If you are a Kansas City Royals homer, doomsday has arrived. On Thursday, Lorenzo Cain became the first prominent Royals free agent to sign elsewhere. The Milwaukee Brewers inked the 32-year-old outfielder to a five-year, $80 million contract.
Well, here we are. Thursday was a day that has lived in a sort of folklore ever since the turn of the decade. Once Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and the gang ascended into October prominence, the year 2017 seemed distant and unreal. They were destined to go off to New York, Boston, or Los Angeles, but not for a while.
These aforementioned players, as well as others such as Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, and Alex Gordon, etched their names in Kansas City Royals lore through playoff success. The Royals have already experienced some departures of staples such as Wade Davis and Jarrod Dyson that have recently stung. However, this is the first member of the ‘core four’ that had the emotional departure at the end of the 2017 season to ink a new deal in a city other than Kansas City.
For fans who tend to be stubbornly realistic, this may come as a relief, albeit bittersweet. The fact of the matter is that the Royals had no business re-upping Lorenzo Cain. Especially a contract with such a high average annual value (AAV) while going through a rebuild. When looking at a contract, it is reasonable to believe that his prime years will likely have concluded when the team is ready to compete again.
As much as it pains me to say, Dayton Moore and company made the right call here. In fact, Cain quipped Thursday that there was absolutely no contact between he and the Kansas City Royals this offseason.
How did this develop?
While the historically slow market has been well documented, murmurs regarding a few of the top free agents have been finally picking up this week. Once the Giants missed out on Giancarlo Stanton in December, many wondered if they would turn their attention to Cain. However, they instead acquired Andrew McCutchen from Pittsburgh.
I wrote last week that the Brewers seemed interested in Cain. It also states that the Royals could be a possibility and to not rule out teams such as the Rangers. Over the past few days, Cain began notifying certain teams that he was signing elsewhere. This signaled that a decision was looming.
Milwaukee threw the baseball community for a loop Thursday morning, acquiring Christian Yelich from the depleted Miami Marlins. Many thought that the Brewers were done adding outfielders, but reporters warned to not rule out the addition of Cain. Later Thursday evening, the news was made public.
Cain Goes Home
The terms of the contract certainly raised some eyebrows. He achieved the AAV that he desired, which was around $16 million a year. What was stunning was the five years and the trade protection included in the contract. When this deal expires, Cain will be 37 years old. While very few foresaw Cain getting $80 million this offseason, Royals fans alike are thrilled that he was able to cash in on such a big payday.
If the 2014 ALCS MVP had to depart, I am glad he ended up in Milwaukee. For one, this is the organization that initially drafted Cain. He came to Kansas City in 2010 with Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi as part of the Zack Greinke trade. The trade that significantly shaped the future of the franchise.
The Brewers organization knows just how valuable Cain is, and he will rightfully step into a starting role. Also, Milwaukee is expecting to compete in 2018 and beyond. They improved by thirteen games from 2016 to 2017, and finished only six games out of first place in the National League Central. They have the reigning National League Manager of the Year in Craig Counsell, as well as plenty of pop in their lineup.
The additions of Cain and Yelich, paired with bats like Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw and Eric Thames will wreak havoc for opposing pitchers. Are they the best team in the division? Probably not. Could they compete with the top teams in the league, though? Absolutely. Look for them to remain in the hunt for a frontline starting pitcher as spring training nears.
Where do the Royals go from here?
This news does not change the outlook for the future of the Kansas City Royals. In the immediate future, there are a bevy of possibilities. Fans might see a steady dose of Paulo Orlando in centerfield with Gordon and Jorge Bonifacio mostly occupying the corner positions. Another possibility would be for Gordon to patrol center, as the team has tried a few times before. This could allow them to commit to letting Jorge Soler sink or swim in the other corner spot opposite Bonifacio.
Even further, there have been whispers about Raul Mondesi getting a look in center this season and beyond. Lastly, many writers have speculated that we may finally see Bubba Starling at the big league level later in the season.
There are clearly an abundance of outfield scenarios for the 2018 Kansas City Royals, which makes for an intriguing spring training. The club will also receive a compensation draft pick from Milwaukee. Which this pick will be between rounds one and two of next summer’s draft.
Who is left
As far as the remaining free agents, we do not have a lot leads on where they might end up. This market has proven to be extremely unpredictable. Hosmer has been linked to only San Diego and Kansas City, while Moustakas may be forced to take a shorter deal than he would like.
Also, the signing of Ryan Goins earlier this week brings up many questions as to what the Royals infield could look like. Especially with Escobar agreeing to come back to Kansas City. While Goins could be a role player, he adds to the cluttered infield that includes recent addition Escobar, Whit Merrifield, Mondesi, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Ramon Torres.
One guess of where the last two will end up is as good as the next. Now that two dominos have finally fallen hopefully get answers sooner rather than later. Buckle up.
Lorenzo Cain will always be a Kansas City Royals legend. He will undoubtedly be inducted into the team Hall of Fame upon his retirement. Kids across Kansas City have grown up mimicking his smile, the way he recklessly runs into fences, and of course, the sweet ‘lean back’ in his home run swing.
He is a part of some of the biggest moments in franchise history. He even gave his son the middle name ‘Loe’ to celebrate the affectionate nickname Kansas City fans gave him. Lastly, he has not been shy about his admiration and gratitude towards Royals fans. I am thrilled that I got to watch him develop into the All-Star caliber player that he is as a member of the Kansas City Royals.
The Milwaukee Brewers come to town for a two-game set on April 24th and 25th. If game 162 of last season is any indication, The K should be packed and ready to show Cain just how much he has meant to the Kansas City Royals, its fans, and the city of Kansas City.
Best of luck, Lorenzo!
Royals fans, are you happy to hear of Cain’s reunion with Milwaukee? Which free agent do you think will be the next to sign? Let us know!