As the world changes, so does baseball. In the last 15 years, the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, and even the Kansas City Royals have all ended title droughts to win World Series titles. As all this has occurred, a new age of baseball has been introduced, an age driven by analytics, statistics, and a player market driven by these collections of data. The game is no longer fought just on the diamond, instead it has spread to the front offices. A season can almost be won or lost before the first pitch is even thrown.
In today’s baseball, how much money you spend and who you spend it on are more important than ever for small market teams. These teams can’t afford to sign A list free agents or overpay for under-performing players. So, how do the Kansas City Royals stack up to the rest of the league since their 2015 title win in regard to how efficient our spending has been?
All data in this article was found on Baseball Reference or created by me ($/WaR).
We’ll actually begin in 2015 to give a bit of a backstory. In 2015, the Royals were 13th in payroll spending (roughly $127 million), 6th in total team WaR (Wins above Replacement) (42.1), and 10th in $/WaR ($3.02 million per win above replacement) which is a calculation I made that averages the amount of money spent per WaR.
All of these measures were above the league average in their respective areas ($128.9 million for payroll, 33.3 for WaR, and $4.19 for $/WaR). Which in large part is the reason they won the World Series. The Royals spent money on valuable and worthwhile players that helped propel them to their first championship since 1985.
2016 is where the team and their values started to take a dive. They spent roughly $142 million, while only winning 81 games and putting up a team WaR of 31.2. Which lead to having a $/WaR value of $4.55 million, which is significantly higher than the previous year’s. All of these values except wins are worse than the league averages.
These averages were $134.20 million for payroll, 80.9 for wins, 33.32 for WaR and $4.21 million for $/WaR. This downward fall is only just the begging to an even worse spiral into mediocrity.
The 2017 season matched 2016 and its unwavering ok-ness. As an organization, they spent $148 million, won 80 games, had a WaR of 29 and posted a $/WaR value of $5.10 million. This time, though, all values were worse than the league averages. These averages were $141.07 million for payroll, 81 for wins, 33.27 for WaR and $4.65 million for $/WaR. After this season, the team finally took the dive into full rebuilding mode.
Last year, the Kansas City Royals began the rebuild and that was evident by the team only winning 58 games. This number of wins was also complimented by $130 million spent on players, a WaR of 17.7 and a $/WaR of $7.34 million. The only value better than the league average was payroll spending.
Last year’s averages were $139.4 million for payroll, 81.03 for wins, 33.30 for WaR and $4.9 million for $/WaR. Just looking at these trends, the team is headed back to a pre-2014 level of mediocrity, and I believe some major steps were made this past season and offseason to get this team back on track. But, I also believe other moves can be made in the near future to accelerate this process.
I personally loved not re-signing Eric Hosmer last off-season as well as trading Wade Davis two years ago. Both of those moves have also been supported by my $/WaR statistic. I convert the stat to individual players by taking their salary each season and divide it by their season WaR.
Davis was above the league average the season before the trade and his $/WaR has only gotten worse since then (2016=$4.7 million, 2017= $5.263 million, and 2018= $14.54 million.). Hosmer on the other hand had a solid $/WaR value the year before he left, but since his value has plummeted. He also had a rough 2016 (2016= $27.5 million, 2017=$3.828 million, and 2018=$42 million).
The Kelvin Herrera, and to an extent the Mike Moustakas trade, also were smart moves. The Herrera trade made perfect sense. His value was diminishing and was realistically only costing the team. He had also been on the decline according to my stat and was well above the league average (2017=$26.625 million, 2018=$5.669 million).
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The Moustakas trade made sense to me outside of his trending value. He was taking up a position that could have been taken by a younger player that may be the cornerstone to our next run.
The last move I agree with was the choice to not re-sign Alcides Escobar. His value the last two seasons had taken a serious decline and showed he wasn’t the same player (2016=$3.28 million, 2017=$7.22 million, and 2018=$25 million).
He was also taking up a valuable place on the team that younger players could be using. Some of these guys may have been faces of the franchise, but there has to come a point where the team moves on.
There are also some players currently on the team that I personally believe the team should move on from. The biggest of these is Alex Gordon. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gordo as much as the next person, but he has been way overpaid for his level of production (2015=$5 million, 2016=$24 million, 2017=-40 million, and 2018=$10.526 million). There is extra value that #4 brings to the clubhouse, but I believe there are guys who could do the same at a cheaper cost.
Danny Duffy and Salvador Perez also are coming close to falling into this category for me. If they continue to decline in performance but have their salaries increased, I’ll be forced to include them with Gordo. Which is something I don’t want to do.
As a whole, I believe the organization is making the right moves to get back to 2014 and 2015 levels of competing, but I also think the front office has to commit to a way of life going forward and stay with it. There are guys like Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi who can lead this organization and the young talent it has into a new era of Royals dominance, they just need the front office to spend their money wisely.
To sum it all up, The Kansas City Royals haven’t spent wisely in the past but are getting better at spending their financial resources, and should stick a true small market mindset.
I know there are flaws in the way I calculated Value. The flaws stem from the “value” not fully looking at injuries, off the field value and other circumstances. I realize this, but also know the Kansas City Royals are there to win titles and the only way to do so is to produce a strong team on the field at a reasonable price. Which may lead to many fan favorites leaving, which in the long run will be better for the organization.
I personally love Eric Hosmer and have some special personal memories of the guy but know keeping him would have destroyed the team for years. Feel free to leave your comments below.