Relievers, catcher are KC's big needs

Relievers, catcher are KC's big needs

Club needs

RELIEF PITCHERS: With last offseason's top bullpen additions, Kyle Farnsworth and Juan Cruz, not exactly setting the woods on fire, the annual search is on to give closer Joakim Soria a firm foundation of setup men. Experienced middle men wouldn't hurt, either.

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CATCHER: A better defense is a priority, and a big part of that initiative is stabilizing the catching situation divided last year between current free agent Miguel Olivo and returning John Buck. Wanted: a strong everyday presence able to block balls, throw well and call a good game.

CENTER FIELDER: Last year's answer, Coco Crisp, was hurt and then became a free agent. Still available, he could return if his repaired shoulders are deemed OK and the money is right. If not, another speedster is on the wish list, and the Mets' Angel Pagan is among those mentioned.

STARTING PITCHER: A take-charge left-hander would be preferable, although any lefty would be a welcome change for the rotation. The Royals haven't had a regular lefty starter in the past two seasons. Free agent Erik Bedard is among many discussed.

Who they can or need to trade

2B Alberto Callaspo: By obtaining Chris Getz in the deal for Mark Teahen, the Royals can deal switch-hitter Callaspo. By hitting .300 with unexpected power in 2009, Callaspo might be at his optimum value now. His defense isn't the best, and his best position is probably third base.

RF Jose Guillen: Hampered by injuries last season, he says he's healthy now. The big problem is that he is due $12 million on the last year of his contract. A plus could be he's likely to be inspired to great heights approaching free agency.

C John Buck: Never the power hitter that he was expected to be, Buck lost his starting job last year to Olivo. Good on defense except in his ability to gun down runners, he has a fine reputation for calling games.

RHP Brian Bannister: Given to periods of brilliance tempered by slumps and last season's tired shoulder, Bannister is a thinking-man's pitcher who has attracted trade attention before. He's 28-37 in three years with KC.

RHP Kyle Davies: After another up-and-down year, Davies at 26 could be on the brink of finding himself. He's had fits of excellence but his inconsistency has given him a 20-23 mark in his three KC seasons. Harnessing his fastball has been a struggle.

DH Mike Jacobs: After starting last season as the first baseman, he was primarily a DH. His power didn't carry over well to the AL and he went from 32 homers for the Marlins to 19 for the Royals. He hit a career-low .228.

LF David DeJesus: Always a popular name in trade rumor mills, the Royals aren't likely to part with him unless overwhelmed in a deal. Terrific all year defensively, he bounced back from a slow start and hit .309 in his last 91 games.

Top prospects

LHP Dusty Hughes, who could fill a lefty void, was impressive after switching to starting in his last month at Triple-A Omaha. OF David Lough hit .325 and showed a good combination of power (14 homers) and speed (14 steals) for Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Class A Wilmington. LHP Danny Duffy led the organization with a 2.98 ERA and was 9-3 with a 3-to-1 strikeout ratio for Wilmington. RHP Aaron Crow, the team's top Draft choice in 2009, is on the Major League roster.

Big contracts they might unload

Guillen's $12 million contract certainly jumps to mind. But there's also the $4.5 million remaining on the second year of Farnsworth's deal.

Arbitration eligible

LHP John Bale, RHP Brian Bannister, C John Buck, RHP Roman Colon, RHP Kyle Davies, 3B Alex Gordon, 1B Mike Jacobs, RHP Robinson Tejeda.

Payroll summation

Total compensation for 2009 was reported at $81,740,669 after starting the season at about $70.5 million. The latter figure is a likely goal for the initial 25-man roster, but owner David Glass has proven upwardly flexible in the past couple of years.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.