Although they lost over 100 games for the second straight season, the KC Royals aren’t making loud noises around the Hot Stove. The acquisitions they have made won’t make them contenders…but that may be just fine for now.
The KC Royals, losers of 207 games over the last two seasons, won’t contend for anything better than third or fourth place in the AL Central this season. Only by spending budget-breaking sums could the club even hope to make a title run, but such financial sacrifices are not the Royal way.
So it is that the Royals, as is their custom, have been quiet this Hot Stove season. With the exception of signing third baseman Maikel Franco, the club’s moves have been low-risk, relatively cheap acquisitions designed to salvage other clubs’ pitching discards and add players who might help while the franchise awaits the maturation of its present roster and hot prospects.
Its impact on the lineup makes the addition of Franco the club’s biggest move so far. He’ll displace Hunter Dozier as the every day third baseman; Dozier will move to right field and Whit Merrifield to center, leaving Brett Phillips and Bubba Starling to fight over left field if Alex Gordon retires, but leaving one of them, or both, without a roster spot if Gordon returns.
Franco is a capable hitter with power, as his 20+ homers in four of his six Philadelphia seasons prove, but needs to find his way on base more often (.234/.297/.409 slash last season). His defense needs improvement. But if he and the ripple effect his acquisition will have on the lineup work out, Franco will become one of General Manager Moore’s better deals.
The KC Royals’ other main moves (well documented previously in this space) are typical Moore efforts to shore up the club’s shaky pitching with reclamation projects of varying degrees. Trevor Rosenthal hopes to recapture the form that made him one of the Cardinals’ best-ever relievers; Chance Adams is looking to overcome injury and regain the effectiveness that once made him one of the Yankees’ top prospects, and Braden Shipley will get the opportunity to realize the potential he occasionally displayed in Houston’s system.
So, how do the Royals’ Hot Stove transactions stack up against those of their Central Division rivals? Unlike the Indians, the KC Royals aren’t dumping large chunks of payroll; unlike Minnesota, they’re not focused on retaining key assets — Gordon is their only free agent and no signs point to major trades. And unlike the White Sox, KC isn’t spending huge amounts to win now.
Instead, the KC Royals are similar to Detroit at this point: both clubs are conservatively taking incremental steps to meet certain needs. But the Royals are better positioned for success than the Tigers: KC has more and younger talent in the majors and a bevy of promising pitchers on the verge of big league readiness.
For this Hot Stove season, the KC Royals are willing to make small moves designed not to win now, but to prepare and build for the day their present lineup fully matures and future stars like Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Kris Bubic, Daniel Lynch, Khalil Lee and Bobby Witt, Jr., are ready for the majors. Considering the depth and quality of such present and future talent, being seen but not heard around the Hot Stove may be the best approach for the KC Royals.
Not surprisingly, Dayton Moore and the KC Royals aren’t dominating the Hot Stove season. Content to make their typical conservative moves, and with the exception of landing a new, established third baseman, the Royals are simply filling holes while they wait for the professional maturation of their own homegrown talent. The dividends will be paid down the road.