MLB Free Agency: Jose Mijares Gives Kansas City Royals Options For Trades Or Starting Rotation

The Winter Meetings take place through Thursday in Dallas and the Kansas City Royals will be looking to get depth on the left side of the infield, while also keeping pace for a potential starting pitcher via trade.

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Gio Gonzalez Reportedly Heading To Washington Nationals For Four Prospect Package

The Gio Gonzalez sweepstakes is reportedly over according to ESPN’s Keith Law, and that means that teams like the Kansas City Royals hoping to potentially land their ace will have to move on to another target. The Washington Nationals have reportedly landed Gonzalez for four prospects headed by the heralded pitcher Brad Peacock, and Law notes rather quickly via Twitter that Oakland should love the package they receive in return.

If the deal is true, that means that Washington secures another top flight starter to partner with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. With three young starters under control for the next few years, the Nationals could truly become a force in the NL East given that Bryce Harper will likely hit the bigs soon to team with Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth in the batting order.

As for the Athletics, they have now dealt two of their top starters this off-season in Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. It’s another time of retooling for the A’s and it will be difficult to stomach that loss this year while others in the division are clearly getting better.

Still Law loves the prospects involved — a list that includes Peacock, catcher Derek Norris, A.J. Cole and Todd Milone.

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MLB Rumors: John Danks Reportedly Staying With Chicago White Sox After Trade Rumors

Nothing like dangling a guy for weeks in trade talks only to then decide you want to keep him around for years and years. That’s basically the off-season roller coaster ride of the Chicago White Sox’s John Danks, who failed to net the prospect-laden bounty the ChiSox were hoping for, so they signed their starting pitcher to a four year extension, according to Jon Heyman.

As Ben Nicholson Smith reports, “Danks would have been eligible for free agency following the 2012 season, his final year as an arbitration eligible player. Matt Swartz projected a 2012 salary of $7.6MM for the 26-year-old CAA client, who earned $6MM in 2011. That means the White Sox are paying $14-15MM for each of the four free agent seasons the deal buys out (Danks’ age 28-31 seasons).”

Danks is only 26 years old and already has 150 career starts to his credit. Last season he went 8-12 with a 4.33 ERA.

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MLB Rumors: Cleveland Indians Could Add Carlos Beltran To Powerful Line-Up

The Cleveland Indians are reportedly among the most serious and aggressive suitors for one of the biggest free agent prizes available still on the MLB free agent market in Carlos Beltran. While the 34-year-old is past his prime, he’s still a fine outfield bat to bring in and would help bolster an already formidable batting order.

Scott Miller writes, "The Indians have been scrounging around for ways to improve their offense all winter, and their late entry into the Beltran talks Wednesday added intrigue as the outfielder moves toward making a final decision. Cleveland has been a distant admirer before — the Indians spoke with the Mets last July about acquiring him in a deal. Beltran had no-trade powers then and, eventually, approved a deal to San Francisco. The Giants talked about bringing him back early in the off-season but scotched that idea fairly quickly because of a tight budget.

“Adding Beltran not only would give Cleveland another potent bat that it seeks, but also depth behind center fielder Grady Sizemore. Banged up severely in recent years, Sizemore has undergone five surgeries in the past two seasons, including one to fix a microfracture in his knee. The Indians are set at the corner outfield spots with Mickey Brantley and Shin Soo-Choo, and at DH with Travis Hafner.”

Most of the acquisitions in the AL Central this off-season have been about pitching, so this would be an exciting addition to a division that’s now wide open. The Tigers undoubtedly remain the favorites, but each fan base has reasons to believe.

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MLB Free Agency: Minnesota Rounds Out Starting Rotation With Jason Marquis

Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn already gave the Twins a nice foursome heading into the 2012 MLB season, especially if Liriano can find his old form. Now they have likely found their fifth and final arm to head into spring training with the signing of Jason Marquis.

Ben Nicholson Smith writes, “Marquis made 23 starts for the Nationals and Diamondbacks this past season, finishing the year with a 4.43 ERA in 132 innings. His rate stats (5.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 55.1% ground ball rate) were right in line with his career averages (5.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 50.4% ground ball rate) and his average fastball checked in at 89.3 mph.”

While Marquis is hardly a, pardon the pun, marquee signing, the primary thing is that the Twins know what they are getting with him, whereas others like Liriano and young arms that include Brian Duensing can be very unpredictable. If anything, he gives them a stable option to get through five innings and keeping them game reasonably close.

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MLB Free Agency: Jose Mijares Gives Kansas City Royals Options For Trades Or Starting Rotation

The Kansas City Royals already have a nice bullpen with several live arms. From closer Joakim Soria to All-Star Aaron Crow and others like Greg Holland, Tim Collins, Louis Coleman and Blake Wood. Well the ’pen has added yet another free agent signing with the announcement of Jose Mijares, the longtime Minnesota reliever, to the scene.

Mijares joins Jonathan Broxton as the two newest additions to the Royals pen. The move allows the Royals to be creative in potentially transitioning Aaron Crow to the starting rotation or even dealing an arm eventually should the right deal come along. If anything, the Royals will be ready for a subpar starting rotation that will inevitably rely on the bullpen to take over games in the fifth and sixth innings.

“We expect Jose to be a solid addition from the left side that further strengthens our bullpen,” Royals GM Dayton Moore said in a statement. “He has been especially good against left-handed hitters in his career and will give [Royals manager] Ned [Yost] more options to match up late in the game.”

The market for starting pitching has been overpriced this winter, so it’s nice to see Moore get some solid deals in other places.

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Chicago Cubs Checking Out Royals Starter Jeff Francis Among Others

Former Kansas City Royals starter Jeff Francis might be heading back to the National League if a match works out well with the Chicago Cubs to fill out their starting rotation. Jerry Crasnick is reporting that Francis and Paul Maholm have both drawn the Cubs interest as they seek to fill out the rotation. Francis pitched one year for the Royals last year as he maintained an ability to stay healthy, but not much more.

The Cubs are apparently checking in several places given that there’s several rumors swirling about a Reds-Cubs deal that would bring over Travis Wood for Sean Marshall. The question is whether the Cubs want to give up an asset like Marshall for several controllable seasons of a fourth/fifth starter type or whether they want to keep Marshall as a bullpen anchor and bring in a guy like Francis for the short-term. There are pros and cons to both sides.

Francis went 6-16 with a 4.82 ERA last season for the Royals.

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Cleveland Indians Explore Low-Risk Deal WIth Andy LaRoche To Round Out Infield Depth

The Cleveland Indians have rounded out their need for infield depth by signing Andy LaRoche to a minor league deal that includes a spring training invite. The former Fort Scott native was once a hyped prospect within the Los Angeles Dodgers system but has failed to capitalize on that with the Dodgers or Pirates in recent years. Now at 28, LaRoche hopes to find his form in the American League with the Indians.

LaRoche had another frustrating year in 2011 with Oakland, batting only .247 with absolutely no power to speak of (a miserable .333 slugging percentage) in 40 games with the Athletics. The good news for the Indians is that LaRoche has experience at every position around the diamond except for catcher and he could become handy in that regard. That said, it’s also clear the move is a low-risk venture for the Indians, so there’s no reason not to try it.

LaRoche’s best year came with Pittsburgh in 2009 when he played in 150 games and had 12 home runs and 64 RBI with a .258 batting average.

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MLB Free Agency: Royals Turn To Yuniesky Betancourt; Hopefully In Different Role

Well by now you know the Kansas City Royals have brought back Yuniesky Betancourt. There won't be much background information needed as we all know who he is and what he does (or doesn't) bring to the table.

I was really hoping it wouldn't come to this. As you may remember last week I was really trying to push the idea of the Royals signing Edgar Renteria as a backup utility infielder. A proven veteran, former All-Star, with post season experience. 

Well the Royals went out on the market and brought back Betancourt, he who did make the postseason last year with the Milwaukee Brewers. But as you know, it wasn't as if Betancourt was the key cog who pushed the Brewers into the postseason, he was more or less there by chance.

I'm okay with the terms and the financials. One year and $2 million with some other possible incentives tossed in as well. What I was hoping was the Royals were turning the corner. This seems like a punch to the gut. However you can attempt to look at that signing a couple of different ways.

I was hoping that the Royals were past the point were they signed players such as Betancourt whose calling card is that he has the distinct inability to take a walk, and provides less than stellar defense. This is not something you want to see from your utility infielder.

However, as long as Betancourt is behind the scenes and not stealing any quality at-bats, and most importantly deterring the growth of better all around players, I am ok with this move. I don't like it, but I can accept it.

Now if he starts more than 25 games next season, I reserve the right to pull my hair out. Hopefully it doesn't come to that.

You can totally redeem yourself Dayton Moore, if you make a strong push (and offer) to Roy Oswalt before he signs elsewhere.

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MLB Royals Rumors: Twitter Said Joakim Soria Was On The Verge Of Being Traded To Toronto, So It Must Be True

Twitter is good for a lot of things, and one of the things it is best at is spreading sports rumors. The old saying was faster than wild fire, well in the digital age things can spread even faster that whatever analogy spreads quicker than wild fire.

It appears on Sunday evening there was rumors flying around that the Kansas City Royals were down the road in discussions with the Toronto Blue Jays for reliever Joakim Soria.

On one hand both @ChiefsInsider and @PioDeportes tweeted that the Royals were discussing with Toronto about sending Soria to Canada. The second tweeter mentioned the Royals have interest in Blue Jays minor league catcher Travis D'Arnaud. However the reports were later being disputed by the twitter feed of @InsidetheJays who stated-

JAYS FANS THE REPORTS ABOUT JOAKIM SORIA TRADE ARE FALSE. There may be some dialogue but no one is in deep talks per source within jays org.

Notice how the tweeter typed in all caps, which means he was serious!

All in all it does make sense for both teams involved, though it brings an interesting thought of the Royals trying to pick up D'Arnaud, a catcher, when the Royals already have a talented youngster behind the dish in Salvador Perez. However if the Blue Jays are inclined to discuss D'Arnaud with the Royals, you listen if you are Dayton Moore.

D'Arnaud is a top 40 prospect in all of baseball and hit .311/.371/.542 in AA this season with 21 home runs and 78 RBI. The Royals have a connection with D'Arnaud as Mike Arbuckle, currently a senior adviser to Dayton Moore was the one whom drafted D'Arnaud in 2007 while with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was included in the 2010 trade in which Roy Halladay went from Toronto to the City of Brotherly Love.

One fallacy of the Allard Baird era in Kansas City was he often looked to pick up certain positions in trades, and not necessarily the highest talent available. The Royals trade of Carlos Beltran is a prime example.

While this may not be anything more than a rumor, the timing is right for the Royals to seek suitors for Soria and the Blue Jays seem like a solid fit. Their minor league system also has much more potential to match up with Kansas City than does the Boston Red Sox. Besides D'Arnaud, the Blue Jays have a plethora of talented young pitchers in their minor league system as well.

Stayed tuned, because it appears if nothing else that things are starting to heat up.

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Boston Red Sox Reportedly Sought Joakim Soria In Trade From Kansas City Royals

The player most often cited as trade bait for the Kansas City Royals this off-season would either be Wil Myers as a prospect or Joakim Soria as a known quantity. Both players have been included in various rumored deals or with a multitude of teams citing interest. Count the Boston Red Sox as the latest to check in on Soria’s availability, although Rob Bradford notes the price was too high for the BoSox to consider it a real option.

The Sox already traded the Astros for Mark Melancon, but the loss of Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies is going to hurt them in the long run at the back end of the pen if they don’t help round out the bullpen that was already needing another arm or two before Papelbon left. Soria would certainly help any pen, but that doesn’t appear likely now.

Bradford writes, "Soria’s contract is extremely attractive considering his overall production, with the closer carrying club options of $6 million, $8 million and $8.75 million over the next three seasons, respectively. If any agreement was to be reached there would be one potential fly in the ointment with the Red Sox representing one of six teams Soria can block a trade to. (The impetus for such a clause — which also includes the Yankees, Dodgers, Phillies, Rockies, and Braves — is usually viewed as an opportunity to renegotiate the current deal.)

“Despite the recent acquisition of Houston closer Mark Melancon, the Red Sox continue to look for late-inning relief help. Still on the market are free agents Ryan Madson and Francisco Cordero, both of whom are still waiting with the Sox and Reds seemingly still serving as the most likely landing spots for either of the two.”

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Joe Saunders Is Available, But Kansas City Royals Would Do Well To Avoid FA Pitcher

The Kansas City Royals might be one of the most young, exciting teams in the Major Leagues, but it’s also clear they still have much to prove. The starting rotation is not up to par with any playoff caliber team and it’s there that much of the focus has come this off-season — with the resigning of Bruce Chen as well as the Jonathan Sanchez trade for Melky Cabrera. They’ve been rumored on a number of other pitchers via trade or free agency, so it’s possible they might kick the tires on a new name that’s become available — but they’d be better off to leave it alone.

Joe Saunders is one of the latest free agents on the free agent market after being let go by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Coming off of a career year, the 30-year-old will net millions from someone. And he deserves a nice paycheck. He went 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA last season in 212 innings. He’s pitched at or near 200 innings the last four seasons, so he’s definitely a model of consistency and teams can never have enough dependable pitching. So the Royals should make a bid right? Well, maybe not.

Saunders also comes with some unimpressive peripherals that equal more baserunners allowed than what any manager can feel comfortable. The reality is that Saunders, when pitching in the AL, usually settles in at a mid-4 clip in ERA. His career WHIP is 1.374 yet he also can’t blow by hitters with his stuff (as illustrated by a 1.75 career K/BB ratio). In short, when these contract years come around for Saunders, he finds a way to allow a half-run or so less per game. Other than that, he comes out rather middling in his results.

Now there’s a time and place for those guys and the Royals could definitely use an innings-eater. But they also have to understand they’re not getting a sub-4 pitcher who can anchor they’re staff. They’re instead adding a solid No. 3 or 4 starter. And don’t they already have some candidates for those slots? If they’re going to drop the millions, they need to amp it up a bit more and grab an Oswalt for a lesser commitment than what Saunders will demand.

The hopes are that in the next two or three years, some of these young arms take over the top of the rotation. In the meantime, Saunders is going to command more money than what he’s worth for the Royals. The Royals are learning to buy-low (a la Sanchez, Broxton) and Saunders would reverse that course.

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MLB Free Agency: Kansas City Royals Signing Edgar Renteria Would Make Too Much Sense

With a need for a right-handed utility infielder, the Kansas City Royals search should end with a signing of Edgar Renteria.

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Kansas City Royals Sign Juan Gutierrez, Three Others To Minor League Deals

The Kansas City Royals pulled off a few minor moves today that went under the radar, yet it's also these types of moves that can often pay off more than anyone realizes during the season. That's what the Royals have to hope for as they signed four players to minor league deals today: Juan Gutierrez, Francisley Bueno, Max Ramirez and Greg Golson.

Jason Churchill of ESPN gives a bit of insight on all three when he writes, "Gutierrez has the stuff to pitch in a big league bullpen but has yet to learn to throw enough strikes to take advantage of his bat-missing arsenal that has produced 152 whiffs in 169 career innings.

"Golson, 26, has sporadic big-league experience but is athletic with gap power. He does strike out quite a bit and scouts tell Rumor Central that he's an extra outfielder at best. Ramirez isn't much of a defender but has put up good offensive numbers in the minors. In two stints in the majors, however, he's produced a .341 on-base percentage in 140 plate appearances, despite a .217 batting average."

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Royals Rumors: Kansas City Still Seeking Veteran Bullpen Help, Looking At George Sherrill

Dayton Moore has a loaded bullpen compared to some other teams. With a veteran closer like Joakim Soria, the newly signed Jonathan Broxton and young dynamic arms like Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Greg Holland and more, the Royals might seem set in the pen. However, that hasn’t stopped the Royals GM from checking out yet another reliever and that means some shifting in the overall pitching on the roster is likely to happen.

George Sherill is the latest name rumored to receive interest from the Royals, but KC is hardly the only team in on this. Others include the Phillies, Mariners and Blue Jays and that’s because the 34-year-old returned to form last year for the Atlanta Braves, posting a 3.00 ERA in 51 games.

But to show how volatile things can be within the reliever market, Sherill had an abysmal 2010 campaign with the Dodgers with a 6.69 ERA in 65 games, but his numbers against lefties have always held up and if he signs, it will be only to add him as a LOOGY to come into the game in special situations. If anything, Sherrill could be a low-cost veteran addition to round out the bullpen.

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Could Prince Fielder Join Albert Pujols By Moving To American League?

The baseball off-season is well underway and several deals have already been struck, none more shocking than the move of Albert Pujols from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Los Angeles Angels. That said, there’s still plenty of moves to come via free agency and trades and perhaps another slugging first baseman could move to the American League when all is said and done.

Jim Bowden is predicting that Prince Fielder will find a home with the American League champion Texas Rangers and the move would shift two of the best power hitters from one league to another. In fact, it would keep the two players division rivals with both in the AL West.

Bowden writes, “There’s an arms race brewing in the American League West, and the Los Angeles Angels just fired the first salvo with their signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson at the winter meetings. Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said the team likely would have to circle back and reassess whether to pursue Fielder. When a division rival makes moves as large as the Angels’, Levine said, his team’s entire offseason strategy must be re-evaluated. Armed with a new TV contract with Fox, Texas has the money to sign Fielder.”

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MLB Rumors: Martin Prado Could Land With Detroit Tigers For Delmon Young

Jim Bowden of ESPN recently put together a list of moves that he believe could happen ahead in this baseball off-seasonand one of them brings an oft-discussed trade candidate of the Atlanta Braves into the AL Central. Martin Prado has been a strong contact hitter for the Braves for the last few years, even making the All-Star Team in 2010. Yet this off-season he’s been discussed with several teams involved, most notably the Colorado Rockies. Yet as Bowden writes, the Tigers might swoop in with a deal to give the Braves and outfielder they need.

He writes, “Manager Fredi Gonzalez still wants a big bat in the middle of his lineup, and the Braves might have to circle back to a trade they already declined. Young would play left field in Atlanta and, if healthy, could be a 20-home run, 100-RBI player. Prado would play third base for the Tigers. However, this would weaken the Braves’ depth behind the injury-prone Chipper Jones. To take Young’s place in Detroit, the Tigers could sign Coco Crisp.”

Prado hit .260 last year with 13 home runs and 57 RBI.

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Winter Meetings 2011: Ryan Theriot Mentioned As Option For Kansas City Royals

The St. Louis Cardinals are experiencing all kinds of losses, although the potential loss of Ryan Theriot may resonate on a slightly lower level than some others. The team has decided not to tender the infielder, and the Kansas City Royals are being mentioned as a possible landing spot for Theriot by Jon Heyman.

Kansas City has already been linked to a few veteran utility players, so if Theriot is available, then that’s a logical guess. That said, there are also several others linked to him by Heyman including the Braves, Reds, Astros and Blue Jays. The Royals have also kicked the tires on Carlos Guillen and Edgar Renteria, so it’s clear that while Theriot has options, the Royals do as well.

The Royals are in the market for such a player because their infield is so young with Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Johnny Giavotella and Alcides Escobar as the starters. Adding a player like Theriot would help on several levels.

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Winter Meetings 2011: We Hardly Knew You Yamaico Navarro, Shipped To Pittsburgh Pirates For 2 Minor Leaguers

After just six games in a Kansas City Royals uniform, the Yamaico Navarro era is officially over as the utility infielder whom the Royals acquired in the Mike Aviles trade with the Boston Red Sox, has once again been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a pair of minor leaguers in pitcher Brooks Pounders and infielder Diego Goris.

Ultimately the move will free up a spot on the 40-man roster as the the Royals are anticipated to select a player in Thursday's Rule V Draft.

Pounders is the bigger (literally and figuratively) name in the trade, as the right-hander toes the rubber at 6'4" 255 lbs. Hailing from California, Pounders was the second round draft pick of the Pirates in 2009. He has put up modest numbers thus far are his career marks at 10-10 with a 3.82 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 132 innings. He excelled in A ball last season for the West Virginia Power, as he shined with 72 strikeouts against just 14 walks. Pounders will report to Wilmington (High A) next season.

Pounders is athletic for his size, yet isn't a power pitcher. His fastball is commonly in the high 80's, but his changeup has been his premiere pitch thus far. Ironically his draft report compares him to newly signed Royals pitcher Jonathan Broxton.

The other player received, Goris, will be celebrating his 21st birthday on Thursday, and thus far has only played in the Dominican Summer League for the Pirates. Last season he posted a .350/.387/.511 line in 68 games. He hit five home runs, had 46 RBI, and stole 15 bases in 18 attempts. Goris will be assigned to Burlington (Rookie League).

Pounders has upside as a potential reliever for the Royals down the road, while Goris is nothing more than a lottery ticket. For more Royals discussion make sure to visit Royals Review, the official Royals blog site on the SB Nation Network.

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Winter Meetings 2011: Kansas City Royals Reportedly Interested In Edgar Renteria For Utility Role

The Kansas City Royals are looking for some veteran leadership and flexibility for their infield. That’s not surprising given that the amount of total experience between Mike Moustakas, Johnny Giavotella, Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar is less put together than what a player like Edgar Renteria has himself. That’s the reason the Royals are in on the well-traveled shortstop for a potential utility role, as Jerry Crasnick reports.

Crasnick also says the Royals are open to other candidates and there are several out there. The Royals have already been linked with Carlos Guillen who would fit the same role and former Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake also makes sense if they’re looking primarily for someone on the left side to help spell Moustakas as he continues to adjust.

Renteria is a five-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner who will be 35 next year. He hit .251 in part-time duty for the Reds last year with 5 home runs and 36 RBI.

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Albert Pujols Reportedly Staying With Cardinals With Marlins Off Table

The best hitter in the state of Missouri and, well, anywhere in the world over the last two decades is not going anywhere — or at least he doesn’t seem to be. The race to sign Albert Pujols this off-season has really been a two-horse race for the last few days. Once the Chicago Cubs were seen as unrealistic contenders and they moved their primary interest to Prince Fielder, it was down to the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins. Even after days of negotiations and a 10-year deal with $220 million committed and several other franchise perks, the Marlins are now reportedly off the table.

It’s difficult to even picture another team coming into the picture at this point with the guns to pony up for a decade of payments for even a talent like the Cardinals. The agents would have vetted every team up front already and so now its’ clear the Cardinals will have their first baseman back in the fold for what is likely the rest of his career. In the process, you can expect Pujols to set not only several more team records but establish new MLB hitting records for a hitter on a single team.

As for the Marlins, they’re apparently turning their interests elsewhere rather quickly by signing Mark Buehrle to a four year deal right after they backed out of a deal with Pujols.

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Mark Buehrle Rumors: Could Mystery Fifth Team Be Kansas City Royals?

If there’s a single pitcher on the free agent market during the MLB off-season who presents the safe buy, then it’s definitely Mark Buehrle. The longtime Chicago White Sox starter has made at least 30 starts in every single season since 2001, and he was only 22-years-old at the time. He’s still only 32 and reportedly wants a four-year deal. That’s called a very good buy.

Jon Heyman reports that Buehrle’s camp has narrowed the field to five teams. Yet MLB Trade Rumors can only come up with four between all of their sources: Marlins, Nationals, Rangers and Twins. That leaves a fifth mystery team, and it’s possible that it’s the Kansas City Royals.

Remember that there are a few important things in play here already this off-season:

1. The Royals are clearly looking for a No. 1 starter.
The team has been negotiating a trade possibility with the Athletics for Gio Gonzalez and has, at least, kicked the tires on the possibility of signing some of the better pitchers on the free agent market in the hopes of acquiring an ace for the starting rotation.

2. They’ve already surprised this off-season.
No one saw the Jonathan Broxton signing and they also pulled one of the first big trades of the off-season with the Jonathan Sanchez deal. The Royals, in other words, have shown their ability to make maneuvers away from the rumor mill. If you’re not hearing their name, it doesn’t mean they’re not working something out.

3. Trading for that frontline starter is not likely.
Dayton Moore has come out heavily in favor of keeping Wil Myers, the team’s top prospect, and there’s no way a team is going to trade an ace starting pitcher without getting a top shelf prospect in return (i.e. the Braves and Jair Jurrjens). That means that free agency might provide the help after all.

There’s no way of knowing who the mystery team is — that’s the nature of a mystery. But if someone is going to try to guess who they are, the Royals actually present an intriguing option.

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Jed Lowrie Presents Interesting Trade Option For Kansas City Royals

Will the Kansas City Royals ever fill the hole at shortstop? For all of the defensive prowess of their latest name in the line-up in Alcides Escobar, the reality is that he's another poor hitting shortstop in a long line of poor hitting shortstops. Will they ever land someone who's not an automatic out at the plate? They could if they were willing to pony up for someone that FanGraphs' Brandon Warne says is possibly available: Jed Lowrie of the Boston Red Sox.

Lowrie had a down year and more injury concerns in 2011, but a good hitter who can play shortstop is such a rarity that it's worth a discussion. And Warne notes that new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is not going to look too much at his down year and allow him to go too cheaply.

"Astute general managers will want to buy low on Lowrie after a rough 2011, but Cherington no doubt is wise to the pratfalls that limited Lowrie through his difficult season. For one, a nagging left shoulder injury might be to blame for Lowrie’s uncharacteristic platoon splits. For instance, Lowrie’s 2011 splits showed an .876/.582 split (versus RHP/LHP), which are well below his career marks of .919/.635. Given that Lowrie’s seen fewer than 1,000 plate appearances, spread over four big-league seasons, I think it’s somewhat reasonable to file the huge splits under the statistical-noise header. After all, despite these drastic splits in the major leagues, Lowrie’s minor-league splits aren’t nearly as discrepant. Perhaps with regular playing time, Lowrie’s numbers might have an opportunity to even out."

Warne also notes that for those willing to pay the price, they will be duly rewarded.

"The projections for Lowrie are glowing, especially if Bill James is to be trusted. James projects Lowrie as .271/.348/.437, which would be good for a .341 wOBA. For some context, that would have ranked sixth in the AL in 2011 among shortstops with 250-plus PA. Not bad for an extra tool lying around in the ol’ shed. I’m no mathemagician, but assuming average glovework from Lowrie — to go with that wOBA — he could project to be about a four-win shortstop. And that’s something that makes hefty cash on the open market."

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Royals Rumors: Joakim Soria Available For Frontline Starting Pitcher

The Kansas City Royals are one of several teams with an available closer. Along with free agents like Ryan Madson, some candidates like Andrew Bailey and Huston Street are also available. That means that the Royals will likely hold onto Joakim Soria even though Jayson Stark says the official word is that the Royals have made Soria available for the right place: a "young, controllable, front-line starter in return."

That's the sort of player they're fishing for from the Oakland Athletics at this point with the Gio Gonzalez or Trevor Cahill rumors. That's the primary target for the Royals in some way -- either using prospects or a veteran like Soria, the Royals are honing in on their primary need. If they can somehow find that anchor for the starting rotation, they're going to be a significant force in the AL Central. With a top notch starter, the Royals would suddenly have depth in the rotation and could be patient with the young arms they have rather than pushing and hoping.

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Winter Meetings 2011: Pirates Reportedly Set To Sign Wilson Betemit, Nate McLouth

The Pittsburgh Pirates are on the verge of a couple of moves, according to MLB Trade Rumors Luke Adams, that would lead to a new home for a former Royal and feature another homecoming. Wilson Betemit, who the Royals sent to the Detroit Tigers in a midseason deal, has earned the interest of the Pirates while Nate McLouth could come back to the place where he was most successful.

Adams writes, ‘We heard yesterday about Pittsburgh’s interest in a reunion with McLouth, who hit .228/.344/.333 in 321 appearances with the Braves this season. Betemit, meanwhile, did not receive an arbitration offer from the Tigers and hit the free agent market coming off a season in which he posted a .795 OPS in 359 plate appearances in Detroit and Kansas City."

The Royals could actually use a player like Betemit at this point to provide some infield depth as well as veteran leadership and utility help for the infield that’s very young at every spot. Yet the Royals have been linked to some third base platoon help, so they’re likely to get someone — perhaps Carlos Guillen or Casey Blake sometime this off-season.

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Winter Meetings 2011: Gio Gonzalez Trade 'Would Be A Coup' For Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals

There’s no hiding the feelings that Jim Bowden has concerning the rumors that the Kansas City Royals are working with the Oakland Athletics on a Gio Gonzalez trade. To put it simply: he loves it. The former General Manager is now a writer for ESPN and he says the Royals package of prospects would be worth acquiring the frontline starter from the Athletics.

Bowden writes, “The Kansas City Royals might have a prospect package that could land left-hander Gio Gonzalez, which would be a coup by Royals GM Dayton Moore, if he can pull it off. The A’s might ask for a package that starts with top prospect Wil Myers.”

Myers is definitely a top prospect, but Gonzalez has 31 games in the last two seasons and is only 26 years old. He went 16-12 last year with a 3.12 ERA in over 200 innings. He also had 197 strikeouts.

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Albert Pujols 'Could Go Either Way' To Cardinals Or Marlins

FOX Sports Jon Paul Morosi is getting signals from the Albert Pujols drama that the longtime St. Louis Cardinals first baseman could honestly go either way here at the MLB Winter Meetings — whether to resign with the Cardinals and play his entire career on a team that’s already proven it can win at the highest levels or go to the Miami Marlins and make a lot of money for a very long time.

Pujols is the best hitter in recent baseball history and even though he’s 31-years-old, he still warrants the sort of contract that only Alex Rodriguez can even know anything about. That worked out rather poorly for the Texas Rangers, who are only now competitive again after ridding themselves of the weighty contract. Maybe the Marlins are ready to compete year after year, but they have their doubters and making a splash like they have is sending a major message around the league that they believe they’ll have the money.

Yet the Marlins are also reportedly not willing to include a no-trade deal which might mean the entire deal is off. After all, why would Pujols want to sign a deal and then get traded after a couple of years to a place he never would have considered in the first place? The guess here is that Pujols is using this to squeeze some money out of the Cardinals and that he’s not going anywhere.

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Winter Meetings 2011: Albert Pujols Flirtation With Marlins Shows It's All About Money, Not Tradition

Buster Olney is comparing it to when LeBron James left the city of Cleveland in a state of shock and sorrow. Certainly it would be difficult for many to comprehend the idea of Albert Pujols wearing anything but a St. Louis Cardinals uniform. But the reality is that the Miami Marlins are opening up their pocketbook this winter and are finding takers for their millions. It happens every year in every league. Why should we expect anything different.

Albert Pujols is the greatest hitter in recent baseball history. He’s worth more than any other player and brings instant credibility (and tremendous power) to any line-up. The franchise who signs him will reap the dividends for years at the ticket counter, in merch sales and with a face that everyone can recognize. In other words, Pujols anchors a team.

So Pujols is also well aware that a team makes their money from his image and performance, which means he’s going to expect them to pony up as well. Only baseball writers and fans have the time and room to think about things like baseball tradition. Only fans are concerned with whether a player finishes his career wearing certain colors. There’s only one color in free agency and it’s green. If you think that’s different for LeBron or Albert, you’re fooling yourself.

Olney writes, “Keep in mind, too, that if Pujols takes the plunge into Miami, he will be looking at the greatest earning potential of his lifetime, between salary and endorsements, and even if Loria’s whole experiment blows up, Pujols will be inoculated. He’ll get his money, he’ll presumably get a full no-trade clause, and he’ll dictate exactly where he will be traded. Think about what happened to Alex Rodriguez and the Texas Rangers — after the grand experiment failed, A-Rod forced his way to the New York Yankees, where he has made more money.”

A-Rod got a bad reputation from his financial dealings over the last several years, but no one should be able to knock him for the choices he’s made. These players are simply doing what any of us would do if given the chance to make as much money as we could in a few short years that a playing career allows. Thinking about anything else is a luxury once the money is in place.

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Winter Meetings 2011: Royals Could Be In On Gio Gonzalez Or Trevor Cahill From Athletics

Buster Olney has the latest from the MLB Winter Meetings going on this week, and the Royals are among the teams that have checked in on Gio Gonzalez, the Oakland Athletics starter who has won 31 games over the last two seasons. In their quest to find a frontline starter to anchor the rotation, Oakland is a nice place for Kansas City to shop.

Olney writes, “The Royals are looking for a situational lefty, and they are one of the teams that has checked in on Gio Gonzalez; the Oakland Athletics and Royals would seem to match up well for a possible deal, but I wonder if the better fit would be with Trevor Cahill, who is under contract for years to come.”

Cahill went 12-14 with a 4.16 ERA last season for Oakland. He might not cost as much as Gonzalez given his results so far, but he also might not be the high reward talent that Gonzalez is either.

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Winter Meetings 2011: Would Wil Myers For Gio Gonzalez Provide A Good Deal For Kansas City Royals?

It’s the MLB Winter Meetings, so rumors are as common as bad signings are to the Miami Marlins this offseason. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s not a fire where the smoke is coming from — and there’s a bit linking the Kansas City Royals with the Oakland Athletics as far as Gio Gonzalez is concerned.

The Royals are definitely hungry for starting pitching — not of the “hope he works out” variety, but instead an ace who can anchor the rotation for years to come. Obviously such pitchers aren’t just available in mass supply — in fact, most teams would say they’re looking for an ace — but the A’s are willing to move Gonzalez and the Royals have been linked by SI’s Jon Heyman after the Royals have also checked out a trade for the Braves’ Jair Jurrjens.

Heyman also notes that Wil Myers might fit the bill, and that’s the same player the Braves wanted. It’s an obvious choice given that Myers was the No. 1 rated prospect by Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus in a list of the Royals top prospects. In short, it’s the number one player in the number one farm system — that’s a tough blow to any team to think of dealing such a player.

But it’s also a move that the Royals could make. They already have some younger outfielders in place with Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain. Gordon is someone they’ll have to sign to an extension and perhaps Jeff Francoeur is in place at least for the next year in the other corner. But given more seasoning, Myers could spell either Gordon or Francoeur at the right time and provide years of productivity at a very low cost.

Then again, what’s needed more — a frontline starting pitcher who could anchor the staff on the team’s weakest link or a great outfield prospect. If the A’s would bite on Myers as the anchor in a deal, the Royals would have to think about it. After all, Myers is not a sure thing — like any prospect — and Gonzalez has already shown he can win big in the majors. That’s a trade worth making if it’s even a possibility.

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Winter Meetings 2011: Royals Jeremy Jeffress Listed As Possible Buy-Low Prospect

ESPN’s Keith Law recently posted a list of formerly top prospects that are now available as buy low candidates. Certainly there are some obvious choices that make the list — from the well-traveled and once-celebrated Brett Wallace to the eternal prospect of the Phillies Domonic Brown. But it’s interesting to see someone from the Royals already listed there since their youth movement is just starting to hit the major league level in Jeremy Jeffress.

Law writes, “Really the ultimate tease. Jeffress can touch triple digits with his fastball, and his power breaking ball can be equally dominating. But then there is the inconsistency, the inability to throw strikes and the constant issues with marijuana use, as much of the industry believes that the primary factor for him getting added to the 40-man roster in his Milwaukee Brewers days was to avoid another positive test, which could have ended his career (union members are not tested for marijuana).”

Law believes that the Royals recent additions make Jeffress more available than in recent months. “With the Royals already loaded with power arms in the bullpen — and adding more in the offseason with Jonathan Broxton — Jeffress has gone from potential closer to potential expendable.”

Yet Broxton only has a one year deal and the Royals pen could easily lose Soria in a trade or Aaron Crow to the rotation. There’s simply more room in the pen for Jeffress than what Law is referring to. That said, I do not believe that Jeffress is any more or less available that he was before.

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Winter Meetings 2011: Could Carlos Lee Fit On Kansas City Royals Roster?

The Houston Astros are dangling pretty much any veteran of value at the MLB Winter Meetings, and Carlos Lee is definitely the highest priced of any of those. Yet it’s also true that the Astros are going to have to eat much of that money — perhaps nearly all of it — to acquire a player of value. After all, Lee makes a ton of money, isn’t exactly a defensive wonder and has steadily declined over the last few seasons. He will be 36 in June.

That said, the Royals definitely hold as many intriguing prospects as any team in baseball, and while no team ever wants to part with cheap, promising talent, the Royals can definitely deal from a position of strength in a possible Carlos Lee swap. The Astros need to desperately stock a system that hasn’t been good for over a decade, and Lee is going to be dead weight on a losing team.

Could Lee hold value for the Royals? I would say absolutely. While the Royals already have Billy Butler for the DH/1B slot and hitters in both corner OF spots as well in Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur, it’s also clear that there are some holes to fill in the line-up. Lorenzo Cain is not an automatic in centerfield and Lee’s bat could play well in the line-up as a power bat off of the bench and rotating through various spots providing a rest for an every day player.

In other words, if the Astros are handing him out on the cheap, then the Royals are one of the teams who could afford an extra prospect it might take to get him to add a strong veteran bat to the roster. After all, Lee still hit .275 with 18 home runs and 94 RBI just last year. He’s not likely to approach those numbers again, particularly the RBI total, but another 20 home runs is very possible. Even as a platoon option against left-handed hitters, who he mashes, Lee will still provide a lot of value somewhere. If the price is cheap enough, it’s worth a move.

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Winter Meetings 2011: Royals Kicking The Tires On Carlos Guillen

Another rumor coming out of the 2011 Winter Meetings is that the Kansas City Royals might be interested in free agent Carlos Guillen. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors says that it’s mostly American League teams interested in the 36-year-old.

Dierkes writes, “The Royals, Marlins, Twins, Athletics, and Mariners are interested in Carlos Guillen, agent Wilfredo Polidor told Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes Los Angeles. Guillen, 36, has missed increasing amounts in each of the last three seasons due to injuries. However, Polidor says his client is working like an animal in Miami and can help at almost any position. Guillen began his big league career with the Mariners and was traded to the Tigers in January of ’04.”

Guillen is a three-time All-Star and would likely serve as a veteran utility role player who could man second, third or shortstop. Given KC’s youth all over the infield, Guillen would become a solid addition just by his experience alone. However, his career average of .285 would also help at the plate. It’s not a major signing, but it’s the smaller pieces like this that can often make the biggest difference with a young team like the Royals.

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Winter Meetings 2011: Kansas City Royals In On Gio Gonzalez

Jon Heyman has some of the latest news from the Winter Meetings regarding the Kansas City Royals and it seems the Royals might still bring in a starter despite recent news to the contrary that they were perhaps set for their 2012 rotation options. The latest buzz actually centers on the interest of other teams in Wil Myers, while also noting the Royals are in on Gio Gonzalez of Oakland.

The Royals have already grabbed a couple starting pitchers this offseason with the resigning of Bruce Chen as well as the trade for Jonathan Sanchez of the San Francisco Giants. By signing Jonathan Broxton, they also can move Aaron Crow to the rotation on an experimental basis. That gives the Royals three arms to test for some time already, so the fact that they’re even in on another pitcher tells you everything you need to know about the 2011 Royals starting rotation.

As for Gonzalez specifically, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the American League for the last two years with the Athletics. He’s pitched 200 innings in each of the last two years with a combined 3.17 ERA to show for it. He’s won at least 15 games each season and is just now 26 years old. He’s likely to start getting expensive, but he’s also the kind of pitcher you’re happy to pay for.

However, he did lead the AL in walks last season with 91 while also adding 197 strikeouts, so he can make a team a bit nervous. Yet his overall stats show that he’s able to get out of a situation that he creates. He’d be an ideal candidate to land in KC with his experience and timeline of still entering his prime.

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