It’s not even the middle of November and we’ve already reached the winter of our baseball discontent.
Last off season, at least we had the Eric Hosmer saga to follow. True, it had the allure of a multi-car pileup on a snowy morning (Seriously, it’s mid-November and we’re talking snow? Get me out of here.) where you place a hand over your eyes because you’re too afraid to look at the carnage. We knew it was a dumb idea and that it never made sense to bring Hosmer back, but oh my god we’re competing against the Padres? The Royals somehow have a chance. Thus set off a couple of months of the will he or won’t he. Alas, the unrequited free agent love passed and Hosmer now enjoys 75 degree weather and sandy beaches and statues of Tony Gwynn. But that’s not the point. The chase…that was something we could hang our collective attention on.
This winter, what do we have? Look! Jon Jay is a free agent again. My god.
Fans want to know when the Royals will contend again. That’s where we are as a society now. (Turns out I write like Dayton Moore talks.) Everything needs a timetable assigned and by damn, heads will roll if the milestones aren’t met. Or maybe we want to know when the Royals will contend so we can begin to think about a savings plan for postseason tickets. It’s helpful to budget when good seats to October baseball cost as much as a semester of college tuition.
Timetables? Pfffffft. In an interview with The Athletic last week, Dayton Moore said he wouldn’t hang a specific date on when the Royals would once again be winners. Instead, he emphasized 2021 as the target for when they could perhaps become aggressive.
2021? That’s two full seasons from now. That’s post Alex Gordon and post Ian Kennedy. It’s almost post Danny Duffy. It’s certainly post new broadcast rights contract, which should most definitely help with the club coffers. It also gives Moore and the front office ample opportunity to evaluate the players who currently reside in the low minors.
In other words, patience is the buzzword. Patience. Free agent signings will be functional, not flashy. Trades will be equally utilitarian. The Royals have an attractive trade chip in Whit Merrifield, but since tanking is an anathema to Moore, let’s assume the price is set to an unattainable height. You can watch Merrifield toil for a sub-.500 team for the next four seasons. He’s good enough and fun enough to watch that he could be the impetus that brings you to the yard on a random July evening.
With four years of club control and coming off a season of 4.0 WARP, a .284 TAv and defensive flexibility, it’s safe to say Merrifield’s value will never be higher that it is right at this moment. Opening the season with Merrifield at second base (or wherever in the field he plays) is akin to the moment you buy a new car and drive it off the lot. The depreciation is immediate and lasting. And it’s all downhill from there.
Yet just like buying a car, it’s takes two to make a deal. The Royals should be asking for an exorbitant return for Merrifield. Now they need to find someone with the nerve to acquiesce. Easier said than done. At this moment, trading Merrifield is not unlike trading Zack Greinke. It is a potential franchise altering moment. The Royals received four players for Greinke, two of whom were key components of back to back pennant winners, one who was traded in a package for more key components and a fourth who is finally a key relief contributor. Merrifield isn’t a pitching savant like Greinke, and receiving four major league players is a bit of a stretch, but he does bring some cost and performance security. That matters. A lot.
Meanwhile, it looks like Logan Morrison is available. He’s cheap. Sigh.
The AL Rookie of the Year award was unveiled on Monday and Royals hopeful Brad Keller didn’t tally a single vote. We already knew he didn’t finish in the top three as he wasn’t a finalist, but there may have been some optimism for at least one down-ballot vote. Still, being shutout shouldn’t take away from what was a fine rookie campaign for the Rule 5 pitcher. It’s just there were plenty of other solid candidates and there are only room for three on a ballot.
If I had a vote, mine would have gone:
- Shohei Ohtani
- Joey Wendle
- Miguel Andujar
Ohtani is ridiculous. For me, he was the clear number one. Defense matters, which is why Wendle occupies a lofty spot here. Expand the ballot by a couple of places and I would have found a way to fit Gleyber Torres and finally Keller.
I enjoy awards season. Cy Young is Wednesday and the MVPs are handed out on Thursday.