The Kansas City Royals reportedly won’t have much of an increase in payroll, if any. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing ahead of the 2020 season.
Many were hoping the Kansas City Royals would defy the small-market narrative by opening up the pocketbooks and making a few splashes in free agency this offseason. Those hopes have quickly been extinguished:
Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the team is expected to operate under a “very limited budget” during new owner John Sherman’s first season on the job. If Alex Gordon is indeed brought back for one last season, it will likely come at a relatively cheap price tag. The bullpen was a problem in 2019, but adding “a pitcher or 2” probably won’t cost much and gives off the impression that new skipper Mike Matheny is somewhat confident in the current state of his relief staff.
A season ago, the Royals’ payroll on Opening Day was $100 million. As things currently stand, the team’s 2020 Opening Day payroll is slated to be somewhere in the $80M range. This would not only allow for those one or two free agent pitchers to be signed, but could open the door for a Gordon reunion at a reasonable price. If all of that happens, general manager Dayton Moore will have sent the initial version of the 2020 roster out onto the field for cheaper than the year before.
This isn’t as bad as you think it is. While it would be nice for a small market team like Kansas City to spend as much money as it wanted to on free agents (some will argue that all teams can sign who they want), the current state of the team doesn’t agree. There are several in-house options with starting spots secured. Salvador Perez, Hunter Dozier, Adalberto Mondesi, Nicky Lopez, Jorge Soler and Whit Merrifield are the present and future of the team. Aside from them, a few players are fighting for playing time.
Brett Phillips and Bubba Starling are facing make-or-break seasons in the outfield. Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom will be locked into a position battle for the first base job. Pitchers like Jakob Junis and Jorge Lopez are tasked with proving they’re a part of the club’s future. Overall, although some of the aforementioned names can’t compare to the marquee ones on the open market, those players deserve one last shot to put everything together before 2021.
The next Royals contention window has always been referenced as being that magical 2021 season. By then, players like Lopez, Phillips and Starling will have proven themselves worthy (or not worthy) of starting gigs. Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic will be promoted. That is the time to spend more and add complementary pieces, perhaps even a star, to put the team over the top.
Spending $120 million instead of $90 million, or whatever this year’s payroll is going to be, won’t put the 2020 Kansas City Royals over the top. Would it be nice to have a superstar play for the hometown team? Sure. Would that make the Royals contenders? No. It’s as simple as that. There’s no need to spend an excessive amount of money this offseason when there are a lot more questions left to answer internally than externally.