Alex Gordon wanted to remain in Kansas City and the Royals wanted him back. But even after the franchise cornerstone decided to stay put, the Royals have some unfinished business.
The inflated free-agent market for Gordon never materialized, giving the Royals the surprising opportunity to step in and sign the left fielder to a four-year, $72 million deal on Wednesday.
As Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star points out, the Royals had never given out a financial package worth more than $55 million. But these are special times in Kansas City, where the Royals have a legitimate chance to become the first team to make three straight World Series appearances since the New York Yankees had a four-peat from 1998 to 2001.
In order to make that happen, the Royals would like to add a starting pitcher to a rotation that lost Johnny Cueto to free agency. McCullough cautions that will not be easy since the fiscally-conscious Royals already have handed out a “sizable chunk” of cash this offseason to Gordon, starter Chris Young (two-year, $11.5 million) and reliever Joakim Soria (three-year, $25 million).
Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports the Royals have strong interest in free agent Ian Kennedy and will make a strong push to sign the right-hander now that Gordon is back in the fold. Kennedy had a 3.97 ERA the last two-plus seasons in San Diego and has made 30 or more starts each of the last six years.
ESPN’s Jim Bowden recently projected a three-year, $42 million contract for Kennedy, which might be a bit high for the Royals, particularly in terms of years.
The Royals also have been linked this offseason to Wei-Yin Chen and Yovani Gallardo. If the price for a free-agent starter remains prohibitive, the Royals could get by with what they have and make a serious push at the summer trade deadline, just as they did last season in acquiring Cueto.
Our rumors roundup continues with news on another prominent outfielder still on the market:
Justin Upton: The Texas Rangers are interested in Upton, but only on a one-year contract, tweets Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Upton is still seeking a longer deal, but a one-year contract could be an option down the road if the market remains stalled. Upton is just 28 and coming off a sub-par year in San Diego (.251/.336/.445). He could add to his value with a big 2016 season and re-enter the weaker free-agent outfield market next winter.
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles have been talking with representatives for both Yoenis Cespedes and Upton, according to ESPN's Buster Olney. The main question is whether the Orioles view Cespedes and Upton only as fallback options if they are unable to re-sign Chris Davis. Earlier this week, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported that Orioles owner Peter Angelos was holding firm on a seven-year, $154 million to Davis and had not signed off on an all-out pursuit of other free agents.
Marcell Ozuna: There has been speculation all winter that the Marlins were willing to move the disgruntled outfielder, and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald tweeted Wednesday that the Fish have discussed a deal with the Rangers involving right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez. Rosenthal cautions that the talks with the Rangers “have yet to significantly advance.”
Fernando Rodney: The free-agent reliever is engaged in “active talks” with multiple clubs, including the Padres, Blue Jays, D-backs and Cubs, according to Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Rodney’s production fell off badly with the Mariners last (5.68), but he did restore some of his value in a late-season stint with the Cubs (1.00 WHIP). At this stage, Rodney is likely viewed as a setup option who can be used as a closer in case of an emergency.
Kelly Johnson: The Atlanta Braves reportedly have agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal with Johnson, a left-handed hitter who could share the third base position with Adonis Garcia and serve as an extra bat off the bench. The signing will likely accelerate the Braves’ ongoing effort to part ways with either Nick Swisher or Michael Bourn, according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Both Swisher and Bourn are slated for backup roles, and the Braves would have to eat a significant portion of their respective salaries.
New York Mets: The Mets will have a Rookie of the Year candidate in Steven Matz, who retained his status as a first-year player despite being a key member of their 2015 postseason. As for other rookies who could contribute in 2016, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com suggests three pitchers already on the 40-man roster: Akeel Morris, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo.