KC Royals Take On A Distinct Chicago Cubs Flavor
By John Viril
KC Royals general manager Dayton Moore seemed to like the Chicago Cubs roster when looking for upgrades over the winter. Three former Cubs figure to play key roles for KC in 2017.
When Dayton Moore looked to retool the Kansas City Royals this winter, he seemed to have a clear preference for players from Theo Epstein’s Chicago Cubs.
I suppose that really shouldn’t surprise anyone. Not only did the Cubs win the World Series last season, the two teams were built with similar front-office blueprints. In fact, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein viewed the Royals as a role model. He told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe in January of 2016:
"“We spent a lot of time talking about KC as we planned our rebuild,” Epstein acknowledged. “Basically it was an eight-year process [for them] to get to the World Series. They did a masterful job.“Look at the arc of those young players’ careers. Alex Gordon was optioned multiple times, and in a bigger market might not have been given a second chance. Mike Moustakas didn’t blossom as a good hitter until late in the 2014 season. Eric Hosmer probably underperformed after lofty expectations for him until midway through that 2014 season. Through great planning and great perseverance they were able to give those players room to breathe and go through that natural growing process. You experience a lot of valleys along the way, whether it’s being demoted or having a difficult month or year. In the end, they were rewarded for their patience.”"
Epstein backed up his words with action when he added former KC Royals Ben Zobrist and Mike Montgomery in his push for the 2016 World Series. For 2017, he added former Royals closer Wade Davis and reliever Aaron Brooks.
Apparently, that respect was mutual since Dayton Moore looked for players from Epstein’s Cubs when it came time to rework his team for a title run in 2017.
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First, Moore flipped closer Wade Davis for the still-developing right fielder Jorge Soler. What drove the deal was the high demand for premium relievers last winter added to Davis moving into the final year of his contract.
Soler has yet to realize the potential his impressive tools promised when he signed a nine-year, $30 million deal as a 20-year-old emigree from Cuba. But, he still possesses 70 grade power and a cannon arm. Kansas City’s personnel staff still see Soler as a potential five-tool player.
After landing Soler the December trade for Davis, Moore added pitchers Jason Hammel and Travis Wood to bolster his rotation. Following Yordano Ventura‘s tragic passing on January 22 from a car accident in the Dominican Republic, Moore signed both Hammel and Wood to free-agent deals.
The KC Royals ponied up a $16 million over two years to land Hammel, and inked Wood to a two-year, $12 million pact. Those moves appeared to be something of a change in strategy for Moore, who spent most of the winter insisting that he had little room to add payroll. However, Ventura’s death and the impending free agency of four core players, apparently loosened the purse strings.
To make room for Hammel on the 40-man roster, Moore traded pitching prospect Alec Mills to the Cubs for AA outfielder Donnie Dewess.
KC’s Playoff-Savvy Roster
Normal attrition has worn away quite a few of the 2015 World Series Royals veterans. Kansas City will likely open the 2017 season with no more than 13 survivors from their World Championship team. However, adding three Cubs players with 2016 World Series rings will yield around 16 players with recent championship experience.
Next: KC Royals Pitchers Frustrate Rockies In 3-1 Win
Who knows? If the ex-Cubs perform well in Kansas City, they might play against the ex-Royals in the 2017 World Series.