The Royals are in a difficult spot deciding whether they want to contend in 2017 or build for the future. They are trying to do both.
When the Kansas City Royals hired Dayton Moore to be their general manager in June 2006, he stressed to fans that they would need to “trust the process.” The club was barren of talent at any level and Moore and his staff went to work building the organization from square one.
Any baseball fan knows a process like this takes many years to come to fruition, as was the case in Kansas City. Minor League and prospect experts began to see signs five years in, when Baseball America anointed the Royals as having the “best farm system ever” in 2011 after years of drafting and developing key players while acquiring the right guys via trade. The Royals made their first postseason since winning the 1985 World Series in 2014, going all the way to Game Seven of the World Series before falling 90 feet short to Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants.
Kansas City got back to the World Series the following season and defeated the New York Mets in five games to win their first World Championship in 30 years.
Unfortunately, small market teams do not have the financial resources to keep their window of contention open for very long. The Royals had two incredible years and followed up with a .500 campaign in 2016.
With a handful of key players set to hit free agency after 2017, the reality is that “The Process” 2.0 has already begun.
It started during the winter meetings on Dec. 7 when Kansas City shipped reliever Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder and former top prospect Jorge Soler. The next piece to go was speedster and fan favorite Jarrod Dyson, who was dealt to Seattle on Friday afternoon for right-hander Nate Karns.
What Soler and Karns have in common is that they are both under club control through the 2020 season and are not yet arbitration eligible, meaning that the Royals were able to shed approximately $12.5 million that Davis and Dyson will earn off of their 2017 payroll and acquire an everyday right fielder and a starting pitcher who will make much less.
The Royals are likely done trading players for now as their goal this offseason was to move one or two of their pending free agents for players that will be able to contribute in 2017 and beyond. They had depth in the bullpen and will insert Kelvin Herrera in the ninth inning, making Davis the most likely to go. Receiving an outfielder in return meant another outfielder – either Dyson or Cain – were also likely to go.
But should they fall out of contention this season, it should not be a surprise if all of them were dealt for young players as opposed to letting them walk as free agents at the end of the season and maybe get a first round pick as compensation, as per the new collective bargaining agreement. If they do stay in contention, then Kansas City will perhaps keep the band together for one more run before they all go their separate ways next winter. Either way, the fun days are coming to an end.
Royals fans had to “trust the process” ten years ago. It delivered their second World Series title and a two-year span that no fan will ever forget.
But just over a year after raising the commissioner’s trophy, “The Process” 2.0 has already begun.