When one reaches the mountaintop, it is hard to remain there. No matter what profession you are in, someone is trying to get that promotion, trying to take that job or to be better. Sports are no different. Once a team has success and reaches the postseason, every other team is trying to find a way to take that spot, elevating themselves to those lofty peaks.
For the first time in three decades, the Royals are now atop that peak. Even though they did not win the American League Central (the Tigers can have that crown for one more year), they were able to come out of the American League and make the World Series. Now, every other American league team will be gunning for the Royals, trying to knock them from their perch.
Now, with free agency well underway, the Royals have seen that pressure first hand. The Chicago White Sox have gone out and acquired Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson and Adam LaRoche, vastly improving their team. The Minnesota Twins signed Ervin Santana, who will greatly help their rotation by being mreley competent. The Tigers and Indians are likely to remain difficult foes. The Central certainly will not be a cake walk.
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Have the Royals done enough to remain the class of the American League? They have already lost Billy Butler, and are likely to see both James Shields and Nori Aoki depart via free agency. As replacements, the Royals have brought in Kendrys Morales, Alex Rios and Edinson Volquez. Should Morales and Rios rebound and produce at their career averages, they would certainly be an upgrade on offense. Volquez may not replace Shields, but he could be a solid fit in the rotation.
Even if the rotation is slightly weakened, the bullpen should be stronger than it was last season. Luke Hochevar and Jason Frasor were resigned, providing depth to a bullpen that was truly three relievers strong for much of 2014. As long as the starters can get through five or six innings with a lead, then Ned Yost should find himself in a truly comfortable position when it comes time to go to the bullpen.
For the Royals to remain a playoff team, the biggest difference is likely to come from within. Dayton Moore did his part to bring in the pieces needed to upgrade the roster; now players like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer need to take that next step in their development, becoming the middle of the order hitters the Royals envisioned. Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy will be counted on to lead the rotation. Will they be able to do so?
Those are the questions that will need to be answered in 2015. The Royals certainly appear to have done enough to make last year more than a one time appearance in the playoffs. Now we just need to wait and see.