Because absolutely nobody asked I thought I’d share my thoughts on the Royals off season moves. Keep in mind, the off season is far from over but as the end of the year approaches it is mostly over so now seems like as good a time as any.
There has been much more discussion and interest around the Royals than usual – and actually that is saying a lot because off season moves is typically ALL Royals fans have starting about June of the still in progress season. This year of course was different. So very different, and so much better. But… the season did end and the off season did come and the Royals have needs to fill.
We first must examine what the Royals needed to do. Did they need to reinvent themselves? No. Did they desperately need warm bodies? No. Did they have more needs than they could possibly fill? No. I’ve heard a lot about these huge holes the Royals had to fill. What holes? Here is what they needed to replace:
Billy Butler – clearly Billy and Ned Yost did not get a long, and that was a problem in an otherwise seemingly cohesive clubhouse and Billy had another (2nd in a row) non-spectacular year. He did get hot in August and that was absolutely huge for this team, no doubt, but lets not romanticize Billy Butler too much. He was a below average DH the last 2 seasons who the manager clearly didn’t like.
Nori Aoki – a slap hitting RF who seemed lost in RF many times. He had his moments and everybody really liked him. And yes, he did have some memorable moments in the post season. But he was a below average outfielder and hitter.
James Shields – clearly the biggest name on this short list. For the record, I was a fan of the trade when it happened and nobody can objectively say that was a bad deal after the magic of 2014. You can’t replace Shields as a leader in the clubhouse – but that element is no longer as important as it was 2 years ago and at times in the regular season he was a stud. But many other times he was simply average and in the post season he was the Royals least effective pitcher.
So the Royals NEEDS where to replace a below average RF, a declining DH who the manager didn’t like and an aging pitcher who is going to get way overpaid for too many years by some team.
So, how did the Royals fill those needs…..
New DH Kendrys Morales is essentially a switch hitting Billy Butler. Disappointing they didn’t upgrade if he is simply what he’s been in recent years. BUT in 2012 and 2013 he hit a combined 45 HRs and 34 in 2009. Billy Butler has not done that. Do I suddenly expect him to do this again in Kauffman Stadium? No. But he could, it is possible, and seemingly is more likely to do so then Butler.
New RF Alex Rios is 34 years old and had 2 bad years the last 2 seasons. Last year, the Royals (and Rios) remind us he battled an injury on his hand all season long. Maybe. And maybe being healthy he’ll be better. But again, look at the potential. Of course (especially in sports) past performance does not indicate future results. He’s had some nice HR seasons and a lot of doubles – which should only go up at The K. The downside is about what they had with Aoki, the upside is better than they’ve had in RF in many years.
New SP Edinson Volquez is 31 years old and can be an innings eater. If the Royals get Volquez from last season, 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA, 192 innings, 2-1 K:BB they’ll be happy – very happy. Most people know this (although I’m not sure Ned was one of them) – James Shields was not an ACE this season, he would have been the Royals 3rd best pitcher going into 2015.
What the Royals did is fill spots of players that had below average seasons with guys who have huge upside who will certainly be as good as they had in 2014. And they did all this without trading any part of the future or getting into bad long contracts.
Plus they added a few pieces that really didn’t make headlines – and that’s simply more cards in the deck, more warm bodies that you never know where they may be valuable – future trades, future MLB talent, etc… And I really like the Medlen signing – it costs us nothing (except money and David Glass has plenty) and the upside of this guy is excellent and he’s only 29 – not young, but not old.
It is a very fair argument that the Royals needed to do more to get better because 2014 was a magical (perhaps lucky) year that you can’t count on again in 2015 – or until 2033 so they have to get more talented, not just bring back the same talent. Maybe. But consider that Hosmer, Moustakas, Perez, Escobar, even Gordon didn’t exactly explode with outstanding seasons. If any of them get better in 2015, the Royals are better. And I’m as tired as everyone hearing about how these guys still have potential but it’s not unrealistic to believe the core of this team on offense can be better next season.
And one last thing – the real strength of this team was it’s bullpen. And the bullpen is better this season. Well, theoretically. Let’s remember in 2013 Hochevar was dominant out of the pen and now the Royals add that potential to Herrera, Davis, Holland. Wow. And the starting pitching….4 of the 5 are back including the 2 best who are young guys who may get even better. I mean Ventura and Duffy (just in case that wasn’t obvious).
I hate that the White Sox and Twins were very active and seem to have gotten a lot better, Cleveland too who already had a lot of young talent returning and the Tigers are still kings of the division despite aging and barely hanging on last season.
And yes, perhaps – just perhaps, I wish the Royals would have made a bigger splash – Cabrera, Hunter, Upton, Santana. Heck dare to dream of Lester, Yas. But nobody really thought that would happen did they? And I think it’s time to trust Dayton Moore – he got us here, we have to trust these moves were the best for the Royals now and tomorrow.
Lastly (almost) – the off season isn’t over, more moves may come. Nothing big likely, but the Royals not so big moves are often the most impactful.
This team is going to make 2015 special because of Ventura, Duffy, Herrera, Davis, Holland, Hosmer, Cain, Gordon, Moose, Perez, Escobar NOT because of Rios, Morales and Volquez. Those guys can certainly help – no question but they aren’t MUST HIT guys, they need to be pieces of a puzzle. A puzzle that literally got about as close as possible to winning the World Series. Okay, maybe if Gordon is sent home and thrown out at the plate (and make no mistake – there was a 99% chance he would have been out, probably by a a lot) and that ended the series it would have been closer but you literally (I know I just used that word) can’t have a better record than 11-4 in the post season without winning the World Series and the tying run in Game 7 at home was 90 feet away when the game ended. When the season ended, when the amazing oh so magical season ended; ended in a way that just seemed wrong. It wasn’t supposed to end like that, and when against all odds Gordon’s hit fell in, then skipped to the wall, it seemed the magic wasn’t quite done. It wasn’t supposed to end like that. But it did. And except for 29 years of history that tells us otherwise, maybe 2 more runs next year is all we need. It wasn’t supposed to end like that.