This is part two of a four-part series looking at the potential strength of the AL Central in the mid-term, given that the White Sox are no longer concerned with 2017. Today we turn to the familiar bête noire of Kansas City.
In a sense, the Royals had some of the same tough decisions to make as the White Sox did coming into this winter. The farm was depleted after shipping off considerable talent to obtain James Shields, Ben Zobrist, and Johnny Cueto. Obviously, back-to-back World Series appearances, including a victory, are a worthy return for such an investment, but now they’re on the other side, already bumping up against budget constraints with a middling major league roster. And while they did sign Jason Hammel, sadly, he merely serves to soak up the innings that would have gone to Yordano Ventura.
Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar will all be free agents at the end of the season, and the Royals largely opted to add short-term supporting pieces to make one last run with this group, and how 2018-2020 play out will hinge largely on whether or not they are competing around the deadline. If they have fallen out of the race, they may be able to inject some talent back into the system by trading these players off. They’re rentals, but it’s better than losing them for nothing, or the greatly diminished compensatory pick system under the new CBA.
Indeed, unless the Royals do surprisingly well selling off their pending free agents, the cupboard is awfully bare. Sal Perez and Danny Duffy are still young and signed long term, but Alex Gordon and Ian Kennedy are on the wrong side of 30, and Gordon is coming off arguably the worst season of his career. That’s about it, although Raul Mondesi Jr. could at least ensure they don’t miss Escobar too much.
The farm is weak. Their top prospect is pretty much ready, but his ceiling is limited, and the next two behind him are relievers. So despite the front office’s creativity and recent track record of performing greater than the sum of their parts, their system lacks impact potential. And, for all that the Royals did successfully building a team that competed for three years, it took a long time to accumulate it, and the talent is leaving faster than they can bring it in.
Update: On March 1st, the mother site published its Organizational Rankings, and Kansas City weighs in at 27th, only ahead of a troika of truly desolate systems.
Lead Photo Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports