By Soren Petro
The Royals can drop close to $31-million from this year’s payroll, but there is good news and bad news when it comes to the financial outlook of the Royals next season.
First the good news… the Royals have $25.1-million in expiring contracts.Royal fans probably won’t shed a tear to see Jeff Francoeur’s gravy train leave the station. Miguel Tejada is on a one-year deal and Bruce Chen’s mulit-year contract is up as well which is something that can be tolerated.
The problem is Ervin Santana. It’s great to have the $12-million (his salary is $13M, but the Angels are paying $1M) available for the club to spend, but they will be hard pressed to find the type of production he’s given the team to this point for the same price.
In addition the Royals can choose not to offer arbitration to Luck Hochevar and Chris Getz, which would take another $5.6-million off the books.
Now for the bad news… the Royals owe $11.25-million in raises next season. James Shields (through a team option) will cost an addition $1.75M. Alex Gordon gets an extra million dollars. After making only $5M this year Jeremy Guthrie’s deal climbs to $11M in the second year of his three-year $25M deal. Wade Davis add $2M to his salary and Salvador Perez gets a well deserved $500K raise.
So it looks like the Royals should have around $20M to spend. That’s more than enough to entice Santana to sign back on in Kansas City. But wait… there’s more… bad news that it is.
There is the wonderful world of arbitration, and the Royals are going to be busy with at least eight cases (and that doesn’t include Hochevar and Getz from above). Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, J.C. Gutierrez, Greg Holland, Eric Hosmer, Elliot Johnson, Luis Mendoza, and FelipPaulino are all in line for substantial raises.
What looked like a $20M surplus quickly is whittled down to well under $10M, and probably closer to about $5M. And it doesn’t end there either… after the 2014 season the previously mentioned arbitration eligible players will be joined by Lorenzo Cain, Danny Duffy, Jarrod Dyson, Kelvin Herrera, and Mike Moustakas in the arbitration, money buffet.
So any moves the Royals want to make this offseason have to be tempered by the fact they have another major wave of increases coming for another group of their corps players.
If the Royals walk on Santana this year and James Shields after 2014, the payroll would remain in the neighborhood it currently resides (around $82M total for the 40 man roster).
So what’s the morale of the story?
First, the Royals need to make hey this year. While they have a lot of young talent that should continue to get better for the next several seasons, they are also going to continue to be better compensated. It is going to be difficult for the Royals to keep Santana and Shields, or maybe either of them. Without them the Royals rotation loses a lot of its teeth.
Second, someone else is going to have to step up in the rotation. Whether it is Paulino or Duffy coming back from Tommy John surgery… Yordano Ventura or Kyle Zimmer making their way up from the minors… the club is going to have to find cheaper answers to fill out the rotation.
Finally, don’t take this as a “doom and gloom” column. This is simply what contending teams in small markets have to contend with. It’s the cost of doing business in Major League Baseball today. The fact the Royals have players that actually warrant a raise or going to arbitration is a major step in the right direction. It is simply going to require Dayton Moore to begin to be an economist as well as a general manager.
By Soren Petro
Leading up to the draft and immediately after, much of the discussion was about whether the Chiefs were making a mistake taking a left tackle instead of a quarterback. This was the opinion of some even after it was clear that virtually no team in the league (except the Bills of course) valued any of the QB’s as a first round talent.
“You win with quarterbacks” was the drum I heard being pounded into my head, over… and over… and over again. Which is funny that it was being said so much, because I didn’t hear anyone arguing that point. What I did hear being said was that there wasn’t a QB that was a winner in this draft, at least not one that came without a substantial risk of being a bust.
“Everyone has a tackle” was the next line that I kept hearing. That’s actually not true. Every team has two tackles, not one. There isn’t one team in the league that doesn’t line up with two offensive tackles on almost every single snap. The question is how many teams have “good” tackles… two of them even? Even more important, how many teams have “great” left tackles to make sure the QB can win the game?
QB or OT… that is the question. So let’s take a look at how the playoff teams from last year acquired their QB and their left tackle. Below is a break down.
- 10 of 12 were playing for the team that drafted them. Peyton Manning in free agency and Matt Schaub by trade were the only two not drafted by their current team.
- 7 of 12 were first round draft picks. Andy Dalton and Collin Kaepernick were taken in the 2nd round, Russell Wilson and Matt Schaub went in the 3rd, and Tom Brady was a 6th round pick.
- 4 of 12 were top 10 picks. Manning and Andrew Luck were number 1, Robert Griffin III went second, and Matt Ryan third.
- 12 of 12 were playing for the team that drafted them. (Bryant McKinnie did not start in the regular season, but started in the playoffs for the Ravens… which would make this 11 of 12)
- 10 of 12 were first round picks. The Bengals, Andrew Whitworth went in the second and the Packers Marshall Newhouse was a fifth round pick.
- 3 of 12 were top 10 picks. The Redskins Trent Williams and Vikings Matt Kalil went fourth overall and Russell Okung went sixth.
There were actually more LT’s that were playing for their original team than QB’s, 12 to 10… More LT’s taken in the first round, 10 to 7… Only one less top 10 pick, 3 to 4.
What’s the moral of the story? It’s that last year the playoff teams had invested more in left tackles than quarterbacks.
What’s the conclusion that should be taken from this? Only that the left tackle is very important and should not be ignored to take a QB at all costs. It means the Chiefs used logic and reason in their decision to not take a QB with the number one pick, or to pull of the mythical “trade down” that many fans think is always readily available.
There is no doubt “you win with quarterbacks,” but there is also no doubt that finding the winning QB is not as easy as many make it out to be. Investing heavily (like a high first round draft choice) in a QB that turns out to be the wrong guy can set a franchise back for years.
Just ask the Raiders how much taking Jamarcus Russell with the number one overall pick in the 2007 draft set the franchise back. How much better would they be today with Calvin Johnson (#2), Joe Thomas (#3), or Adrian Peterson (#7) wearing the silver and black?
Do you think the 49’ers are regretting taking Patrick Willis at #11 instead of the next “great” QB, Brady Quinn? What about the Jets selection of DarrelleRevis at #14?
If there was a “franchise” QB in this draft, the Chiefs missed the boat. John Dorsey is paid to find that player, no doubt… but finding him can often be like finding a needle in a haystack.
If you want to tell me the QB that is going to be the franchise golden boy, I’m all ears. Feel free to drop me an e-mail with who that guy is. We’ll revisit this topic in a few years.
By Soren Petro
I heard a conversation yesterday about how Alex Gordon was somehow to blame for the Royals offensive struggles. That’s funny… that’s what that is.
Somehow Gordon was to blame because he was batting leadoff. He was to blame because he wasn’t getting on base enough in his first at bat. Oh, don’t get me wrong there was conversation about some of the other Royals that were struggling, mainly Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. And no doubt, “Moose” and “Hos” are certainly a big part of the Royals offensive problems, but they aren’t the only ones… and Gordon certainly isn’t where I would spend most of my time looking for a fix.
Look, there’s been an avalanche of conversation about the struggles of Hosmer and Moustakas and rightfully so, but when is there going to be some discussion about Billy Butler’s production?
Butler is currently hitting .216, with a .375 on base percentage, while slugging .412. He leads the team in OBP, but is fifth amongst the regulars in slugging percentage and eighth out of nine in BA.
So far the Royals cleanup hitters (Moustakas and Hosmer account for 37 of the 72 plate appearances) are posting a .176/.222/.206 slash line with two RBI while batting behind Butler. This has no doubt contributed mightily to Billy’s slow start, but let’s not just give the Royals, All-Star DH a free pass. Teams are certainly pitching around Butler (to an extent) helping him to a team leading 12 walks. But even with that, some of the blame for the Royals lack of offense has to fall on the shoulders of Butler. It’s not like Butler is being treated like Barry Bonds in the middle of his fifth “roids” cycle.
Since the current divisional format was established in 1995, there have been 59 different seasons where a player has walked 114 times or more. Here is a look at what these players were able to do when they did get the chance to swing the bat…
48 slugged .500 or better
44 hit 30 homers or more
43 drove in 100 runs or more
31 batted .300 or better
28 hit 30 or more doubles
So there was no shortage of production even if they were forced to leave the bat on their shoulder well over 100 times. Butler’s three homers do lead the team and put him on pace for the same 29 homers he hit last season, but he’s managed only one double. That has to change.
Bottom line is this. The problem with the Royals offense is certainly NOT Billy Butler, at least not the biggest problem. But he can be better, even if teams are being careful when he’s at the plate.
What about Salvador Perez?
I mentioned the fact that Moustakas and Hosmer make up 37 of the 72 plate appearances by Royals in the cleanup spot. Who’s been in the box for the other 35 PA’s? Try everybody’s favorite, Salvador Perez.
Perez is probably the most popular player on the team and for good reason. He’s a great talent that has exceeded the expectations of every fan, and almost the entire baseball community. However exceeding expectations are a relative thing. Perez is currently contributing to the Royals offensive excellence (#sarcasm) with a .258/.269/.348 slash line.
Below is a look at what each player has done batting behind Butler…
.308/.308/.308 Eric Hosmer
.176/.200/.206 Salvador Perez
.095/.208/.143 Mike Moustakas
Hosmer has actually been the best, but his four singles in 13 AB’s is nothing to write home about.
Speaking of 100 walks!
If Butler is able to draw 100 walks, he’ll be the first Royals batter to do it since who? The Royals recently fired the answer to this question.Kevin Seitzerwatched ball four 102 times in 1989.
No Royal has drawn 100 walks since Seitzer in 1989. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Since Seitzer posted his triple digit walk season the rest of baseball has seen 176 individual player seasons with 100 walks or more. That’s an average of almost six per team.
Speaking of homers!
As bad as the Royals lack of 100-walk seasons is, it still pales in comparison to the shame that is the lack of homers.
I mentioned Butler being on pace to equal his 2012 total of 29 homers. That means Steve “Bye-bye” Balboni’s franchise record of 36 homeruns should be safe for another season. That record will celebrate its 28th birthday at the end of this season.
So how many players have topped that mark since Balboni put his name at the top of the Royals seasonal homerun list? Try 476. That’s right 476. FOUR HUNDRED AND FREAKING SEVENTY-SIX!
That’s an average of almost 16 per team.
If Butler isn’t going to get there, who will?
By Soren Petro
If the Chiefs are planning on grabbing an offensive tackle in the draft, they will be forced to do it from the number one pick.
All mock drafts should be taken with a grain of salt, but in the final week before the draft some trends start to take shape. One that is currently taking place is the rise of the offensive tackles. Luke Joeckel’s name has been at the top of many “mocks” since the beginning and recently Eric Fisher (Central Michigan) has started to gain some momentum as the top OT. But it is the rise of Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson that may be forcing the Chiefs to use the top pick rather than try to trade it.
We know that a number-one overall pick in a draft that has an OT rated as the top player is not going to fetch the same kind of bounty that a QB driven draft will. The Rams were able to move up from number six in the 1997 draft to the top spot by giving up a third, fourth, and seventh round pick. Orlando Pace was the prize the Rams landed with the trade.
It is a far cry from the mountain of value the Rams were able to get from the Skins last year. Washington wanted Robert Griffin III, and was willing to pay to get him. To move up four spot from number six to the second pick in the draft, Mike Shanahan sent his second round pick along with his first round pick in ’13 and ’14.
Armed with this knowledge the Chiefs know they are not going to break the bank like the Rams last season. But if they were confident they could slide down to the six to ten range and still get a top offensive tackle, they can’t be quite as confident now.
ESPN’s Todd McShay has Joeckel going first, Fisher fifth, and Johnson seventh. The USA Today has all three off the board after just five picks. If this is where they are going to fall the Chiefs can only afford to move down a couple of picks if they are going to take an OT.
We’ve said it a number of times on The Program. If you are going to live by the “best player available” mantra John Dorsey laid out in his debut presser, you are going to need to have a player you can go to war with at each position before the draft begins. Dorsey and the Chiefs have done a good job of doing exactly that. Corner was a huge need; enter Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson. Donnie Avery filled a hole at receiver, Mike DeVito at DE, Anthony Fasano at TE, Geoff Schwartz on the OL, and in the last week ZacDiles and Akeem Jordan were signed to compete for the open spot at middle linebacker.
The one place Dorsey has not filled the hole is at offensive tackle. With Brandon Albert and Eric Winston breaking the huddle the Chiefs were in at least good shape at tackle. With Winston gone, the Chiefs are looking at Donald Stephenson manning the right side. Stephenson is athletic enough to make the switch, but not the type of road grader most teams like to enhance the running game.
Albert is currently holding out, telling Adam Teicher he’s miles apart on a long term deal with the Chiefs, refusing to even consider playing on the right side, asking for a trade, and coming off a back injury. Other than that he’s ready to go (#sarcasm).
If the Chiefs had to play a game today, they would probably line up Stephenson at left tackle and Schwartz at right. Do I even need to mention how happy Alex Smith was to not be wearing pads, while sporting the yellow (no touch) jersey at Tuesday’s first practice?
The more I look at how the Chiefs have put the roster together, the more I think cutting Winston was not part of the original plan. Dorsey and Reid did a very good job of filling every need… every need… except one, offensive tackle. That’s not to say they made a mistake, I think it was more of an adjustment.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the plan was to sign one corner, probably Robinson, but as the market evolved it started to become clear they could afford to add Smith as well. If the Smith deal was just too good to pass up, and the front office was already leaning towards one of the tackles with the first pick, it became easier to walk away from Winston. But in walking away from Winston, an offensive tackle would have to be taken with the first pick.
Now, back to this year’s draft, where many people want the Chiefs to trade down. I don’t think it’s going to happen. An offensive tackle is a must and they simply won’t get an offer from a team high enough in the draft for the Chiefs to risk being left out in the cold on the top three tackles. If I’m wrong, they pick up a third or fourth round pick to move down one or two spots.
First Practice Notes
What’s the difference?
Many players were asked Tuesday what the biggest differences were between Reid’s practice and that of the previous coaching staff. While they all went out of their way not to put down Romeo Crennel, there were two common themes. “There is a faster tempo to practice” was said a couple times. This fits with what I saw from Crennel in St. Joe. There was not much of a sense of urgency in his training camp.
The coaches are “very detail oriented” was said by almost every player interviewed. Crennel’s staff could’ve been detail oriented, but why would this have come up if he was? I’m guessing the Chiefs will get more done every practice, which should add up to more success the later the season gets.
A Defiant Berry
Eric Berry is normally one of the most agreeable players to speak with. After practice Tuesday Berry was adamant he would “not talk about last year.” I spoke with him at the Super Bowl and he had no problem talking about the season he had just finished. It could be as easy as… new year, new attitude. We’ll see.
In Shape, but Not Sharp
Alex Smith is in great physical condition. It is clear that he is either extremely gifted with his physique or has put in a lot of time in the gym. That’s a great sign for his work ethic. There’s no need to read too much into his first practice, but if Tuesday becomes the norm he will need to spend more time throwing to his receivers and less time working out.
Smith and his receivers had trouble hooking up on some of his deeper throws. This is very easy to understand in his first practice. Hey, they were practicing in shorts and I wanted to have three notes from practice… forgive me for reaching a little.
By Soren Petro
Filling holes! That’s been the theme of the Chiefs offseason. There were many to fill and Chiefs GM, John Dorsey and Head Coach, Andy Reid, have not wasted time trying to get them filled.
While I think some of the contracts might be on the steep side, there is no doubt they are getting a lot of things checked off list, which should help them fulfill their draft day mission of taking “the best player available.” If you don’t have someone to line up at each position, it is impossible to simply take the “best player available.” You will have to compromise somewhere to get someone on the field, whether that is over paying in free agency or reaching in the draft.
The fear is that Dorsey’s entire career has been spent supplementing a Hall of Fame QB (Brett Favre followed by Aaron Rodgers). Similarly Andy Reid’s biggest successes (8 of his 9 playoff appearances) came when he had a Pro Bowl QB (Donovan McNabb) under center for him.
Scott Pioli spent free-agency grabbing JAG’s (Just a Guy) to fill out the roster. That’s not a bad strategy when you can count on Tom Brady to bail you out in close games. The problem for Pioli was that Matt Cassel was not Tom Brady… and this just in… neither is Alex Smith.
It is a great battle plan to round out the roster in free agency and look for the playmakers in the draft. But just as no battle plan survives combat, no team without a “franchise QB” can count on being that good in the draft. Some where along the way you are going to have to stick your flag in the ground and add an impact veteran in free agency or by trade. Justin Smith was that kind of free agent for the 49’ers, Anquan Boldin for the Ravens.
Here’s a breakdown of what the Chiefs have done so far this offseason.
QB – Alex Smith
2013 2nd Round Pick (#34) and 2014 3rd or 2nd
Smith is an improvement on Cassel no doubt, but is not a franchise QB. The price (two high picks) seems expensive to me, but Andy Reid has had great success with QB’s. You have to be willing to give your head coach his QB. If Reid thinks this is the guy, Dorsey is obligated to make the deal. If it doesn’t work out this time, you say no the next time.
The floor is Matt Cassel rebooted. The ceiling is Rich Gannon with the Raiders. Once Gannon went to work with John Gruden his career took off. Chiefs have to hope Reid can have a similar impact on Alex Smith.
QB – Chase Daniel
3 years for $10M.
Reports said the Chiefs were not the only team trying to land Daniel, and the contract they signed him to would attest to that fact. $3-million is not excessive for a backup QB in the NFL, but Daniel has attempted only nine passes in his career.
There was nothing, not to like about Daniel’s career at Mizzou. In fact if he were four inches taller he would have been drafted on the first day of the NFL draft. While playing with Drew Brees, he studied under the best under-sized QB in NFL history. Daniel has to have picked up something along the way. And again, he gets to work with Andy Reid.
TE - Anthony Fasano
4 years for $16M. $4.5M signing bonus.
The Chiefs grab a tight-end that has 24 TD’s over seven seasons, with a single season best of seven. 528 yards receiving is his career best. Over the last four seasons he’s averaged 412 yards and 4 TD’s. The numbers don’t tell the entire story with Fasano. He is known as one of the better blocking TE’s in football and should help the Chiefs in the running game.
CB/S – Dunta Robinson
3 years for $15M.
Robinson is probably best suited for the slot if he is going to stay at corner, or protected in zone coverage on the outside. Letting him play with receivers in front of him (either in zone or at safety) allows him to bring the wood. Robinson is known as a big hitter and should bring an increased level of toughness to the Chiefs secondary. Robinson and Eric Berry will give receivers something to think about when they go up for balls.
DE - Mike DeVito
3 years for $12.6M. $4.2M signing bonus. $6.2M guaranteed.
Bob Sutton gets a defensive end that knows his system and the price is right. The Chiefs had a need at DE and by signing DeVito they don’t have to reach for one in the draft.
DeVito is considered a good run defender. The Chiefs should be able to count on him to suck up blocks and allow Derrick Johnson to attack apposing ball carriers. He’ll probably come off the field on passing downs.
Webber vs. T-Rob
This time last year, even though I tried to talk them back to reality, I had a number of people telling me that Thomas Robinson was the next Chris Webber. How do they compare in their rookie season, let’s go to the numbers…
17.5 Pts 9.1Reb 3.6 Ast 1.2 Stl 2.2 Blk .552 FG% .532 FT%
4.7 Pts 4.5Reb 0.7 Ast 0.5 Stl 0.4 Blk .432 FG% .556 FT%
Other than owning Webber in free throw percentage by 24 points, it is a clear beat down by Webber. However Robinson has already been traded by the organization that drafted him. It took Webber until after his first season to get dealt. So Robinson’s got that going for him.
By Soren Petro
I had the honor, and pleasure, of voting for the Associated Press All Big XII teams again this year.
I don’t think there would be any real negative reaction to the first and second team. Some KU fans will be upset that Travis Releford didn’t make the second team and that’s understandable. Releford and Melvin Ejim of Iowa St. were the toughest cuts from the two teams.
Here is a look at the ballot I turned in.
Marcus Smart – Oklahoma St.
Pierre Jackson – Baylor
Ben McLemore – Kansas
Rodney McGruder – Kansas St.
Jeff Withey – Kansas
Romero Osby – Oklahoma
Angel Rodriguez – Kansas St.
Markel Brown – Oklahoma St.
Will Clyburn – Iowa St.
Isiah Austin – Baylor
COACH OF THE YEAR: Bill Self – Kansas
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Marcus Smart – Oklahoma St.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Will Clyburn – Iowa St.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Marcus Smart – Oklahoma St.
Marcus Smart grabbed the player of the year award just ahead of Jeff Withey. Ben McLemore was a consideration as well but his disappearing act on the road knocked him out. It was difficult not to give the award to Withey, but at the end of the day I think the player of the year needs to be able to put the ball in the basket when his team really needs a bucket and Smart is better at that part of the game.
I’ve already taken e-mails from KSU fans about my belief that you need to win the conference to win the coach of the year award stance and I’m sure there are many more to come after my choice of Bill Self. I have no problem with Bruce Weber winning the Big XII award or if he ends up winning the AP award as well once the ballots are tallied (I expect him to win it).
For me, it came down to how much of the coaching on the Kansas St. team was done by Weber and how much was done by Frank Martin? What percentage of the credit goes to Frank Martin for coaching the toughness in the Cats is debatable, what is not debatable is that Weber benefitted from it (not to mention almost every minute was played by Martin’s recruits).
In Lawrence, the entire team was assembled and coached for their entire college career by Bill Self. For that reason I gave the nod to Self. Had Travis Ford tied for the conference championship, I would have given the award to him.