Instead of taking the chance a veteran player will turn his career around, the Kansas City Royals should focus on younger players.
I know the Kansas City Royals need to be creative with their money situation and have tried gambling on older players in the chance they perform well enough to flip them for trade value, but is it time to move past that? The last couple of seasons have not provided decent results or trade value and may have stymied younger player development.
In 2018, Kansas City signed Lucas Duda for $3.18 million and he did produce some decent numbers and perhaps the veteran influence was a nice contribution. In 239 at-bats against right-handed pitching, his OPS was .813 and he clubbed 12 home runs. In an after-deadline trade with the Atlanta Braves in August, however, all Kansas City could score was cash considerations and that type of return was disappointing.
Perhaps in trying to get a better outcome in 2019, the Royals brought Duda back again for $1.25 million. This time on top of a stint on the Injured List with a lumbar strain, the performance never materialized. He was released on July 29th after posting a below-Mendoza line .171 average and only 4 home runs in 105 at-bats.
Another signee over the winter was 27-year-old Chris Owings, who had a couple of decent seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks before really struggling in 2018. The risk was low with a one-year contract at $3 million but no value was realized after the Royals released him in June following an abysmal .415 OPS and -0.9 WAR in just 145 plate appearances.
After five full seasons and 277 stolen bases with the Cincinnati Reds, Billy Hamilton was non-tendered by the only team he had known. The Royals swooped in during December and signed Hamilton to a base salary of $4.25 million with a mutual option for 2020 unless the Royals bought that out. We saw flashes of brilliant defense and the amazing speed but ultimately he was let go in August to avoid paying performance bonuses once Hamilton reached 325 plate appearances. With only a .211 batting average and three times the strikeouts to walks, it should have been an easy call.
One move that is still under review is the signing of Homer Bailey to a league minimum salary in February. He pitched well enough in Kansas City, especially in June when he went 3-1 with 1.28 WHIP to attract the attention of the Oakland A’s who traded Kevin Merrell to land Bailey. Merrell was a first-round draft pick in 2017 who Dayton Moore seems high on. However, since landing the Royals system he has produced an OPS that is 77 points less than his career minor league average so whether this is a good deal for Kansas City remains to be seen.
"“We liked him a great deal out of the Draft two years ago,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “He’s our type of player, speed player. We liked his potential versatility out of the Draft. Oakland selected him relatively high, a Comp pick. We liked him a great deal and he fits our profiles.“He doesn’t have to go on the 40-man roster for two more years. This is just his second full season, and our scouts and coaching staff liked him.” — MLB"
Given the limited value received in return for veteran players who do not seem to have a lot of upside, it makes more sense to let younger players occupy the 40-man roster. They can receive quality playing time at the big league level to be seasoned for when the Royals can gel them together with more proven and expensive free agent signings if John Sherman were to choose to go that route.