The KC Royals aren’t going to the playoffs and may finish with the worst record in baseball. They’re not tanking, are they?
Some KC Royals Midweek Musings while wondering if this team will win 20 games:
Tank talk. Emerging recently among the thousands of media and Internet baseball stories are pieces analyzing the relative merits of bad teams and projecting which will be the worst when this season ends. It has become an annual tradition, this effort to predict whose awful record will claim the only prize available to inferior teams—the first pick in the next season’s amateur draft. To the loser, in this case, go the spoils. The club with the worst record gets the best pick.
And the KC Royals, fresh off their second consecutive 100-plus loss season, could be the victor. Through Tuesday’s games, the Royals’ 15-28 record places them among the closely bunched teams at the bottom, all with winning percentages below .400. Not many wins or losses separate Kansas City, Washington, Texas, Pittsburgh, the Angels, Boston and Arizona.
But is Kansas City tanking, or even interested in doing so? Probably not, because tanking—the unsightly front office strategy of pursuing high draft positions by deliberately minimizing competitiveness—has never seemed to be in the club’s universe. It doesn’t fit the franchise culture or its tradition. The Royals value their fans, and fans don’t like to pay for the privilege of watching clubs designed to rarely win.
Tanking can take several forms and occasionally involves the mass dumping of good players, sometimes in trades for prospects, and sometimes not. General manager Dayton Moore, the man who would engineer an unlikely KC tank, didn’t do it when he had the chance in 2017; instead, knowing the Royals would lose their championship core at the end of the season, he bucked the trend of other organizations and hung on to Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar, among others, to make one last run at a postseason berth with them.
Evidence suggesting the KC Royals are no tankers also lies in their approach to this year’s trade deadline. Moore traded Brett Phillips and Trevor Rosenthal when he could have easily surrendered to the tanking culture and also moved Whit Merrifield, and probably Danny Duffy, Greg Holland, and Brad Keller, just to name a few. Stripping the roster of those players would have cost the club a few games.
(This isn’t to say, of course, that trading for prospects means a club is tanking. It’s a legitimate rebuilding tool, but is also sometimes employed in tanking schemes).
Manager Mike Matheny also isn’t managing like a tanker. He’s obviously putting on the field what he believes to be the best lineup every night and isn’t running the pitching staff like someone willing to lose games to secure a premium draft pick.
No, these Royals aren’t tanking. They could, but they aren’t. And that’s a good thing.
Personnel. Players, especially pitchers, have been on the move within the organization. Randy Rosario, a left-handed reliever the club picked up off waivers late last season, and who had an impressive 2020 spring before landing on the Injured List a day before the season started, was designated for assignment last week, cleared waivers, and accepted a spot at the Royals’ alternate training site.
Rosario was 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in four appearances since being activated last month.
Joining the club’s 60-man Player Pool last week were right-handed hurlers Jonathan Bowlan and Jon Heasley. Both began their pro careers with the Royals’ Idaho Falls Rookie club after KC picked them in the 2018 amateur draft. Bowlan is 12-9 with a 3.88 ERA in 35 minor league games (32 starts) and Heasley is 9-8, 3.75 in 37 appearances (31 starts); mlb.com ranks Bowlan as the organization’s 11th best prospect and Heasley ranks 30th.
Oblique issues landed designated hitter/outfielder Jorge Soler on the 10-day Injured List Tuesday after he missed time last week.
Overseas update. Former Royal Aaron Brooks won again for the Korean Baseball Organization League’s Kia Tigers Saturday. He struck out 10 in seven innings to improve his record to 9-4 with a 2.61 ERA.
Brooks pitched briefly for Kansas City in 2014 and ’15. His nine wins this season are his best as a professional; he won a combined six last year for Baltimore and Oakland.
Brooks’ former KC teammates Nori Aoki and Alcides Escobar are having successful seasons in Japan with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. Aoki has 12 home runs and a .307 average and Escobar is hitting .300 with one homer.
Baseball-Reference simulation. The season is winding down for the KC Royals in the real world and in baseball-reference.com’s simulated 2020 season. Through Tuesday, it’s 144 games down, 18 to go in the simulation.
The club won three and lost four since our last update a week ago and is tied with Detroit at 52-93 for last place in the American League Central.
Jorge Soler’s 24 homers and 80 RBIs leads the team and Whit Merrifield is hitting .312. Jorge Lopez, traded by the real Royals but not the simulated club, leads with eight wins. Brad Keller has 12 quality saves but 15 losses and a 5.31 ERA.
The Yankees, Indians, Athletics, Nationals, Cardinals and Dodgers lead their divisions.
The simulation utilizes Out of the Park Baseball 21; daily updates are available around noon.
That’s it for now. KC Royals Midweek Musings will be back next week; until then, stay safe and healthy.