After years of certainty regarding the Royals as an organization, the last three days have brought about just the opposite. First, much of the Royals core played what was potentially their final game for Kansas City. Then, the Royals announced that they were moving on from their bench coach, pitching coach, bullpen coach and assistant hitting coach. Then, the you know what hit the fan in Atlanta and the Braves General Manager resigned, leaving plenty of speculation about the future of the current Royals General Manager. We’ve talked plenty about the players, so let’s take a look at the rest.
News broke first that the Royals and Dave Eiland had mutually agreed to part ways. My first thought was that maybe Eiland wanted to step away from being a pitching coach and the Royals weren’t going to stop him. The pitching staff had struggled this year at times, but the track record for Eiland was such that I didn’t expect him to be fired, even if they call it something different. Well, it appears my initial reaction there was wrong.
Dave Eiland, who was let go by #Royals as pitching coach yesterday: “I want to jump right back into it. I don’t want any time off.”
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) October 3, 2017
After learning of Eiland’s dismissal, we learned about the other three. The most surprising of those was Don Wakamatsu, who had been on the bench with Ned Yost since 2014 and looked like he was going to eventually get another shot as a manager, and maybe as a manager of the Royals. I wouldn’t go to Vegas and bet on that now.
So I quickly developed a bit of a theory. Yost was widely speculated to be retiring at the end of 2017 as the core made their exits to free agency. Then, with a week or so to go in the season, he told anyone who would listen that he was going to come back in 2018 and anyone who thought otherwise is and was crazy. That surprised me a little bit, both that he was coming back and how adamant he was about it. But with the firing of Wakamatsu, I think there’s something there. I think Yost was asked to come back for one year to mentor his replacement, who would be the bench coach.
I don’t know if this is true. We probably won’t ever really know, but it sure makes a lot of sense. The three likeliest candidates in my mind have all never managed or even coached at the big league level. They are, in no particular order, Raul Ibanez, Jason Kendall and Vance Wilson. There are probably 150 other managerial candidates out there who have a shot, so don’t take those three names as the only possibilities, but they are where my mind turned immediately. It would not surprise me in the least if Dayton Moore and the front office believed any of them or any other first time manager couldn’t benefit from a year of watching Yost manage the clubhouse.
In his season-ending press conference on Monday, Yost was very candid in explaining that he wasn’t great at in-game management and relied on his bench coach a lot for that. He also talked about this team taking a step back and developing more in 2018 than they had in the last few seasons, and that’s why the change was made. Development doesn’t have to stop on the field. It can happen on the bench too. I almost kind of wonder if the Royals know who it is they’re bringing in for that role has an idea of who he wants as pitching coach, and the Royals were happy to make that change to help bridge the gap between 2018 and 2019 even more.
Of course, John Coppolella resigning amidst scandal in Atlanta has put a big wrench in everything because the rumor mill began swirling that the Braves would go after Moore to replace him. After all, Moore openly says he grew up professionally in Atlanta, so it could be a homecoming for them. Moore’s lack of flat out denying interest in the job has fueled even more speculation, but my guess is he doesn’t leave. Still, it’s interesting to think about who might replace him if he did. Would they just promote J.J. Picollo, who has interviewed for a few open MLB GM jobs the past few seasons or would they bring in a whole new regime? And if they do bring in a whole new regime, who’s to say they won’t tear this thing down to the studs and get what they can for anybody with value?
I guess what I’m trying to say is we haven’t reached the LDS portion of the playoffs and the Royals offseason is already cooking. The only thing we know is that we really don’t know anything. I can’t promise you it’ll be fun offseason, but I can promise you that it’ll at least be interesting.