Royals exercise options on Escobar, Davis; Gomes now a free agent
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The World Series champion Kansas City Royals kept on shaping their roster for next season on Thursday, exercising an $8 million option on All-Star closer Wade Davis and $5.25 million option on All-Star shortstop Alcides Escobar.
The Royals also declined a $3 million option on outfielder Jonny Gomes, one day after learning All-Star outfielder Alex Gordon had declined his player option and choosing not to exercise options on aging outfielder Alex Rios and unproductive starter Jeremy Guthrie.
General manager Dayton Moore indicated Thursday the Royals are interested in signing Gordon and free agent Ben Zobrist.
"We'll see what the market brings," Moore said. "Obviously our goal is to bring back players that are most impactful to us, and you know, the players you mentioned have been a big part of our success here. We'll do everything we can to make sure we operate efficiently, first of all, and do the best we can to get them back. We'll see what happens."
There was no question that Davis and Escobar will be part of the 2016 team.
After a starring turn as a setup man, Davis took over as the closer when Greg Holland required Tommy John surgery. He wound up saving four games in the playoffs, and recorded the final out in the 12th inning of Game 5 against the New York Mets to wrap up the World Series.
Holland will likely miss all of next season, which means Davis — who has a $10 million option for 2017 with a $250,000 buyout — will go into spring training as the closer.
Escobar was MVP of the AL Championship Series, and proved to be a sparkplug when he returned to the top of the lineup late in the season. He hit an inside-the-park homer to lead off Game 1 of the World Series, helping propel the Royals to their first championship since 1985.
While he hit just .257 with three homers and 47 RBIs, Escobar also played marvelous defense, and could win his first Gold Glove when the results are revealed next week.
The Royals have a team option worth $6.5 million with him for the 2017 season, too.
Along with the free agency of Zobrist, reliever Ryan Madson and starter Chris Young, the Royals have numerous other roster decisions to make. Young players such as first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas are under club control, but arbitration will continue to make them more expensive, and put pressure on Moore to sign his cornerstones to long-term deals.
"Scouting and player development and growing our own players will always be our method of operation," Moore said. "Are we going to win the negotiations for the top guys? We'll try. But we're not going to put ourselves in a position where we operate in a way that's reckless and puts us perhaps in a position where we can't sign those young players to long-term contracts."
That is especially important to remember in Gordon's case. He's been with the organization for more than a decade, a second overall draft pick who overcame "bust" status to become an All-Star and arguably the finest defensive outfielder in the game.
The challenge with him becomes separating sentimentality from business.
"We don't want to get caught up in, 'A player has earned this or earned that.' It doesn't matter if you've been here four days or 40 years, you have to produce each and every day," Moore said. "You're going to be compensated for what you're going to do, not what you've done."
The contract status of the Royals' core players isn't all that's in limbo. Moore and manager Ned Yost have contracts that expire after next season, making them "lame ducks" — though both said Thursday that they want to remain in Kansas City for years to come.
"I'm totally comfortable where it is right now," Yost said. "That stuff all takes care of itself. We haven't discussed it for a second. I love being here, Dayton loves being here, we love this group and we're in a position where we feel like we can continue to win."
Besides, the avid outdoorsman said, "I'm more of a lame deer than a lame duck."
What exactly is the difference, Ned?
"A lame deer is bigger," Yost replied, "and I grunt more than quack."