The KC Royals took some risks and made some commitments this winter.
Dayton Moore seems to make finding pitchers to rebuild an annual offseason goal. Seldom does a winter pass without the Royals signing at least one of Moore’s hallmark salvage operations. Sometimes the club abandons those projects and sometimes, as in the cases of Greg Holland and Trevor Rosenthal last season, they pay off handsomely.
Moore was at it again this winter, signing Ervin Santana who, in his only season with the club in 2013, helped the Royals regain relevancy, then Wade Davis, a key component of the 2014-15 World Series teams.
Both are classic Moore moves—inexpensive minor league deals with bigger paydays conditioned on making the Opening Day roster. All Santana and Davis have to do is shake off their poor recent performances—injuries have plagued both and Santana hasn’t pitched well since 2017, and Davis since 2018—and get close to the forms that made them valuable Royals. The risks are low, the potential yields high.
While the Royals don’t absolutely need Santana and Davis, they do require a reliable, everyday outfielder who can hit well and defend Kauffman Stadium’s center field. Free agent signee Michael A. Taylor, the front-runner for the job, has the speed to cover center and steal bases; what makes him riskier than Santana and Davis is his questionable bat (he owns a career .237 average, .291 OBP and 79 wRC+). His failure to measure up to the task will reopen the hole in center field, a gap Whit Merrifield can plug only at the expense of creating another hole in right.
Credit Moore, though, with taking the Santana, Davis and Taylor risks. They could be worth it.
Two short-term commitments to players could be crucial for the KC Royals
To be sure, the Royals needed to add a veteran starting pitcher and a first baseman this winter. The rotation was short a man and no one had been consistent at first since Eric Hosmer.
The club completed its rotation by signing Mike Minor, an established lefty with nine years in the majors, including one as a solid reliever for the Royals in 2017. He struggled with Texas and Oakland in 2020, but won 26 games for the Rangers over the two previous campaigns. He’s a veteran who’ll help develop the club’s young pitchers.
Moore then took care of first base by acquiring Carlos Santana in a move few saw coming. Santana’s career .248 average belies the ability to get on base his .366 career OBP reflects, and he’s hit at least 18 homers in all but two of his 11 big league campaigns. He’s also more than adequate defensively.
Minor and Santana are important additions. Fortunately, the KC Royals chose to secure their services for more than a year—Minor signed a two-year deal with a club option for a third, and Santana signed for two. Committing to even short multi-year obligations means the club is serious about improving.
For risk taking and commitment, give Kansas City a “B+.”