For most teams, pitchers and catchers report to spring training this week and some major free agents are still wondering where they might play in 2024. Teams seem unwilling to meet the salary demands of players like Blake Snell, Cody Bellinger, Jordan Montgomery, and Matt Chapman.
If any of these players tire of waiting on the sidelines, maybe they become willing to settle for a shorter contract, maybe for one year or two. This might open the door for some teams that can't or won't commit to anything long-term, but might be willing to roll the dice for a shorter contract.
After spending some money to vastly improve their roster this offseason, the Kansas City Royals could be a team that decides that the future is suddenly now. They should consider a couple of players that might cause a tidal wave in a weak American League Central.
Could the Kansas City Royals make moves to sign Blake Snell and Cody Bellinger?
Even a few months ago, the thought of this would have seemed like a fantasy, but the Royals have increased their payroll just under $30 million, from $96 million in 2023, to over $121 million in 2024, according to Spotrac.
After signing several veteran free agents including Seth Lugo, Michael Wacha, Will Smith, Chris Stratton, Hunter Renfroe, and Adam Frazier, plus giving their homegrown star, Bobby Witt Jr., a franchise-record extension, the Royals do not look anything like the 106-loss team from a year ago.
In reality, while these signings have improved the roster mightily, they probably still aren't enough to win the AL Central. But if they were to throw in Blake Snell, a two-time Cy Young winner, in at the top of their rotation, and/or Cody Bellinger into centerfield and the middle of the batting order, suddenly the Kansas City Royals are a contender for the subpar AL Central.
There are reasons Snell and Bellinger still haven't signed. Both come with warts that make general managers balk at long-term deals. Snell was brilliant in his two top seasons, but they are his only campaigns with more than 27 starts. In between those two seasons, in 2018 and 2023, he was a good, but not great pitcher.
Bellinger had a fantastic season in 2023, but the year before that, he was awful. And 2021 was even worse, as he hit just .165 with 10 home runs. He's had some seasons where he's been less than healthy too.
Teams are obviously hesitant to go all in with lengthy deals on these two guys. Often times, players in these situations will take a one-year deal, or maybe two years, to prove themselves, to show the last season wasn't a fluke.
This could be the window a team like the Royals should seriously consider jumping through. Since their World Series win in 2015, the franchise has slid back into the world of not even mediocre from which they emerged a few years before.
Maybe Lugo and Wacha can convince Snell, who was their teammate in San Diego, that this is a different Royals regime and a team that is trending up. The offseason Kansas City put together, and the splash they made last week with Witt's extension should be evidence the Royals are serious. Maybe Snell and Bellinger see what is going on in KC and will be willing to listen.
It's going to take at least $50 million (probably closer to $60 million) to sign these two players, even for just one year. Regardless, the Royals ownership and management need to recognize the opportunity in front of them and go all in.
The Royals need to make the phone call and see if it is even possible. Snell and Bellinger should take the call and consider. The longer the stalemate goes on between what the players are asking and what teams seem willing to pay, the more likely a surprise team might be able to slide in and surprise everyone. That surprise team should be the Royals.