Much has changed for the KC Royals since Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar became free agents after the 2017 season, the last campaign that offered the club any realistic hope of returning to offseason play.
Kansas City’s search for a suitable long-term replacement for Hosmer at first base continues—the club signed Carlos Santana to a two-year deal before the 2021 season, but a slump that started last year and hasn’t ended means Royals fans now anxiously await Nick Pratto’s big league debut.
Michael A. Taylor has so successfully replaced Cain’s center field defense (he won a Gold Glove last season) that the Royals couldn’t wait to sign him to a two-year extension and did so before they played their last 2021 game. But Taylor’s bat isn’t as good as Cain’s was.
Escobar gave Kansas City solid defense at shortstop; Adalberto Mondesi and Nicky Lopez have been better. And although Moustakas was an able third baseman and even better hitter for the Royals, there’s every reason to believe Bobby Witt Jr. it the team’s next superstar.
But how are Hosmer, who left for San Diego, Cain, who returned to Milwaukee, and Moustakas and Escobar, who came back to the Royals temporarily before moving on, doing now? Well and not so well, as it turns out.
Despite trade rumors, former KC Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer is red hot.
Eric Hosmer’s days in San Diego haven’t been as good as his time in Kansas City. Hosmer won four Gold Gloves, an American League All-Star berth and a Silver Slugger, and hit .284 with 127 home runs in his seven Royal years, but hasn’t snared a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger or National League All-Star spot since becoming a Padre in 2018. His five-year San Diego numbers—61 homers and .266 average—aren’t what the Padres expected when they gave him $144 million to head west.
Hosmer’s recent performance might cause them to reconsider. After going 1-for-3 against Atlanta Saturday, and despite remaining homerless, Hosmer is sizzling with a .394 average, .429 OBP and .974 OPS. He won’t finish the season with those numbers, of course, but rediscovering his stroke—at least for now—could buy him more time in San Diego, or increase his trade value.
Mike Moustakas isn’t performing like he did in his best KC Royals days.
At first, free agency didn’t work out well for Mike Moustakas. Despite hitting a then-Royals season record 38 homers and batting .272 in 2017, Moustakas found the market not to his liking and re-signed with Kansas City shortly before the 2018 season began. No one expected the reunion to last long, and it didn’t—the Royals dealt him to Milwaukee in a trade deadline deal that brought them Jorge Lopez and Brett Phillips, and he re-upped with the Brewers for 2019.
“Moose” flourished (43 homers and 120 RBIs) in his season-and-a-half in Milwaukee, then turned his continuing success into a four-year, $64 million contract with Cincinnati that runs through next year.
It’s a deal Moustakas hasn’t lived up to. He hit .230 with eight homers in the short 2020 campaign and, plagued by injuries, slumped to .208 and six home runs last season. Things haven’t improved yet in 2022—through Saturday, Moustakas has one RBI and a .143 average in eight games.
A former KC Royals fan favorite is struggling in Milwaukee this season.
At 36 and with 12 big league seasons behind him, could time be catching up with Lorenzo Cain?
It’s a legitimate question considering this season and last, campaigns that haven’t measured up to the performance Cain, one of the most popular Kansas City players ever, is accustomed to, or the other three seasons he’s played for the Brewers since returning to them after 2017. (The Brewers included him in the trade that gave them Zack Greinke in 2010, a deal that, despite losing Greinke, remains one of the best in KC history).
Cain returned to Milwaukee after the 2017 and hit .308 with 10 homers and 30 steals, then clubbed 11 home runs, stole 18 bases and posted a .260 average in 2019. He opted out of the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign after playing five games.
Then, in an injury-hampered 2021 (he appeared in only 78 games) Cain’s numbers dropped to .258 with eight homers and 13 steals last year. He’s at .158 and hasn’t stolen a base in six games this year.
This is a contract season for Cain. And, as mlb.com Milwaukee beat writer Adam McCalvy reported during spring training, it could be his last in the major leagues:
Former KC Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar is still with Washington.
Like Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar tested the free agent market after the 2017 season but found himself back with Kansas City where he hit .231 in 140 games before becoming a free agent again. He signed with the Orioles for 2019, but they released him during spring training; the White Sox picked him up before releasing him in August. Escobar didn’t play in the majors for either team.
Escobar spent 2020 in Japan, then returned to the Kansas City organization last year and played well for Triple-A Omaha before the Royals sold him to Washington in July. He enjoyed an excellent 75 games with the Nationals, slashing .288/.340/.404 with four home runs.
That was good enough for an encore and Washington brought him back for another year. Through Sunday, though, he’s hitting just .156.
Of the four core Royals who became free agents after the 2017 season, only one is having a good 2022 campaign.