It will be months until the KC Royals gather under the Arizona sun for spring training. The Arizona Fall League offers hope for individuals but little for the immediate major-league product. Many fans' attention to baseball ends with the World Series, sporadically starts again with a new acquisition, and then begins again on Opening Day. For those intensely dedicated to the Royals, the off-season can feel like an eternity. They need an intangible product this offseason more than ever.
Royals fans need hope.
The KC Royals need to give their fans a reason to believe in 2024.
Hope is a thing that seems rare this offseason. Every positive from the 2023 season or possible improvement this offseason is greeted with the same responses. That ownership is more concerned about the new stadium proceedings; that Kansas City only looks to shrink the payroll; and that the team will waste Bobby Witt Jr.'s talent like this franchise has done to so many stars before. The worst part is that these concerns are hard to combat.
The team is not offering any action that should inspire hope. All the headlines involving the Royals this offseason have been involving the new stadium, not improving the team. The most pessimistic fan is not crazy, thinking the ownership group is more concerned with profit than the on-field product. The fact that there is nothing between now and the season's end disproves that. Actions do speak louder than words, and all the Royals fanbase sees are actions and time devoted to the stadium, not to fielding a winning team.
The Royals are actively reshaping the front office. A new influx of talent into research and development should bring Kansas City baseball into the modern era. The new pitching development approach is drawing positive reviews from organization members and players alike. Players like John McMillon and James McArthur should offer some hope if Royals fans want it to be there, in the best-case scenario.
The fact is that fans buying tickets or looking at the standings will not care to know the important factors in player performance that could potentially offer hope for the team's success. They want a winner, as they should. They want a sign that the Royals are serious about winning, at the very least. Transactions like extending Witt, investing historic money into the starting rotation, or acquiring a dynamic outfielder would go a long way in showing the Royals' commitment to success.
The sad fact is that those moves all feel historic for this franchise. The Royals have not been a spending savant this century. Not once in this millennium have the Royals ranked above 15th in Opening Day payroll. In 2023, the Royals continued their fiscally tight trend, ranking 25th amongst MLB teams in Opening Day payroll.
That is not saying payroll buys wins, as the Arizona Diamondbacks made it to the World Series with the 19th-highest payroll this season while the top spenders stayed at home. However, the Diamondbacks did not rely entirely on luck to build their winning team.
They leveraged trades to build a controllable, cheap roster. The Daulton Varsho-to-Toronto trade was widely panned when it happened. But it netted Arizona two key players en route to the NL pennant. The organization noted that they could not stand pat and expect improvements in the win-loss column. The Diamondbacks made a risky move by extending Corbin Caroll, a player with less than 100 days of service time, to an eight-year, $111 million extension. Yet Carroll went on to post a 6 fWAR season and proved to be worth every penny of his contract.
Those moves are just two examples of what Royals fans see and rightfully say: "I want my team to do that." They want their team to move on from underperforming players and invest in the high-caliber talent they already have. They want Kansas City to see a deficiency and address it swiftly and with purpose.
They want their team to prioritize long-term success over short-term gains and make bold decisions that will benefit the team in the future. Royals fans believe that by being proactive and strategic in their player acquisitions, their team can consistently compete at a high level and bring home championships. They have seen the success that comes from making smart investments in talented players, and they want their team to follow suit.
The Royals once brought this city together by winning baseball games against all odds. This fanbase deserves that again. The taxpayers, whenever they have to vote on public money going towards a new stadium, should be voting for a new home for winning Royals baseball.
This franchise needs hope once again. And that only comes with this organization showing their fans clearly and concisely that they are serious about winning baseball games, no matter the cost.