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Royals: Life after Billy Butler

It was not unexpected when the Royals did not re-sign Billy Butler and the veteran first baseman/designated hitter signed elsewhere, but now the young Royals will be looking to fill the void left by one of the franchise’s most recognizable players.

Butler signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the A’s this week, a much bigger contract than Kansas City was able/willing to write out.

“Billy’s been a terrific player for us, he’s been outstanding in the community, he’s obviously a homegrown player and huge in our success. And Billy’s a fun player to watch in the batter’s box, there’s no doubt,” Royals GM Dayton Moore said.

“But we felt we wanted to free up our resources to use them to build a team with a little better balance going forward. We have to replace a starting pitcher [James Shields], we want to continue to try to improve our bullpen … with some more depth.”

The Royals now turn their attention to right field, where they hope they can find someone to play both that position and occasionally DH. Nori Aoki, a free agent, is an option to return.

The Kansas City Star‘s Andy McCullough wrote that the Royals worked out Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas this week in the Dominican Republic, but he is expected to see a contract north of $70 million, which may also be too lofty for Kansas City. McCullough also says a Torii Hunter-Carlos Peguero duo is possible, with a handful of KC players rotating in the DH role.

– Joey Nowak

Report: Nats starters “available”

Bob Nightengale of USA Today is reporting that the Nationals have said starting pitchers Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister are both available for trade if a team presents the right deal.

Nightengale makes it clear that the Nats are not trying to dump salary, but both pitchers will be free agents in a year and Washington is willing to listen if a team is interested. Both pitchers — Zimmermann in particular — are sure to land significant contracts if they hit the free agent market, and the Nats may never get a better return for them than they will now.

There was a Chicago Sun-Times report two weeks ago that linked Zimmermann to the Cubs, but it has since lost traction.

– Joey Nowak

Phillies backing off Tomas

The Phillies, once considered favorites to land free agent outfielder Yasmany Tomas, have cooled on the idea of signing the 23-year-old Cuban defector, according to Major League sources.

While the Phils, who had a private workout with Tomas, still like his bat there are concerns about his defense. They now view him as more of a designated hitter-type player, the sources added.

Of course, that thinking could change if the price for Tomas, once estimated to be as high as $100 million, begins to come down. The Phillies are trying to trade right fielder Marlon Byrd with an eye toward moving Domonic Brown from left to right. That would mean they would need to fill the vacancy in left internally (Grady Sizemore, Darin Ruf, Aaron Altherr) or from outside the organization.

Meanwhile, the primary offseason goal is to add at least two starting pitchers to a rotation that currently features left-handers Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee – their 2014 Opening Day starter who is a question after missing the final two months of the season with a flexor pronator strain.

– Paul Hagen

Tomas to meet with teams at Winter Meetings

Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas is expected to be one of the most sought-after free agents of the offseason, and CBSSports.com‘s Jon Heyman is reporting that the slugger will be meeting with MLB clubs at the upcoming Winter Meetings in San Diego.

Tomas is also expected to command a deal bigger than the six-year, $72.5-million contract that Rusney Castillo received from the Red Sox.

Heyman says the Phillies, Giants and Padres have long been considered the front-runners, but the Royals — perhaps because of the loss of Billy Butler and the hole in right field — and “several other surprise teams” have recently joined the fray.

Heyman also suggests that there is some disagreement on where Tomas could play in the big leagues, with evaluators saying everything from corner outfield spots to third base.

– Joey Nowak

Young reportedly looking for two-year deal

Veteran outfielder/designated hitter Delmon Young is looking for a club willing to sign him to a two-year contract, according to MASN‘s Roch Kubatko.

It appears the Orioles would be willing to bring Young back, but just not on those terms. The 29-year-old was a very serviceable bench piece last year in Baltimore, appearing in just 83 games but hitting .302 with seven homers and 30 RBIs.

Young has shown that he can still hit with some average and for power, and that he can still produce for a contender down the stretch and in the postseason. Those factors will all make him a valuable commodity if someone is willing to meet his terms.

– Joey Nowak

Blue Jays showing interest in Sandoval

On the same day Pablo Sandoval left Boston, reports are surfacing that the Blue Jays may have interest in the free agent third baseman.

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo have both tweeted that the Blue Jays are interested in Sandoval. Earlier Wednesday, MLB.com‘s Ian Browne reported the Red Sox were close to making an offer to Sandoval as well.

The Blue Jays have already made one splash this offseason as they signed catcher Russell Martin to a five-year $82 million deal earlier this week.

Sandoval is rumored to be seeking a long-term deal, but the Jays have a club policy of not offering contracts in excess of more than five years which may prove to be a major obstacle as the Red Sox and Giants may be willing to offer a longer contract.

Toronto had five players play third base last season – all of whom combined to hit .234 with 20 homers and 78 RBI. Sandoval, a career .294 hitter, hit .279 with 16 homers and 73 RBI in 2014.

If the Jays did sign Sandoval, it would necessitate shifting Brett Lawrie primarily to second base. Last season, he played 54 games at the hot corner and 34 at second.

- William Boor

Marlins offer two-year deal to Laroche

Despite locking up Giancarlo Stanton with a record 13-year, $325 million deal, the Marlins seem to be far from done when it comes to spending money this offseason.

The club reportedly offered a two-year, $20 million deal to free agent Adam Laroche, according to the Miami Herald. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro confirmed the report.

Though the Marlins just inked Stanton to his record deal, the contract is heavily backloaded, giving the Marlins some financial flexibility for the immediate future. Stanton will make just $30 million over the first three seasons of the deal, a compromise he was willing to make if it meant increasing the team’s chances to win.

The Marlins certainly seem intent on doing that, setting their sights first on LaRoche, who racked up 26 home runs and 92 RBIs this past season for the Nationals.

LaRoche, 35, averaged 26.3 homers over the past three seasons for the Nats and would figure to provide an upgrade from the .254/.313/.402 batting line put up by Marlins first basemen Garrett Jones, Jeff Baker and Justin Bour this past season. LaRoche, meanwhile, put up a .259/.362/.455 line in Washington.

Aside from the Marlins, the White Sox and Padres have also checked in on LaRoche, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Other teams are reportedly keeping him in mind in the event that a potential trade creates a need at first base.

- Paul Casella

Blue Jays drawing interest in Navarro, not set on moving him

Not surprisingly, the Blue Jays are hearing from teams that are interested in Toronto catcher Dioner Navarro in the wake of the club signing Russell Martin to a five-year, $82 million deal, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

The Jays could certainly consider moving Navarro in an attempt to upgrade at other areas, but they are far from intent on working out a trade. They could also hold on to Navarro to serve as Martin’s backup, as well as occasionally slot in as a designated hitter.

Navarro will be entering the final year of his current two-year deal in 2015, so it would certainly make sense for the Jays to listen to offers and pull the trigger if the right deal pops up. That said, the Jays will be in no hurry to unload the backstop, who is due just $5 million next season.

– Paul Casella

White Sox could be interested in Santos reunion

The White Sox are reportedly considering bringing back reliever Sergio Santos, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish.

Santos is coming off a disastrous 2014 season with the Blue Jays in which he racked up an 8.57 ERA over 26 appearances, all while battling forearm issues. During his time with Toronto, Santos posted a 5.23 ERA overall, while being limited to just 61 appearances over three seasons.

The Jays acquired Santos from the White Sox following the 2011 season. A former first-round pick in 2002, Santos had an encouraging rookie campaign on the South Side of Chicago in 2010 before struggling off-and-on in the closer’s role in 2011.

Santos had a 2.96 ERA in 56 appearances during his first big league season then racked up 30 saves to go with a 3.55 ERA over 63 outings a year later. He finished his two seasons in Chicago with a 3.29 overall ERA — though that seems almost irrelevant now, given his injury problems over the past three years.

A healthy Santos could still be effective, as evidenced by his 1.75 ERA over 29 games in 2013, so the White Sox could be willing to take what figures to be a relatively cheap risk on the right-hander.

– Paul Casella

Royals looking into E. Santana, Liriano

The Royals are reportedly focusing on free agents Ervin Santana and Francisco Liriano to bolster their rotation, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.

Kansas City is also expected to check in on Jon Lester and James Shields, though it is widely believed that both starters will likely end up out of the Royals’ price range. With that in mind, the Royals have set their sights on the likes of Santana or Liriano to help fill any void left by Shields’ potential departure.

Nothing seems to be close at this point and Heyman added that the Royals also have some degree of interest in Brandon McCarthy, Edinson Volquez and Jason Hammel. Acquiring a starter via trade could be even yet another option for a Royals club that is leaving no stone unturned at this point.

– Paul Casella

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