Royals could address needs at Winter Meetings

Royals could address needs at Winter Meetings

SAN DIEGO -- The young and talented Royals came of age in a stirring 2014 for the ages. Now they prepare for next season and beyond, no longer as plucky upstarts but as American League champions.

The hotel lobbies were abuzz Sunday morning in San Diego, with baseball's annual Winter Meetings set to begin Monday, and the Kansas City contingent began to filter in with the rest of the hardball brass. With October behind them and 2015 squarely in their sights, the Royals set out to take care of a few pressing needs heading into Spring Training.

The first on that list would be a starting pitcher to replace James Shields, who is almost certain to depart via free agency, perhaps during these Meetings. The Royals had a payroll of around $92 million last season, according to Cot's Contracts, and they could push that over the $100 million mark for 2015, but the club's modus operandi remains to key upon smart, value-based decisions that make the most of the assets they have. With that in mind, Ervin Santana, a former Royal, could be a possibility to replace Shields, but there are many other options still available.

Elsewhere on the roster, the Royals will be looking for offense and perhaps a bullpen piece.

Designated hitter Billy Butler signed a three-year deal with the Oakland A's, and the Royals also will be looking to find a replacement for right fielder Nori Aoki, who's a free agent. They could attempt to go after a player such as Alex Rios, who could play outfield and DH, and another former Royal, free-agent switch-hitting outfielder Melky Cabrera, could be a solution for that role as well.

The Royals are well-known for the potency of their bullpen, and that continued last week, when they signed reliever Luke Hochevar to a two-year, $10 million deal. One possibility that Kansas City could explore in San Diego is whether to pull the trigger on a possible trade involving their stellar closer, Greg Holland.

By dealing Holland, the Royals could save money moving forward, slot ace setup man Wade Davis into a ninth-inning role, and possibly get a package of prospects in return. It's no guarantee, but it wouldn't be a surprising move to see from Dayton Moore, the club's creative general manager.

Speaking of creative, the Royals' innovative and unflappable manager, Ned Yost, will be at the Meetings to address the media. That session will occur Monday at 4:30 p.m. CT.

MLB.com will be here for all four days of the Meetings, updating constantly with news as it breaks. Check back often at there and at royals.com for all the information you need, and don't hesitate to leave comments so your voice can be heard.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.