The KC Royals have a lot of decisions ahead in the coming months. What to do with Lorenzo Cain, however, should be obvious.
Regardless of the outcome of the 2017 season, championship or top draft pick, this year is destined to be a turning point for Kansas City’s baseball club. The core of the KC Royals’ World Series team will hit free agency at the end of the season. Many fans have their opinion on how the future of these players should be approached. Either traded for pieces to build a future contender, or signed to long term deals.
One player who dramatically helped his cause has been third baseman Mike Moustakas. Moose looks fully healthy from an ACL tear that robbed the majority of his 2016 campaign. Add in fellow position players Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar, along with the out-of-nowhere start by Jason Vargas, and you have a group that leaves GM Dayton Moore with several tough decisions to make over the next few months.
Out of all of these names the one player who feels like a must to keep may just be center fielder Lorenzo Cain. When you look at players like Moose and Hos, entrenched as they are with fans, the reality is that the KC Royals have their replacements in house.
A combination of Cheslor Cuthbert, Hunter Dozier, and Ryan O’Hearn look ready to take over corner infield duties. Raul Mondesi Jr. has been groomed to be the team’s starting short stop by the 2018 season. However, when it comes to Cain there is no clear replacement. Instead several “what-ifs”.
Cain currently owns a .257 average to go along with 2 HR, 10 RBI, and 12 SB. The average may be below his career mark of .285, but Lorenzo is still putting together a solid 2017. Especially when you factor in his Gold Glove caliber play in CF.
Cain has arguably been the pulse of the KC Royals.
He also expressed his interest in remaining in Kansas City long-term earlier this spring. When you look at potential options for CF in 2018 it is easy to see why Cain needs to be a top priority for Moore.
- Alex Gordon – For the first time in his career the life-long KC Royal has ventured out of his normal LF position. He has logged innings in both RF and CF. Gordon’s athleticism and Gold Glove defense has caused many to believe that he could man CF every day, even in the spacious confines of Kauffman Stadium. There are two major concerns when it comes to Gordo. One- he is 33 years old. You would have to ask “how long could he realistically hold down CF?” Two – will he be able to get himself out of the funk he has been stuck in at the plate? Currently he looks like a stretch to even be a #9 hitter, despite his defensive prowess.
- Minor League Options – Many envisioned Bubba Starling would one day be a cog in the big league club for the Royals. While he is still younger than many realize at this point (24), his career path has left more doubters than optimists that he can make a major impact in Kansas City. He has shown flashes in 2017, but still remains far from being someone the team could count on in 2018. Beyond Bubba the top minor league options are probably 23 year old Donnie Dewees and 18 year old Khalil Lee. Dewees may be able to factor into 2018 as he looks to have the speed factor that this team built a winner around. Lee still has growing to do before being a true option.
- Free Agency and Trades – There is always the option of looking at players that are currently in other organizations via trades or free agent signings. With this option you don’t know what the costs in assets (which the team is low on at the moment), or actual dollars the team would have to invest. Add in the difficulty in bringing in a player on par with Cain’s skills and you see how this becomes a crapshoot.
The KC Royals are definitely set to lose key pieces from their championship team. It has been speculated that they could retain one, maybe two, of these players. You don’t just replace your #3 hitter. Let alone your #3 and #4. When you really look at the options Lorenzo Cain becomes the clear choice to continue his career in Kansas City.
What do you think? How would you rank the soon-to-be free agents in importance to the KC Royals?