While the signing of Maikel Franco significantly altered the KC Royals’ lineup for 2020, the club’s other offseason moves were characteristically Royal and match their traditional conservative approach.
The acquisition of Maikel Franco was as much vintage KC Royals as it was uncharacteristic in effect. The approximately $3 million cost of Franco’s deal, a small price to pay in baseball dollars for an everyday infielder, didn’t break the Royals’ bank and is consistent with the club’s typical one-player-at-a-time offseason approach; at the same time, it atypically worked substantial lineup changes.
The news was that the club made a move with such impact; the fact it was the only immediately significant move simply continued the Royals’ annual offseason trend.
Alex Gordon’s recent return to the Royals for $4 million and at least one more season (unless the club takes advantage of his 10&5 rights waiver and trades him) is, of course, significant, but its importance is limited to his defensive prowess and what occasional damage his bat might still be capable of inflicting. Indeed, Gordon’s re-up affects the lineup only to the extent it contributes to the change of the Bubba Starling-Brett Phillips battle from one for an everyday outfield spot to one for a backup role.
The remaining winter moves mirror those to which fans have become accustomed–primarily acquisitions of pitchers yearning for another, and perhaps final, chance to make it in the majors.
Most prominent among those transactions was the signing of Trevor Rosenthal, the former lock-down St. Louis closer whose career decline began shortly before surgery sidelined him for 2018 and culminated with his miserable 2019 stints with Washington and Detroit. Rosenthal is a classic, low-cost Dayton Moore project designed to repair and rebuild a former star–he signed Rosenthal to a minor league deal worth a base $2 million should he capitalize on a Spring Training invitation and make the club.
The acquisition of former Yankee prospect Chance Adams is another typical Moore offseason move. Adams had some stellar minor league moments in the Yankee system (he held hitters to WHIPs less than 1.080 for three consecutive years and went 13-1 in one season and 15-4 in another) but has little more than a disturbing 8.18 ERA to show for two brief trips to the big leagues. His struggles since 2017 elbow surgery make him another inexpensive Moore reclamation project–KC gave up only a minor league infielder to get him.
Stephen Woods comes to the club not as damaged goods, but instead as a talented pitcher with solid minor league credentials. Selected in the Rule 5 draft from Tampa Bay (and thus required to be offered back to the Rays if the Royals don’t keep him on the major league roster for the upcoming season), Woods has a three-season ERA of 2.61 and posted a 9-3 High A record and 1.88 ERA last season.
The Royals also picked up Braden Shipley, a former Arizona Diamondback with a remarkably unremarkable minor league record of 41-42 and disturbing major league numbers–a 5.49 ERA and 1.600 WHIP in 26 games.
Gordon’s inexpensive one year deal, and the low-cost, low-risk signings of a handful of pitchers, makes the bulk of the KC Royals’ offseason acquisitions just as normal as ever.
The offseason storylines of the KC Royals are at once characteristic and uncharacteristic of past Kansas City winters. While the club’s player moves were, with the exception of the Maikel Franco deal, classically inexpensive and low-risk transactions, a new ownership group took control of the team and a new manager came on board. And, sadly, David Glass died shortly after selling the team he loved.