KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Royals had hoped to retain some of the core players that helped them to back-to-back American League pennants and a World Series title after hitting free agency this offseason.
They accomplished it with at least one of them.
Kansas City signed Alcides Escobar to a $2.5 million deal for the upcoming season Monday, keeping their longtime shortstop on the roster after he joined first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and pitcher Jason Vargas in hitting the open market.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore said last week, when the framework for a contract was in place, that he hoped Escobar could give the club more time for top prospect Raul Mondesi Jr. to mature.
“It’s important to have a lot of depth up the middle, as you know, although we really appreciate and admire the talent of Raul,” Moore said. “We’ll see how that unfolds.”
Escobar, who can earn up to $1.5 million in bonuses based on plate appearances, has spent the past seven seasons with Kansas City. He hit .250 with six homers, 54 RBIs and a career-high 102 strikeouts last season, though he seemed to ignite the Royals with a midseason hot streak.
“It’s no joke when Esky got going last year the team started to get going a little bit. He can do a lot of things and his defense is second-to-none,” said designated hitter Brandon Moss, who spent last season with the Royals and was part of a four-player trade to Oakland on Monday.
“He doesn’t get a lot of talk on TV, but in the clubhouse he’s respected.”
The 31-year-old Escobar was hoping for a long-term contract in free agency, but the offers never materialized in what has been a sluggish market for all positions. He ultimately had to settle for a deal with the Royals, who are poised to rebuild after years of inflated payrolls.
Those were some of the best years in franchise history, though.
Escobar arrived with Cain in a 2011 trade with Milwaukee, and together with Hosmer and Moustakas, formed the basis of a franchise renaissance. He batted .285 during the 2014 season, when the Royals won their first American League pennant since 1985, and was voted an All-Star and won a Gold Glove the next season, when the Royals beat the New York Mets for their first championship in 30 years.
He would earn $75,000 apiece for 125 plate appearances and each additional 25 through 600.
Now that Escobar is back, the Royals figure to take a close look at the rest of their free agents.
Cain has already finalized an $80 million, five-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, but the Royals believe they have the outfield depth to replace him. They don’t have the same kind of depth at first base, where they have professed their hope of keeping Hosmer with a long-term deal.
There have been rumors that Kansas City has offered Hosmer, a four-time Gold Glove winner, a $140 million, seven-year contract, while the San Diego Padres are among other clubs linked to him.
The Royals have not been mentioned in discussions for Moustakas and Vargas.
“All of them could end up back here,” Royals pitcher Jason Hammel said. “Here’s hoping.”
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