It’s hard to remember, but years ago, the Kansas City Royals were a constant in the playoffs. Most of what they built on the field was through the farm system, but there were some shrewd moves made by the front office at the time as well as some key free agent signings. The bottom line was players wanted to come to Kansas City. Now, unless you are wanting to resurrect your career, or if you are a chubby infielder with “soft hands”, it’s hard to get players to WANT to come play for the Royals. It’s been asked and debated; do the Royals have to overpay to bring talent to Kansas City?
Once Dayton Moore took over as General Manager of the Royals, the team moved to sign better players and would pay them extra to come to Kansas City. The problem was that Dayton was signing level B and sometimes C or D free agents and practically giving them the keys to the city. Gil Meche was the first of these signings and if it wasn’t for former Manager Trey Hillman misusing him, the team would have gotten their money’s worth of that deal. Since then we have been abused with the ultimate clubhouse cancer Jose Guillen and Jason “Rewind Yourself” Kendall. It is almost like Moore felt like players of that level was the best they could do. I guess that is part of the problem here. When you believe that, everyone else will believe that as well.
Now, to be fair, some of Dayton’s signings have worked. Bruce Chen was picked up off the trash heap and up until 2012, seemed to be playing above himself. Chen was signed at a low cost, but high value with both his play on the field and his jokes in the clubhouse. Unfortunately, he was then given a two year contract that has seemed to be one of many albatrosses around the Royals financial neck. Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur were two former Atlanta Braves that seemed to be on the downside of their once promising careers. A move to Kansas City in 2011 seemed to be a godsend as both players played above their past performances and helped solidified both the lineup and the outfield. Francoeur would sign an extension that seemed questionable at the time and horrific in the present, while Melky would be traded to San Francisco, have the best first half of his career, win the All Star Game MVP, then get busted for PED use. These two signings worked wonders for 2011, but looked awful by May of this past year. The Royals are a team that should constantly be looking to rebuild players who just need a new environment, but need to be selective about these signings as well.
So this leads us to this offseason, where everyone and their mother is aware that the Royals want(and desperately need) pitching. We’ve heard over and over that the Royals will have to overpay or give a player extra years to get them to come pitch in Kansas City, but is that true? I know some scoff at this, but I believe it is. The Royals have a really good nucleus of young talent, with Perez, Escobar, Moustakas and Hosmer added to lineup mainstays like Gordon and Butler. The thinking is that if the Royals could just get some pitching, this team could make a run at the playoffs. There have been a number of pitching talents on the free agent market this winter, and some have signed for very cheap money. Brandon McCarthy just signed a two year deal with Arizona for $15.5 million. The Royals easily could have afforded just under $8 million a year, especially considering that they will be paying Ervin Santana $12 million for in 2013. Edwin Jackson is still on the market as is Shawn Marcum. Both could garner a one or two year deal for right around that same amount of money. Instead, the Royals seem content shopping top prospect Wil Myers in a deal for a top starter. That is all fine and good if they are able to pull in a David Price or any other top of the rotation starter. But the names being floated around aren’t of that ilk. All we hear are the Shields’, Dickey’s and Lester’s of the world. All are fine pitchers and better than anything the Royals have now, but are they worth losing the next six years of Myers? Um, no.
So why aren’t these pitchers coming to Kansas City? Well, I do believe part of it is Dayton Moore hasn’t really pushed for them. Ryan Dempster’s name has been tossed around, and the team offered him more than the Red Sox have. But he also wanted a third year on the deal, while Kansas City has only been willing to go two. I agree with them only wanting to give him two, as he is in his mid 30’s and had a hard time adjusting to the American League this year. But I have to believe part of why he won’t come to Kansas City is because this team just doesn’t win. Seventeen of the last eighteen seasons have been losing seasons in KC, and with the management in charge now, it would appear we are gearing up for season eighteen of nineteen. Most players want to win, but can be swayed away from winning if it means more money. If you aren’t getting the top dollar, you don’t want to sign with a perennial loser unless you think they have turned a corner. The Royals took a side road in 2012 and their road map didn’t seem to ever steer them onto the right highway. Players notice that and the losing atmosphere does not endear players to want to sign with the Royals.
So yes, the Royals do have to overpay to get major name free agents to play in Kansas City. Or at least they will until they put together another winning season. Having management value the wrong players will hurt as well, but until those members are gone( [cough] Dayton) we are stuck with a team that can’t even compete with the Baltimore’s and Brewer’s of the world. One day this awful cycle will be undone and the Royals will be a winning franchise again. Let’s hope this happens sooner than later.