The Kansas City Royals still have a lot to do in the winter. But the first month since the World Series ended has been a very good one. They have traded a minor league reliever away for Ervin Santana, picked up a couple of small-name pitchers off waivers and most importantly have re-signed Jeremy Guthrie for the next three seasons. They still will want a real ace, however. Both Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse are still on the market and the Royals are rumoured to be pursuing one of them. But what they have still looks like a decent improvement, even acknowledging the fact that it would be hard not to after the last two seasons.
There is certainly still hope of landing an ace in the next two and a half months; the retention of Guthrie might have sent out a positive message to the other free agents if nothing else. But it is still going to be tough and it is worth looking at how the Royals rotation might look with the current 40-man roster.
Since trading Zack Greinke away before the 2011 season the Royals have tried to use Luke Hochevar as the number one starter and this year they went for Bruce Chen. Neither were successful; Hochevar is talented enough, but far too mercurial and Chen was in a bit over his head. With the current roster, one might look at Guthrie next season. He did very well in the last half of last year and he has been considered possible ace material by other teams in the past. It’s probably the best option, but still a significant step up and taking a risk. The other option is Santana, but the Royals are already hoping he bounces back from a poor 2012 and probably do not want to add to his workload.
Santana looks like he will probably slot in at number two or three then, with Chen returning to his usual middle of the rotation role where he has had success. It is probably safe to assume that Hochevar will be in the rotation and hoping for some consistency and right now there is a Spring Training battle set up for the fifth spot. At some point as well Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy will return from Tommy John sugery.
A true ace will actually turn that into a strong rotation, but even if that does not happen then the Royals can at least look forward to some more reliable performances next year. It will probably not be enough to competitive, but it is a good first step.