The Kansas City Royals have been an average team since winning the World Series. That’s why it’s clear the franchise needs a change, and this is offseason provides its best chance.
Bill Parcells, the all-time great NFL coach, once said, “You are what your record says you are.” If this is true, the recent record for the Kansas City Royals says that the club, as currently constructed, can be described in one word: mediocre.
Since the last out of the 2015 World Series, the Kansas City Royals have compiled a record of 161-163. That’s a full 36 games behind Cleveland’s pace that won it two American League Central Division titles and the AL pennant in 2016.
The Royals won that World Series with a mix of young players who were playing out their rookie deals and players they received via trades that involved unloading their farm system. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas — young players who were on those rookie deals — are now free agents, along with veterans Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar. These players were part of a core of Royals who brought two AL pennants and a World Series title.
But they have also been a part of a franchise that went 81-81 and 80-82, respectively, the past two seasons. Despite those records, many Kansas City Royals fans want to bring back everyone, knowing full well that it could take close to $300 million to do so. The question is, why would Royals fans want to keep everything the same when it is obvious that the current formula isn’t working?
Is it time for a change?
The old adage goes, “buy low, sell high.” The Kansas City Royals are selling high. But they are selling to the free agent pool.
There is plenty of history to show that giving players a huge contract after one outlying season comes back to bite teams. One needs to look no further than Chris Davis, who was signed to a seven-year, $161 million contract after the 2015 season by the Orioles, as an example of what can happen. During 2015, Davis hit 47 home runs and received MVP votes, which propelled him into that new contract.
Last season — Davis’ age 31-season — was his worst offensive campaign in four years, hitting 30 points below his career average and accumulating -0.1 WAR. The Orioles will be paying him $23 million per year for the next five years. The Royals cannot afford to be in the same spot.
So, knowing that:
- Is it smart to give Hosmer a nine-figure deal that could be paying him $25 million-plus at age 35? He hit 30 points over his career average this season. He had career-highs in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, runs scored, base hits and walks. Is this a sign of a player coming into his prime? Or is this an anomaly?
- Is it smart to give Moustakas — a player who has already had one major surgery — a huge contract? He never hit more than 22 home runs in a season before this one. And he clearly regressed toward the end of this season, hitting only eight of his 38 home runs in August and September.
- Is it smart to give Jason Vargas top dollar after a season in which he won more than 11 games for the first time in six seasons?
- Is it smart to give Mike Minor a significant contract based on his performance in 2017? Even though he didn’t pitch at all in the majors during 2015 and 2016?
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The Kansas City Royals missed their chance to buy low and sell high when the trade deadline passed in July. This arguably created a very long rebuild ahead. They can make that rebuild even longer if they give large contracts to these players.
This writer fully recognizes that these players are highly regarded by the fans, and they should be. These players were a part of something that no other players who wore the Royal blue had done in the past 30 years: bring a world championship to a loyal and passionate Kansas City fanbase.
They have also embraced Kansas City and have been active in the community. They deserve all the praise and honors they receive for doing that.
But, is nostalgia alone a good enough reason to keep players indefinitely?
The right thing to do: honor these players. Give them their rightful places in Kauffman Stadium and the Royals Hall of Fame. Wear your Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain jerseys … they will never go out of style. Applaud them when they visit Kansas City with their new teams.
But as for next season’s Royals and beyond, it’s time to turn the page. The upcoming draft — during which the Royals may have as many as three compensatory-round picks — is arguably the most important in recent franchise history. Just like the crop of players who came up together and won a World Series, the Royals need to spend all of their time and resources to find that next group of players who can do the same thing.
If they do, then the Kansas City Royals will put themselves in position to have their record show what they have become: world champions, again.