The Kansas City Royals announced yesterday they had signed twelve of their young, pre-arbitration players. Major League Baseball has one of the most convoluted salary structures in sports. The rules of arbitration specifically are difficult to discern completely. It is common practice to sign players each year, before their service time makes them arbitration eligible, and give them slight raises based on need and performance. The Royals have 17 of those players on their 40-man roster.
Major League minimum went from $480,000 in 2012 to $490,000 this season. Teams will pay most players slightly over that minimum in a sign of good will. Most assuredly, teams will try to lock down players they project to be better than average going forward, to longer term deals to erase the arbitration process, like the Royals did with Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar last spring. There doesn’t seem to be any of those contracts imminent for Kansas City.
According to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, via his twitter account @Royals_Report, here is a list of who signed and for what amounts: Greg Holland ($539,500), Tim Collins ($534,500), Eric Hosmer ($528,250), Mike Moustakas ($524,500), Eric Johnson ($520,500), Kelvin Herrera ($508,175), Danny Duffy ($505,125), Lorenzo Cain ($503,175), Will Smith ($496,500), Johnny Giavotella ($494,000), David Lough (491,625), and John Lamb ($490,000). This all totals $6, 145,850.
If you study those salaries figures, it is obvious that players who have performed well in some capacity in the past have received a little more. I think few can argue that the first four weren’t the most deserving. It is interesting to see that John Lamb, who has barely pitched for the organization over the past two years due to injuries, and never in the big leagues, was given the MLB minimum. It is also amusing to see some of the random amounts, like Hererra’s $508,1725.
The Royals still have five more pre-arbitration players that are unsigned. Aaron Crow, Louis Coleman, Luis Mendoza, Guillermo Moscoso, and Francisley Bueno should be expected to sign within the next few days.
There have already been complaints from fans about some of these players only getting these one year contracts. Keep in mind it takes two to tango. It is probably a safe assumption to think the Royals have approached some of these players about signing them to long term deals. There is risk on both sides. For example, for Eric Hosmer to sign a long term deal, he is going to want to be rewarded for giving up his arbitration years and is going to want to be paid as an emerging star. The Royals have to be careful with a longer term contract because what if Hosmer’s career turns out to follow along the path of his 2012 performance and he doesn’t realize his potential he flashed in 2011? This is a thin line for both players and teams to walk down. Hosmer, who has faith in his own abilities, doesn’t want to be underpaid if he turns out to be Joey Votto. The Royals don’t want to pay him big bucks and have him turn out to be Casey Kotchman. Now, it should be clear that I am not comparing Eric Hosmer to either Joey Votto or Casey Kotchman. I am merely using two names as examples to outline the dangers for both sides. Hosmer is a Scott Boras client, and I am sure he is well educated by Boras on the plus and minuses of long term deals this early in his career, namely more money now but less, possibly a lot less, a few years down the road, than would be available through free agency.
It is still possible that contract extensions can be signed after this point but don’t expect too many. For one thing, if players like Hosmer and Mike Moustakas expect to develop into stars, and they should hold themselves to those exceptions, it is not in their best interests to sign a contract that is overly club friendly. There is still plenty of time for evaluations on both sides. Contracts like these signed by these Royals ‘ player are commonplace throughout the majors for players in their situation. This is a game of patience for both the player and the ball club. Seldom does it work out perfectly for both parties.