Grading the Royals Off Season – So Far


It looks like the Kansas City Royals are sticking with their plan.  I write this assuming they make no more “big” moves this off season.  The payroll is now over 110M, and there are no remaining free agents that make sense, at least not financially.  Trades are still possible.  It is possible, but not probable, Moore could deal from his deep bullpen, and shallow pond of prospects.  Hell, I think Wil Myers is attainable.  If you want to dream big, Evan Longoria would look nice in a royal blue stocking.  Tampa has made it clear they are not planning on the playoffs in 2015.  The Royals could swallow Longo’s “team friendly” contract and give up on the Moose.  It’s likely the asking price would be too high, and even more likely the Royals will stick with the highly drafted 3rd sacker.  So yes, let’s assume that we have seen the “big” moves already, and grade the work done this off season thus far.

I give them a B-

The easiest moves to criticize are obvious.  Misreading the market for Billy Butler, and handing out deals to two aging bounce back candidates, Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios.  At first glance, this looks pretty terrible.

Picking up Butler’s option would have been a bargain.  He is a hometown, home grown hero that played a solid role in the 2014 post season.  But there is more to the story.  There has to be.  I think Moore played dumb on Billy, because Billy had to go.  Clearly, he had issues with Ned Yost, and Ned with him.  Being that the team loves Yost, it is a safe bet  Billy probably wasn’t a beloved guy in the clubhouse.  If that is true, he just doesn’t bring enough to the offense to keep him around.  While I love Country Breakfast and all he stands for, I have to give Moore a pass for letting him scramble his eggs elsewhere.

Morales and Rios will cost the Royals less money combined than Oakland will pay Butler.  They think Rios played hurt much of 2014, and he still hammered left handed pitchers.  Dyson is an excellent fielder, an elite base runner, and serviceable when hitting right handers.  Rios will smack plenty of doubles and steal around 20 bases next year.  He’s had pop in his bat before, and it wouldn’t be a shock if he hit 20 badly needed homers next season.  They also picked up a guy I think we will all end up loving, Moises Sierra.  My Chicago friends in baseball lit up my cell with positive text messages when he was inked.  He won’t be an all-star, but look for him to grow into a 750 OPS player.  I don’t think the Royals will see their outfield production dip next year.  They will see it improve, if just slightly.

Morales is harder to justify.  He was just awful last year.  I can’t buy the lack of a spring training excuse either. Why was he so bad and so out of shape?  If he wasn’t motivated after last season’s failed game of free agent chicken, why will he shine in 2015?  Yes, he’s a guy that may swat 20 some homers and outpace Butler’s 2014 performance.  He is also just as likely to perform worse than Butler in 2014, while offering even less value in the field.  The Royals could have and should have done better than Kendrys Morales, especially considering there is no plan B or logical platoon at DH.

More from KC Royals News

I’m more enthusiastic about the Edinson Volquez signing than most.  He’s been streaky, he walks too many guys, and he’s a ground ball pitcher.  None of those traits mesh well with this club or it’s ballpark, so I respect the contrarian opinions.  But I’m a big Dave Eiland believer.  Word has it that Volquez started trusting his stuff last year, and began throwing to the strike zone more. I trust that Diamond Dave will keep with the formula that made Volquez the most reliable Pirate pitcher for 2014’s second half.  When it comes to free agent starters, I also trust Dayton Moore.  Guthrie and Vargas say I am right.  Volquez’s deal is just for one year.  They bought 175 innings and have some options. Nabbing him became came even better when the Royals made their best move, signing Kris Medlen.

I’m not going to parrot Dave Hill‘s fine post on Medlen, when you can read it here. I agree whole heartedly with Dave.  Medlen, when healthy, can be a dominant starter and a legit number one for the Royals in 2016.  Medlen should be ready to start by the break, and can spell or replace any floundering or injured starter.  The Royals also have Brandon Finnegan and a resurgent John Lamb waiting in the wings. The Royals may not have grabbed a front line starter, like Ervin Santana, but they have solid starting depth, and very hopeful break outs in Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy.

The Royals did all of this while not parting with any of their core players, and while doubling down on their most unique and dominant strength. That all world bullpen.  By keeping HDH intact, and re-signing Luke Hochevar and Jason Frasor, the Royals made their rotation plan even more grounded.  They will be able to treat much of the regular season like they did the playoffs.  They will play a 5 to 6 inning game, and let the pen take care of the rest.

Initially, I hoped for some sexier signings.  An Ervin Santana, Yasmany Tomas, or Melky Cabrera signing would have made for some tasty waves, but the Royals need to tread lightly with their financial decisions.  We saw how high the arbitration waves got this year for many of the core players, and they will only rise in 2016.  The Royals truly believe in Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, their bullpen, and their young starters.  They rode that unwavering faith all the way to the World Series in 2014.  You can’t blame them for paddling into 2015 with the same plan, even if many of us doubt their corner offense.