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Insider

McCutchen sets the table for Hosmer

3/5/2012

This would be the 27th consecutive season the Kansas City Royals would not be part of the postseason, if they don't make it. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, this would be the 20th consecutive year without being part of baseball's October.

So for the fans of these two teams, progress is measured in other ways, and this morning's news that the Pirates and Andrew McCutchen have agreed to a six-year deal is maybe the best thing to happen to the team since before Sid Bream slid home. Fairly or not, the question of whether the Pirates would be able to keep McCutchen and build around him -- as the Colorado Rockies have with Troy Tulowitzki and the Milwaukee Brewers with Ryan Braun -- has been a Pittsburgh referendum on whether the team is serious about winning.

The Pirates have a foundation piece in place now. The Kansas City Royals are trying to do the same thing, with the wave of young talent it has drafted and developed. Last week, catcher Salvador Perez -- who the Royals hope will follow in the path of Yadier Molina and eventually become a productive hitter -- agreed to a five-year, $7 million deal. Kansas City is in negotiations with Alex Gordon, who is coming off the best season of his career, and whether or not they can get something done with him, there figure to be talks with shortstop Alcides Escobar, who is already regarded by some scouts as baseball's most talented defensive shortstop.

These conversations are a prelude to the team's most significant target: first baseman Eric Hosmer, who is the Royals' version of McCutchen, as a superstar-level talent.

"It's important for us to sign as many of our good young players as we can, long-term," Royals GM Dayton Moore said Sunday. "We need as much flexibility as we can get the next three to four years ... obviously, there is risk involved with it, but there's cost certainty.

"And you're going to have a comfort level with your own players, the guys who are homegrown, because you know them and know their families."

The risk for the Royals, of course, is if the players don't turn out to be as good as expected or if they get hurt. The Cleveland Indians were the pioneers of this kind of long-term thinking in the '90s, and with their best young players locked up, the Indians were able to build and plan and add.

A foundation of Hosmer, Gordon, Escobar and Perez not only would give the Royals a chance to win, but also would frame a structure well into the next decade, because salaries would be locked in place and budget space would be defined.

If the Royals cannot sign Hosmer, they will be in the same position as where the Brewers were with Prince Fielder the last couple of years. Because Milwaukee couldn't sign him to a long-term deal, it had to decide whether to trade him for less than equal value on the market or keep him and try to win as long as possible, knowing that he'd eventually walk away as a free agent. The Brewers kept him, and fans filled their ballpark in 2011 as Milwaukee made the playoffs, a last hurrah with Fielder before he signed with the Detroit Tigers in the offseason.

The Cincinnati Reds are now facing this situation with Joey Votto, who will be eligible for free agency after the 2013 season.

Fielder is represented by agent Scott Boras, whose clients typically go into free agency rather than signing a long-term deal in the way that Tulowitzki and Braun did.

Hosmer is a Boras client.

There are agents and general managers who believe, however, that it is extremely difficult for any young player to turn down a massive offer with a big, crooked number. "If you're 23 years old," said one agent, "are you going to turn down tens of millions of dollars?"

McCutchen did not, an enormous moment of progress for the Pirates. How will Hosmer react? We may well find out sometime in the weeks and months ahead.

If the Royals are to sign Hosmer to a Tulowitzki-like deal, a leap of faith will be required from Kansas City's ownership. But keep in mind that every time Moore's front office has asked for an extraordinary expenditure -- whether it was a free-agent signing of Gil Meche or Jose Guillen, or an investment in a draft pick -- the Glass family has responded. If there is a Hosmer deal that can be made, it's hard to imagine it won't get done.

The Royals had a good first day.

Notables

Corey Hart will miss the start of the Brewers' season.

• Bees delayed a game 41 minutes, as Nick Piecoro writes.

• Rockies prospect Alex White was arrested on the suspicion of DUI, writes Patrick Saunders. From the story:

    The Rockies have a program in which a player can call the team and arrange for transportation if the player believes he has had too much to drink.
    "We sat down with these guys and explained to them that in this area in Scottsdale, they have to be really careful," [General Manager Dan] O'Dowd said.
    O'Dowd said he was glad that White was upfront about the incident.
    "We'd be much more upset if the kid didn't handle it," O'Dowd said. "He walked right into (manager Jim Tracy's office) this morning and said, 'Here's what took place.' Then he asked Jim if he could talk to the team, went into the theater room and got up in front of everybody and said, 'Here's a stupid decision I made last night and here's what happened, and I'm sorry to all you guys.'"

Here's the thing: The players have even less of an excuse than the average person, because like the Rockies, all teams now have a support system built for them. If a player knows he's going to drink at all, he can have a ride prearranged.

• As Juan Rodriguez writes, the Miami Marlins are part of a sweeping hand-gesture craze: Lo viste?

Joel Zumaya will try again. He has decided to have elbow reconstruction surgery. Talked to Minnesota Twins GM Terry Ryan about him the other day, and Ryan said Zumaya was throwing so well that there had been a real sense that he could help Minnesota this year. If Zumaya was that good this time around, there's really no reason to think he can't be throwing well again a year from now -- if healthy.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Bobby Valentine doesn't like to use a set lineup, which sets him apart, as Nick Cafardo writes. His messages are heartfelt, writes Ron Borges.

2. Buck Showalter is looking for a leadoff hitter.

3. Starlin Castro is embracing the opportunity to hit third, writes Paul Sullivan.

Dings and dents

1. Josh Johnson is all systems go, as Tom D'Angelo writes.

2. Evan Longoria is good to go for Tuesday, as Marc Topkin writes here.

3. Tommy Hanson faced hitters for the first time this spring.

4. Brian Wilson is making progress.

5. Ike Davis says he feels great despite his diagnosis.

6. With a number of guys coming back from injury, the Los Angeles Angels have bigger concerns than Albert Pujols' transition.

7. Rafael Furcal's goal is to stay healthy.

8. Chris Perez figures he'll be playing catch this week.

The battle for jobs

1. Oakland's Brandon Allen drove in seven runs.

2. Mike Carp hopes to thrive as Seattle's left fielder, writes Steve Kelley.

3. There is a suggestion in this George King story that Michael Pineda does not have a job locked up in the Yankees' rotation. There is no question that in person, Pineda looks heavy.

4. The Chicago White Sox have some bullpen jobs up for grabs.

Sunday's games

1. I can't remember many spring days here in Florida when there was as much wind as there was on Sunday, so all the results from yesterday should be taken with a major dose of perspective. Especially if your name is Julio Teheran.

2. Ryan Raburn and the rest of the Tigers put on a show, as Tom Gage writes.

3. Josh Beckett was The Man for the Boston Red Sox. Andrew Miller also impressed, as Michael Silverman writes.

4. Stephen Strasburg returned to the mound and had a nice debut. Tom Gorzelanny had a really rough outing.

5. Roy Halladay was pleased with his first spring work, writes Jim Salisbury.

6. Travis Snyder is swinging a hot bat.

7. Alex Rodriguez showed some power, writes David Waldstein.

8. Clayton Kershaw did what Clayton Kershaw does.

9. Homer Bailey was so-so.

10. Ryan Braun heard a mixed reaction.

11. Ubaldo Jimenez had a rocky first outing.

12. There was some good, bad and ugly for the Chicago Cubs.

Other stuff

• A psychedelic structure in the batter's eye might be a problem for left-handed hitters in the Marlins' new ballpark, writes Clark Spencer.

• The Rangers' biggest goof is serious about his pitching, writes Jeff Wilson. For the Rangers, it's more about the big names, writes Randy Galloway.

• A Reds catcher is settling in.

Jamey Carroll is the latest shortstop get a chance with the Twins.

• The Tampa Bay Rays are looking to turn the power up at the plate, writes Roger Mooney.

• Cary Spivak writes about Shyam Das, the arbitrator in the Braun case.

Adam Wainwright figures he'll have some nerves today.

• The Mets' camp, like a lot of camps in spring, is loaded with early risers.

Yoenis Cespedes made a solid first impression. He showed all the right moves, writes Bruce Jenkins.

Brandon League learned a lot from last year's struggles, writes Larry LaRue.

• There is a fine line between the good J.A. Happ and bad J.A. Happ, writes Zachary Levine.

Drew Stubbs spent the winter clearing his head, writes Hal McCoy.

• The Padres' bullpen has been revamped, writes Dan Hayes.

• All is calm for the Los Angeles Dodgers on the field, as games begin.

• The Players Association believes the leak in the Braun case was an isolated instance.

• Lenny Dykstra is looking to change his plea.

• There is no story from the sports weekend better than this one: Pat Summitt cut down the nets again.

And today will be better than yesterday.