After a promising 72-win campaign and third-place finish in the American League Central, the Kansas City Royals will need to make some difficult decisions this offseason with a handful of their arbitration-eligible players.
As noted by Tim Dierkes of MLBTradeRumors.com, the Royals will first and foremost need to focus on a pair of key right-handers in Luke Hochevar and Felipe Paulino.
The 29-year-old Paulino, given a salary projection of $2.7 million by Dierkes, posted a stellar 1.67 ERA over seven starts with the Royals before a torn elbow ligament ended his 2012 season prematurely. Known for his upper 90s fastball, Paulino's lengthy recovery time could be a significant factor on his overall value on the open market.
Hochevar, a hard-throwing righty who never quite developed into the prospect Kansas City imagined after selecting him No. 1 overall in 2006, figures to be the toughest decision for the Royals this offseason. Though the organization remains interested in his long-term potential even at the age of 29, Hochevar is projected to have a costly $4.4 million salary through arbitration by Dierkes.
Despite striking out a career-high 144 batters and toppling the 185-inning mark for the second straight year, Hochevar was statistically a less valuable pitcher in 2012 than any other season in his career. His -1.6 WAR rating represents easily his worst campaign since entering the league, and it remains to be seen if the Royals are fully committed to bringing him back.