Billy Butler is headed west for Oakland and Nori Aoki is reportedly seeking a three-year deal on the open market. For the Royals, this means that if they aren’t willing to pony up for the Japanese outfielder, they’ll find themselves with two bat-first positions to fill one year after finishing last in the American League in True Average.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported yesterday that with Butler in Kansas City’s rearview mirror, the club is expected to focus on Torii Hunter for the free outfield spot. Ervin Santana and Francisco Liriano are the reported targets on the starting pitcher market.
Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star also wrote yesterday that the Royals have “engaged in discussions” with both Hunter and Michael Morse and have toyed with the idea of trading for either Ryan Howard or Evan Gattis. There has also been talk within the organization about a possible in-house option, according to Fox Sports Kansas City’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
#Royals have had internal talks about committing to Carlos Peguero in RF/DH role, especially if he can share role with veteran like Hunter
— Jeffrey Flanagan (@jflanagankc) November 19, 2014
This comes just a day after C.J. Nitkowski reported that Peguero was drawing interest from a Central League team in Japan. The 27-year-old has spent most of the past two seasons at Triple-A, where he has swatted 45 total home runs but also struck out in nearly 32 percent of his trips to the plate. It doesn’t seem that Peguero has been able to change the free-swinging ways that plagued him during his first crack at the big leagues.
As for Hunter, his defense has deteriorated in recent years but it’s his bat that has kept him an attractive corner outfield option into his late 30s. However, he’s coming off a season in which his walk rate declined for a third straight year and his True Average fell 19 points off his previous three-year average.
A multi-year deal for Hunter’s at this point in his career would be a risky investment for the Royals, but given the lack of ideal alternative options, it’s understandable why he remains one of their top targets.
Red Sox extend offer to Jon Lester
Last April, Boston’s four-year offer of between $70-80 million to Lester was considered well below market value. Lester seemed willing to afford the Red Sox a slight hometown discount, but he declined the offer and decided to put off further negotiations until the offseason.
Seven months and a midseason trade later, the Red Sox have upped their offer for their former ace, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported yesterday that Boston has offered Lester a six-year deal falling within the range of $110 million to $120 million.
The Red Sox and Cubs are considered the favorites to land the southpaw but the Braves and Cardinals have both reportedly joined the sweepstakes on Lester, with Atlanta set to meet with the southpaw ace today.
In a Hot Stove Scouting Report last month, Jeff Moore profiled Lester as a role-70 pitcher who should “maintain his current level of success for 3-4 more years” and there’s reason to believe that Lester will ultimately command more if he gets more teams into the bidding. WEEI’s Rob Bradford later reported that Boston has made it clear that there is a “willingness to negotiate” with Lester. It appears that this offer might merely be a starting point from which to work for the two sides.
Signing Lester could also play a role in what Boston decides to do with backup catcher David Ross, who was told by Ben Cherington earlier this month that the team wanted to see how the roster shook out before committing to him. It would make sense for the Red Sox to reunite Ross with Lester, as the duo was the sixth-ranked battery in framing runs added by count last season.
Dan Haren likely to retire if traded out of Los Angeles
The 34-year-old hurler might be a shell of his former self, but he’s still a relatively young candidate for retirement and has been a serviceable back-of-the-rotation guy the past three seasons.
Haren told ESPN.com in an email yesterday that he exercised his 2015 player option with the intention of playing near his family in Southern California and has no interest in playing in another city. Last week, Heyman reported that Haren’s name had surfaced in trade talks, but it appears that that won’t be an option unless the Angels pick up the phone.
Last season, Haren’s velocity dropped a tick a bit more than one mph across the board and the right-hander didn’t miss as many bats as in years past. His contact rate spiked to a career-worst 84 percent and he posted his lowest single-season strikeout rate since his first full season as a starter.
Haren’s skills might be eroding but he’s still been approximately a one-win pitcher in each of the past three seasons. The Dodgers boast one of the best front-of-the-rotation combinations in Kershaw-Greinke-Ryu, and if they think Haren can eat up 180 innings as their fifth starter, retirement might wait just yet.
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