The 2021 season will end late Sunday afternoon for the KC Royals. And before the sun sets, talk will turn to the offseason and what roster changes new General Manager J.J. Picollo might make before spring training.
This has been a season to be remembered not so much for the Royals’ losing record—that was expected—but instead for the extraordinary performance of MVP candidate Salvador Perez, the sudden emergence of Nicky Lopez as a bona fide big league player, the mixed-bag debuts of rookie pitchers Jackson Kowar and Daniel Lynch, the disappointments that were Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler, and the departure of Danny Duffy.
And as so often happens with sub-.500 clubs like Kansas City, players came and went all season; forgetting who played when and where became unavoidable.
What happened to some of the players who won’t appear on Sunday’s active and 40-man rosters?
The KC Royals traded a couple of well-known infielders to other clubs.
The writing was probably on the wall for Kelvin Gutierrez before this season even started. Kansas City’s late January signing of established and versatile big league infielder Hanser Alberto, a better player than Gutierrez, clearly jeopardized the latter’s KC future. Gutierrez didn’t play in a big league game until mid-May, then hit .218 with a home run and eight RBIs in 38 games before the club DFA’d him in late June.
The Royals ended up sending Gutierrez to Baltimore in a player-for-cash deal. Little but scenery has changed for him—he’s hitting .229 with one homer and 11 RBIs in 42 Baltimore games.
The KC Royals indulged their passion for bringing back former players when they signed shortstop Alcides Escobar in early May and sent him to Omaha. Obviously designed to provide an alternative to Nicky Lopez at shortstop while Adalberto Mondesi was on the mend, the move paid surprising minor league dividends when Escobar caught fire as June neared.
It turned out, of course, that Lopez also caught fire, eliminating any need for Escobar. The Royals sent him to the Nationals for cash in early July. But unlike Gutierrez in nearby Baltimore, Esky is flourishing in Washington, where he’s become the regular shortstop with a .287 average, .335 OBP, and three homers in 71 games.