Moore confident in depth at dawn of Spring Training
Dwyer a candidate for fifth spot; Bonifacio placed on outright waivers
KANSAS CITY -- Anyone listening to those rumors that pitcher Ervin Santana is getting close to signing somewhere need not look toward Kansas City.
General manager Dayton Moore, who brought Santana to the Royals last winter, deflected any notion that the free-agent right-hander might return.
"It's probably the most asked question I've had all winter," Moore said on Monday. "We made a determination early on that it probably wasn't going to work out here with Erv, certainly long term, so we moved aggressively on Jason Vargas with the idea that we'd be able to sign two veteran starting pitchers."
That second free-agent pitcher turned out to be old friend Bruce Chen, who re-signed on Feb. 1. Apparently, however, the Royals kept their toe in the Santana waters longer than had been suspected.
Moore, who held a pre-Spring Training media conference at Kauffman Stadium, was asked about Santana's status again as the session neared an end.
"I don't know much about it. We haven't had any conversations with them in at least a couple of weeks now," Moore said. "Certainly after we signed Bruce we haven't had any conversations, so I have no idea what they're thinking at this point."
At any rate, Moore seemed content with the pitchers seen as bidding for the rotation's fifth spot, including Yordano Ventura, Wade Davis, Danny Duffy and Luke Hochevar. However, any chance that rookie Kyle Zimmer had to win a Major League spot in Spring Training is apparently diminished as he continues to recover from an arm problem that ended his 2013 season three weeks early.
"He's not even going to pitch until probably the end of March. We're going to go slow with him," Moore said. "He finished last year on the disabled list; he had a bicep tendinitis issue. When he had his throwing program this year, he still felt a little discomfort. We brought him in and had him checked out medically. It looks really good and our medical people really aren't that concerned. But his body's going through adaptive changes, and we're really going to go slow with him."
The implication is that Zimmer, who switched to pitching from third base at the University of San Francisco, is still getting his arm accustomed to the position.
However, Moore lifted left-hander Chris Dwyer into the list of possible contenders.
"Chris Dwyer is a pitcher that's a little under the radar for us, but we like him a great deal," Moore said. "He's got a great overhand curveball, a pitch that a lot of left-handers don't have in the game today and therefore it makes it tough on the hitters. He's got a changeup that is really good, and his velocity picked up a little bit last year and his command really improved, so he'll got a shot to compete as well."
The Royals couldn't make a trade for infielder-outfielder Emilio Bonifacio, who was designated for assignment on Feb. 1 to make roster room for Chen. Bonifacio was placed on outright release waivers on Monday.
"There were some clubs that were interested," Moore said. "It just didn't happen for us."
Negotiations with closer Greg Holland, the last unsigned player among the Royals' salary arbitration-eligibles, are continuing. A hearing is scheduled this month although the date has not been made public.
The Royals have never had an arbitration case go to a hearing in Moore's eight years at the helm.
"We don't mind going to a hearing," Moore said and indicated that, as the Royals' fortunes and their players improved, going before an arbitration panel might figure more prominently in the club's future.
"Getting a deal prior to a hearing is going to be more challenging for us going forward as long as we having players excelling and doing well," he said. "Holly had a terrific year, he's one of the best closers in the game and we'll see what happens."
This is a quiet time on the trade front but, as Spring Training progresses and clubs recognize needs, it's likely that will change.
"We do have depth -- depth in the outfield, depth in the infield, depth at the backup catching spot, we certainly have depth in the bullpen," Moore said. "We're probably not going to move any of our pitching unless it's really something that overwhelms us."
And lest anyone doubted it, Moore made clear the Royals' goal for 2014.
"We want to win now. That's what we're here for," he said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.