably two free agents with one of them being Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie had a great stint with the Royals this year including carrying a no-hitter through 7.2 innings against the Chicago White Sox and throwing five quality starts in the month of September. Bringing him back would definitely be a priority. After that, they need a true number one starter. Bruce Chen is a very good two or three starter, but we saw this year that he is not an ace. The same is true of Luis Mendoza and Will Smith, which means that the Royals could have a very strong back of the rotation if they got an ace, but right now they are lacking a proper backbone to the rotation.
There is one man who fits the Royals needs absolutely perfectly. A free agent pitcher with a solid pedigree, who has had success in Kauffman Stadium and who is a genuine ace: Zack Greinke. He would be enormously expensive, of course. But anyone good enough to really make a difference for the Royals is going to cost a fair sum anyway. They know what Greinke can do and they know that he would be worth a fair sum. Plus, it would be an incredibly popular move with the fans.
But assuming that Greinke is out of the question there are still other options. Amibal Sanchez might look quite tempting after shutting the Royals out a week before the season ends and Kyle Lohse just started the one-game Wild Card playoff for the St Louis Cardinals. Both would be excellent options and possibly cheaper than Greinke, though it is impossible to know for sure.
Whoever the Royals get, however, needs to be a proper ace. They have plenty of talented middle-of-the-rotation types as it is and that isn’t good enough. They need a very strong proven ace to give stability to the rest of the rotation. There are options, but it is yet to be seen how much the Royals are willing to spend.