And so with a 6-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners, the Royals fade quietly into the night. The 2013 season had its moments, to be sure, as the first winning season for the Royals since 2003, and with stellar individual performances such as that of Greg Holland, Eric Hosmer in the last four months, and the 1-2 punch of Shields and Santana. I don't know if "hope" is the right word to describe in an improbable rally towards the last playoff spot, but I know I was entertained to see the Kansas City squad actually in a race, for a change.
We can look back and say, correctly, that the price paid to get to this won't be worth the long term loss of value. We can accurately say that if this represents the zenith of seven years of Dayton Moore's work, then he doesn't deserve to hang onto his job. I can say, and will say below, that there's a good chance of future player personnel decisions being botched if his regime continues. This season ultimately was a failure. it's nice to be rooting for a team that could beat put more Ws up than Ls this season, for sure, but it was clear to a lot of us that the Royals didn't have the talent to get over the hump.
But the visceral sports fan in me wants to add that least the team's failure to make the postseason was more fun than the questing for 70 wins, so that's something. Not much, but hey that's a real something. We can only hope it's something that can be built on, rather than the limits of this incarnation of the Kansas City Royals.
And without further adieu, on to the Position Players Ups and Downs of those same Royals, continuing the theme of "should this player be around for the next truly contending team?"
One of the key parts of next year will be whether or not Gordon can maintain/improve on his current level of production. While he's still good right now, his walk rate, line drive rate (hence the lower average), and performance in some defensive metrics plummeted this year. If Gordon can get back to 5-WAR level, that'd be huge. If this turns out to be more than just an off-year, that's really, really not good.
There is no excuse for a contending team to go into the 2014 season with Emilio Bonfacio as the best option at second base.
We heard from a few pseudo-analysts (read: people who can get on TV on the alphabet soup sports channels, but who don't really do any type of actual analysis) that Eric Hosmer's expected improvement would be a key to the offense improving. Another way of saying that would be that Hosmer could help compensate for the loss of Wil Myers's potential impact bat. Well, lo and behold, Hosmer hit the snot out of the ball for more than half the season, landing at .303/.356/452 on the day the Royals playoff hopes ended. Here's hoping he keeps that up, because the Royals need him to be even better than that overall line to have a shot in 2014.
I'm speculating that this entire season, which was characterized by a continuing great on-base ability with less power than ever before for Butler, might have been a down year by Butler's standards. Casual fans always bring up the fitness issue...are we sure he ate enough baconators this year? Butler seems like a good bet to rebound in the SLG category next season, and a guy who posts a .375 OBP doesn't really hurt the team in the line-up even if his power fades for a season.
I'd love it if Salvy Bench could contribute more than four walks a month. Or, rather, if he'd just get on base more and swing at crap less, but the fact remains that his contract is one of Dayton's rare bright moments. With the offensive bar set so low for catchers, and his defense being solid, the Royals should be free of Jason Kendall types for awhile.
You know it really has been a ridiculously rough season for your favorite team at the plate when you realize the following; years from now, I'm going to be remember a Justin Maxwell grand slam as one of the best hitting moments of the season. And no, there's no real priority to bring him back, as he's likely to decline int he near future (from already modest heights), but he sure had his fun moments.
(insert comment about how Kottaras has plate discipline and the rest of the Royals sans Butler [and Gordon and Hosmer, to some extent] continue to struggle with the concept. Add that this is kind of amazing because George Kottaras hit his hat size this year)
Better health is required for Mr. Cain to continue to be an asset. One would hope that the injuries of the past seaosn did have something to do with the death of his bat after a BABIP-fueled hot start, but there's not much indication thus far that Cain is a particularly good hitter. However, fielding metrics like him, and so he probably has a reasonable shot at improving next year. It's important to note he's going to be 28 in April, though. That's pretty young for a human being, but not for a lot of baseball players.
Escobar might be due to pick up his average a little bit next year, but he, also, suffers from the problem of not really being able to hit. Unlike Cain, he's not even really capable of putting up a respectable OBP, and so most of his value will be tied to defense and singles. Escobar could play on a contending team without killing it, but the Royals need more players who can actually move a team forwards towards contention. It seems clear that Escobar isn't one of those players.
If for no other reason, Lough needs to be kept around to show rookies how to slide. It will be interesting to see how he fares next season, as the Royals really didn't seem invested in him at all until a hot start with the bat this year. Nonetheless, if Lough retains his defensive value, he could be a viable bit player if he'd learn to work the count every-so-often...how many Royals could we say this about? The list continues to grow.
The Gordon-Cain-Dyson outfield is fun on the defensive side of the ball, and I'd be tempted to just say "find some more strikeout/flyout oriented pitchers and just let these guys run the ball down" if I had any confidence in the Royals FO's ability to think on that level. This is, after all, the organization that has shown, on multiple occasions, that would rather make lame excuses than correct problems. I'm sure the way this idea would end would be, "well, the K isn't a pitcher's park..."
As for Dyson, he might be better than Cain, and he almost certainly is one of the three best outfielders on the team. Trouble is, he also might be better at injuring himself and losing time to inferior players.
"Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how'd you like the play?"
"Sirs Not Appearing In This Film"
Players to be DFA'd/Released (according to me):
Jamey Carroll, Chris Getz, Carlos Pena, Miguel Tejada
Players to be AAA'd:
Players too fungible to call for either one:
Pedro Ciriaco, Irving Falu, Brett Hayes
And Your Two Burning QuestionS for the Week!
1. Play GM - how do you construct the position player roster for next season?
2. HOW 'BOUT THEM CHIEFS?!?!