KC Royals: The Royal can of worms is finally open

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Until today, the aftermath of last Friday’s trade deadline lingered as the biggest current news surrounding the KC Royals.

Given the mostly disappointing season this campaign has been since early May, Toronto’s weekend sweep of the Royals wasn’t particularly newsworthy, so the club’s trades of Danny Duffy to the Dodgers and Jorge Soler to the Braves continued to dominate the Kauffman Stadium news cycle.

And because the Royals had already signed all 21 of their amateur draft picks, Friday afternoon’s major league-wide deadline to get selections under contract or lose the rights to sign them generated no significant Kansas City news. The Mets’ failure to sign Kumar Rocker, the pre-draft odds-on favorite to be the Royals’ first pick, warranted only a smattering of KC-related social media chatter.

But, per 610 Sports Radio’s Josh Vernier, General Manager Dayton Moore shattered the anticipated quiet of his team’s scheduled Monday off day during in an interview with the Kansas City station’s Bob Fescoe:

His remarks about Mondesi seem a bit uncharacteristic for Moore, whose reputation for consistently non-controversial, positive, and optimistic comments about his players and staff always precedes him. There is a blunt, realistic tone to his latest public assessment of the club’s prized, but frequently injured, shortstop, who missed significant portions of the 2019 campaign with two shoulder injuries and whose pair of oblique injuries—one to each side—have kept him on the Injured List most of this season.

And Moore’s words opened the proverbial can of worms, one everyone knew was in Kansas City’s cupboard but no one in the organization seemed ready to explore publicly: Should the Royals plan for life without Mondesi?

What do Moore’s comments about Adalberto Mondesi mean for the KC Royals?

This, obviously, is the biggest question Moore’s frank response to Fescoe’s inquiry raises. Is the GM suggesting his club is prepared to move on from Mondesi, ready to relegate him to bit-player status, thinking of him as a utility man, or simply acknowledging that Mondesi’s injury history requires the Royals to develop contingency plans?

Fortunately, Moore and his staff don’t need to make any immediate decisions. Mondesi’s return from the IL is hardly imminent, and Nicky Lopez is providing stellar defense at shortstop and swinging a refreshingly adequate bat.

The most probable explanation of Moore’s remarks is this: he and the rest of the KC personnel brain trust are simply confirming suspicions that because the injury plague following Mondesi may never go away, the franchise must deal with the strong possibility that he’ll never be an everyday major leaguer. To read any more into Moore’s response is, at least at this point, unwarranted.

Who will play shortstop for the KC Royals if Adalberto Mondesi doesn’t?

This isn’t a new question; instead, it’s one that’s begged for an answer ever since Kansas City made Bobby Witt Jr. its first pick in the 2019 draft. Witt is an unusually gifted talent, a true “can’t miss” five-tool prospect whose status as a natural shortstop quickly raised the possibility of Mondesi having to find another position.

Instead, two years of speculation has focused on Witt as the player to be moved elsewhere on the Royals’ field, a result rooted more in his athleticism and versatility than in any greater suitability for the position Mondesi may possess.

But even without him not expressly saying so, Moore’s comments logically place Witt ahead of Mondesi at shortstop when the former is ready for everyday big league duty. Although the sample size is indeed small, Witt hasn’t displayed any of what seems to be the injury propensity Mondesi can’t shake, and continuing to play the position to which he’s most accustomed could make Witt’s transition to the majors more seamless than it might otherwise be. Comfort begets comfort.

In the short term, however, Lopez is the man. That the KC Royals only recently promoted Witt to Triple-A Omaha (where he’s hitting .291 with three home runs and five RBIs in 12 games after dominating Double-A pitching with a .295/.369/.570 slash, 16 homers, and 51 RBIs in 61 contests) proves they believe he needs more time in the minors and isn’t quite ready for the majors.

What is Mondesi’s future if he can’t play every day for the KC Royals?

There isn’t any realistic reason to believe the franchise will, or should, give up on Mondesi. He remains a wonderfully-talented player who can contribute significantly to the club as it moves toward contention in the next couple of seasons.

Where to play him isn’t as complicated a decision as it might seem. Mondesi has the physical ability to play shortstop, second, third, and in the outfield; to minimize the risk of injury, he could conceivably take an occasional turn at first base. And spending some time as the team’s designated hitter isn’t out of the question.

So, at least for now, Moore’s Monday frankness shouldn’t be stretched too far. The KC Royals are probably just facing facts, not moving on from someone in whom they’ve invested so much.

Next. MJ Melendez is a nice problem to have. dark

Kansas City’s general manage spoke plainly Monday. But Dayton Moore’s comments about Adalberto Mondesi don’t mean he’s gone from the team’s plans.