The reigning World Champion Kansas City Royals are not having the season many expected coming into the year. With their playoff hopes dwindling more everyday, what should be their plan as their front office and coaching staff look forward to 2017?
The Kansas City Royals have had a spectacular two-year run. They’ve won the American League in 2014 and 2015, while adding their first world championship since 1985 last year. But, things have not gone as planned for a Kansas City club that looked to be attempting to reload for a title defense this past winter.
The team currently sits at 52-58, 11 games behind the AL Central leading Indians, and nine games back of the last wild card spot. Their position does not look promising as a major turnaround seems highly doubtful with the roster the Royals have and the way they’ve been playing of late.
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There are many reasons why this ballclub is not as successful as many pundits expected. Injuries have played a key role in the team’s struggles. The Royals lost their everyday third baseman, Mike Moustakas, early in the season. Wade Davis just went back to the disabled list for a second time as well. Other key contributors like Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Luke Hochevar have also been lost for a fair amount of time due to injury. But health hasn’t been the only component that has been damaging to this team.
The Royals starting pitching has regressed from last season, even when it was not so good to start with. Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura and Chris Young have not been throwing the ball as well as they have in recent seasons. Free agent signee, Ian Kennedy, whom the team added in free agency to offset the loss of Johnny Cueto, has had his rough spots this season. Their vaunted bullpen has also taken a step back. With injuries to both Davis and Hochevar, combined with Joakim Soria underperforming, this is to be expected. However, things are not all bad in Kansas City.
There is reason for optimism as many of the club’s core players will be returning in 2017. Though, there is an overarching cloud of the offseason before the 2018 season. A stable of the team’s best players in Cain, Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Wade Davis and breakout starting pitcher Danny Duffy are all prospective free agents after next year. Should the Royals start to prepare for the future, or should Dayton Moore and the front office go for broke?
With the investments they made in Ian Kennedy and Alex Gordon, it seems clear that Kansas City will be trying to win next season, but what moves can the club make this year to help them be better positioned for contention in 2017?
While Kansas City didn’t sell at the trade deadline, they still have the ability to make trades through waivers in August, and that’s exactly what they should do. Kendrys Morales and Edinson Volquez, both of who have mutual options for next season, are possible pieces that could get through the waiver process. Even though both played key roles in their World Series runs, they have been underperforming and probably haven’t done enough for the Royals to pick up their side of the mutual options. Ned Yost also has to continue to give his younger pieces playing time.
This started with the promotion of the organization’s top prospect, Raul Mondesi. The 21 year-old can play both middle infield positions, which could help the team next year, as second base remains open and with Alcides Escobar becoming a free agent after this season. Third baseman Hunter Dozier and outfielder Jorge Bonifacio are sitting at Triple-A as the number Royals second and third prospect, respectively, according to mlb.com. Now, it may be difficult to find them playing time as Cheslor Cuthbert and Paulo Orlando have been pleasant surprises in their roles this season. But, if the team trades Kendrys Morales, that will help to create more opportunity get at bats.
This may not have been what many Kansas City Royals fans thought they would be thinking about in August, but it is crucial that Kansas City sees what it has in its younger players as the team’s window for winning may be closed after one more year. However, this doesn’t mean that Kansas City shouldn’t try to win again next season. Injuries have played a big part in how they’ve underachieved this season and the core of their roster will be back for another run in 2017. The Royals should attempt to lock up Eric Hosmer and/or Lorenzo Cain, as these are probably two of the four best players on their roster, in addition to Salvador Perez and Wade Davis. Being that they are a smaller market, it will be difficult to keep all of their free agents a couple of offseason from now.
At this moment, the reigning World Series champs need to see what it has in their farm system as they look ahead to a possible overhaul in 2017, and trading away some of their probable free agents will create the space to do so. This may not be ideal for a franchise with such high aspirations, but it is necessary.
What are you most looking forward to see from the Kansas City Royals for the rest of this year? Let us know in the comment section below.