Dayton Moore didn’t say much during his year-end press conference that was delayed a couple weeks because of travel, but my question is what should we have expected to hear? At this point in the offseason, I don’t think the Royals even know what direction they’re going, which is both problematic and vaguely fascinating. I’ve said what I’d do, and it would be to bid adieu to any player who can bring back a draft pick, but I get what the Royals are trying to figure out because if they can keep a couple of their World Series heroes, everything could change for the outlook in both 2018 and the next few seasons after that.
- One of the things I’m interested to follow during this offseason is what the Royals do about their defense. For all the love they got and deserved during their championship runs, the team’s defense really fell off this season, especially late, and they’re likely losing their two best defenders (at least by Fielding Runs Above Average – FRAA). Some of the worst offenders by that metric last season were Salvador Perez (-13.3), Jorge Bonifacio (-10.4) and Whit Merrifield (-3.7). Mike Moustakas (-8.6) and Melky Cabrera (-6.8 in a short time) leaving will help them with those numbers, but I’m very curious to see how they fill in the rest of the team. I personally believe Bonifacio can be better than what he showed. He seemed to find a comfort zone as he spent more time in right field before having some troubles in Fenway Park; then the Royals acquired Cabrera and Bonifacio lost playing time. Replacing Moustakas with Cheslor Cuthbert may or may not help, and Merrifield is going to have to be better wherever he plays. His defensive struggles (okay, maybe struggles isn’t the right word, but rather mediocrity) are a reason why I’d explore a position switch and maybe going after a good defender at second like a Brandon Phillips. And again, I like the idea of getting a veteran to work with Raul Mondesi. It worked so well for Escobar with Omar Infante, right?
- I want to be excited by Alex Gordon’s better hitting toward the end of the season, but I can’t help but look deeper than the still mediocre numbers and have plenty of doubt that he can provide any kind of offensive value. Yes, he began taking the ball the other way in the final month of the season. That was evident, and it paid off almost immediately. The issue, though, is that he still wasn’t hitting the ball especially hard, which is really the name of the game. Hit the ball hard enough and you’ll eventually find results. I think I’ve said this before in this space, but I expect Gordon to come to camp in Surprise with a revamped approach at the plate, similar to what we saw in 2011. I’m not sure if it’ll work. I definitely have my doubts that it will, but that’s kind of all they can do at this point. With so much money left on the deal, Gordon isn’t going anywhere in 2018, but every day, the money gets less and less and I’m just hopeful he can find a way to get back some offensive value so his career doesn’t end with the whimper it looks like it might be.
- One thing Dayton Moore did say in his season ending press conference was that it was a fair question to ask if signing fly ball pitchers was a mistake. It pretty clearly was, given the offensive climate in baseball these days, but the defensive issues that could present themselves on the infield in 2018 make signing ground ball pitchers no guarantee either. Of course, you’d much rather have ground balls than home runs, so I say that in jest a bit, but it’s still worth considering. With that in mind, if you want to know some of the free agent starting pitchers with the best ground ball rates, I can tell you that. A guy I’ve been talking about a lot is Tyler Chatwood. He had a 58.1 percent rate, which is really good. Trevor Cahill and Jaime Garcia are two and three on the ground ball rate list among free agents, so if you’re wondering about how perfect this plan is, you have your answer. Some others who would be interesting to take advantage of the grounders would be Doug Fister, CC Sabathia (though I’d guess he stays in New York) and Jhoulys Chacin. I wouldn’t give big money to any of them, but those are the guys to look toward in free agency. The pickings are pretty slim this year, so if the Royals are going to upgrade their rotation, they’re likely to either sign a pitchers you don’t want them to sign or make a trade.
- One of the things I think we’ve learned during this postseason is that depth is just so important. The Dodgers are World Series bound and have one of the deepest rosters you’ll ever see. Offensively, they aren’t great outside of their stars (though they’re still darn good), but they can just hurt you in so many ways, whether it’s with their starting rotation that goes far deeper than five or in their bullpen that has multiple weapons. The Astros may be eliminated in a few hours, but their lineup is just ridiculously deep and they have bench options. The Cubs
havehad so many offensive options and used them all quite well. The Yankees rotation isn’t especially deep, but their lineup can be deadly all the way down to the seventh spot and their bullpen is probably as good and probably as deep as what the Royals ran out there in 2015. Heck, they may even be deeper. The point is that I think we’re learning that it takes more than a couple stars to win a title. I think we learned that with the Royals in 2015 and it’s getting reinforced this season. That’s just another reason why I’d much prefer the Royals to take their 13 or 14 picks in the top 10 rounds and rebuild the system to try to regenerate a pipeline of talent that can hopefully be the start of building a deep team in the next few years.