MLB: Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros

Subtraction by Retention

If I had been asked around Nov. 15 what my offseason wishlist would look like for the Kansas City Royals in terms of in-house free-agents and other concerns, it probably would’ve been something like this:

  1. Re-sign Lorenzo Cain
  2. Re-sign Mike Moustakas
  3. Re-sign Eric Hosmer
  4. Donate an eye to Rusty Kuntz so he could keep coaching first base
  5. Frame Ian Kennedy for a felony
  6. Re-sign Jason Vargas
  7. Get hit by a bus
  8. Get hit by a larger bus going at a higher rate of speed
  9. Re-sign Melky Cabrera
  10. Get mauled to death by a cheetah
  11. Have said cheetah show up at my funeral and maul my wife and son to death
  12. Re-sign Alcides Escobar

So the last four-five days…not great. I am on high alert for cheetahs at the moment.

David touched on the Escobar stuff on Friday, and Craig wrote a stirring remembrance for LoCain the same day, and they’re both better at this than I am so I’ll keep my comments there relatively brief. I’ll say that I thought LoCain would be the easiest to sign; since he signed first, I declare myself correct! Teamed with Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun—and Keon Broxton, and Domingo Santana and someday Corey Ray and good God, the Brewers are making the whole team out of outfielders—in Milwaukee, that’s suddenly an intriguing collection of talent to play in the outfield, move around to accommodate new additions and dangle as trade chips. Good for LoCain; he deserves to be back in the postseason and Milwaukee gives him a chance.

Brewers fans, get ready for at least one of these moments:

Lorenzo Cain is a wizard

Losing Cain, while a body blow the Royals won’t soon recover from, hurts, it is not unexpected. What is unexpected is why the brass saw fit to stage a one-team bidding war for a shortstop who can’t hit, can’t get on base and can only be described as slightly above-average in the field. I don’t intend to poop on a one-year deal, because it’s only a one-year deal…Dayton Moore didn’t get that signature on the contract and think, “Alright, got our shortstop locked up for the next championship team!”

Okay, I don’t know that. But I hope he didn’t.

What I don’t understand about this signing, or this tweet that gave me the same shiver that I assume one gets when someone walks over their future grave site…

…is why the Royals are in a rush to lock up a 95-loss season. What possible sense does it make to already throw up a panic flare in January? Maybe Raul Mondesi Jr. and one of the Jorge’s won’t pan out and you’ll…be screwed in the same general manner, only while also being on the hook for less money? Only you didn’t signal to the world that Mondesi was a bust and lock yourself into another few months of Melky for reasons that defy all logic. Play the children—letting them languish in Triple-A or spot-start in the majors stunts their growth and will never give you a full read on what you have in them.

Having already signed Esky, the damage is done there. He’s on a short deal, and I’d wager in his heart even he knows he’s probably not terribly good anymore. One can still reasonably foresee an outfield that’s configured with the Jorge’s (Soler and Bonifacio) and Alex Gordon in some capacity, with Whit Merrifield at second and whatever other pieces come together on the corners. Esky can hit ninth. He could have someone DH for him and let the pitcher hit (not the worst idea, TBH).

Sign Cabrera and everything is blown to bits. He’s going to start. And that precludes signing Logan Morrison (the most obviously intriguing player for reasons Lesky has been trumpeting for two months now), because now Brandon Moss has to play first in order to get Soler or Bonifacio some at-bats as designated hitters and God, why is this so hard? Morrison wants to come home. Sign Morrison. Leave Melky Cabrera alone. Leave him I said! No! No touch Melky!

Even though Cain is off the market, the future homes of Hosmer and Moustakas remain very much in doubt. A small part of me wonders how much that factors into decisions like retaining Esky and pursuing, however half-heartedly, Melky. It does give the appearance of being Serious 2018 Baseball Franchise and not a prelude to the rebuild the Royals so desperately need.

To which I say: if Alcides Escobar and Melky Cabrera are the carrots you’re dangling for potential signees, you’ve already lost good sir. Give it up, save your money and give it the ol’ college try again next year.

It’s weird that here, as January is poised to turn to February, there’s a prevalent feeling across baseball that the offseason is just beginning. Homes will need to be found not only for the Royals remaining free-agents, but also some of the bigger names who went on the market as a whole in December. The Royals have already begun drawing a line in the sand with the re-signing of Escobar—to put more obstacles in the way of young players before spring training begins would be a disservice not only to those young guys, but to the past as well. After all, would Hosmer, et al., have been so successful if they never got the chances necessary to prove themselves?

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1 comment on “Subtraction by Retention”

DownUnderFan (@RoyalDUF)

FYI – to my knowledge the Esky deal is not done yet. Last word from Dayton was they were still working out the terms and that was 3 days ago.
Assuming it will happen and whatever the holdup is will be sorted but interesting that the first statements were a deal is done followed by Dayton saying they are still finalizing and then NOTHING.

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