NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Royals might be ready to get serious about chasing a top-level starting pitcher.
Club officials are sending out signals at the winter meetings that they have money and are prepared to spend it on someone they could consider a No. 1 starter. That could even include a run at Anibal Sanchez, who has been looking for as much as $15 million a year.
The Royals believe their young offense is talented enough that they could challenge the favored Tigers in the American League Central, but only if they significantly improve their rotation. Royals starters combined for a 5.01 ERA in 2012, and pitched fewer innings than any AL rotation other than the Twins.
Already this winter, the Royals have re-signed Jeremy Guthrie and traded for Ervin Santana, but neither of them comes close to qualifying as a No. 1. Sanchez may not, either, but with the way he pitched for the Tigers down the stretch and in the postseason, he's closer to being that type of guy.
There have long been questions about Royals owner David Glass's willingness to spend, and there have been suggestions that the Royals may only have as much as $6 million a year to add to their staff. That wouldn't be enough to do anything big in a market where many teams are seeking pitching upgrades.
The Dodgers expect to sign at least one free-agent starter, and while they have been linked most strongly to Zack Greinke, they have interest in Sanchez and Kyle Lohse as well. The Rangers and Nationals are also looking at big-name pitchers, while the Brewers are telling teams they want to find a second starter who could slot behind Yovani Gallardo.
As for Sanchez, the Tigers have interest in keeping him, but only if the market comes back to them. Negotiations early in the winter didn't go well.