Their conservative approach to free agency means the KC Royals usually don’t land superstar free agents. They haven’t enjoyed much recent success on the open market. What free agent deals have been their worst?
Two things are certain about the winters of the Kansas City Royals: there are no games to be played and no feature free agents to be signed. The former is the fault of Mother Nature; the latter, a product of the club’s conservative approach to the financial demands of the free agent market: a consequence, says the team, of the small market in which the KC Royals do business.
It is the inherent financial limitations of such a market that the Royals tend to blame for not keeping their own stars in the fold. The greener pastures and greener money of larger markets prevent the club, it contends, from competing with richer teams, causing key core Royals to spurn lower KC offers and sign elsewhere for more money.
Whether the Royals’ reluctance to spend much on free agents is attributable to small market restraints alone, or is more a consequence of self-imposed frugality is debatable. In either case, the club’s reputation for not spending enough to keep or sign top-flight free agents is well-earned.
The team’s most expensive recent foray into free agency, the four-year, $72 million contract given to Alex Gordon just months after KC’s 2015 World Series victory, was uncharacteristic, but Gordon was a known homegrown entity, a fan favorite, and a player not prone to troubles on or off the field. The fact he fit the Royal mold made it easier for the club to venture a little further out on their financial limb.
The repercussions of the Royals’ tight approach extend beyond losses of their own free agents and the exclusion of others who could improve the club — their long list of unsuccessful signings includes such recent notables as Brad Boxberger, Al Alburquerque, and Chris Owings (more on him later). But what free agent signings have been the club’s worst? Let’s see.