I was a history major before I became a much more interesting person*. And though I have lived in the Kansas City area my entire life, when you live this close to Texas it is hard to escape learning about the Battle of the Alamo. Long story short, a bunch of Texas revolutionaries decided to hole up in a mission when President General Antonio López de Santa Anna came in to quell the rebellion and return control of Texas to its rightful Mexican government. There's a lot about white guys not wanting to pay taxes on lands they owned in Mexico (i.e. Texas), hiring Tejanos (Mexicans living in Texas) to fight the war, and the American government subsidizing the war effort by selling munitions and supplies to Texas.
After a thirteen day siege, Santa Anna got the brilliant idea to wake up super early (like, 5:00am) and attack. It worked (eventually), and every Texan died. Well, most of them did. All of the important white ones did. Hence, all of the remember the Alamo gibberish that is somehow defined as an American experience despite the fact that Texas would not be annexed for seven more years. It's kind of like cheering on the triumphs of eastern Florida prior to the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819. Alas, I digress.
The reason I bring all of this up is the shape that the 2015 season for the Royals is taking is one of marked futility. Noble, patriotic futility.
Yesterday, monsieur Lamar had some handsome words regarding the Royals recent transactions in relation to their drafts over the past few years. He is very astute in pointing out the struggles of Dayton Moore's draft picks over the past few years:
And that point is this: the Royals are in this position, of looking at a less-than-stellar free agent market and unwilling to give up minor league talent in a trade, because their drafting and development suffered a severe drought. The Royals have a bigger problem than signing Morales and Rios, and they have to fix it yesterday if they want to continue surviving.
Every team goes through a course-correction season when they are successful. Sometimes you don't notice, because the team continues to play at a high level. Sometimes it becomes painfully obvious, like when a World's Series participant completely tanks the following season.
If it weren't for the enmity that had developed between Billy Butler and the organization, replacing him with Kendrys Morales might not have been necessary. If Norichika Aoki hadn't ridden a 13-for-16 in September to boost a season's worth of disappointment into a cromulent 2014 triple slash, maybe he comes back on the cheap. If both of those occur, maybe the Royals take a look at a long-term deal for James Shields. I doubt it, but in the world of developing hypotheticals, the author writes the story. So, as I jet pack across my five thousand acre estate with my inconceivably attractive spouse, maybe all of those things could have been true.
Really though, the minor leagues are more to blame than any other issue that has sprung up over the last few weeks. The MiLB seasons of the players most likely to contribute in 2015 were, in short, a disappointment. Hunter Dozier's 136 wRC+ in High-A (267 plate appearances) was countered by his 81 wRC+ in AA (again, 267 plate appearances). Kyle Zimmer's continuing ailments and maladies have put serious question marks on his future. Sean Manaea finished out the year with six earned runs in 44.1 IP (1.22 ERA), but hip and shoulder concerns may measure his work load this year. Jorge Bonifacio was ineffective (.230/.302/.309, 77 wRC+) a year after being hurt. Cheslor Cuthbert made it to AAA and struggled. Miguel Almonte regressed. Bubba Starling is one more poor season away from dropping way down (or off of) prospect lists. is approaching age 20 with most of his peripherals headed in the wrong direction.
You would hope that Moustakas will be better, and some improvement out of Hosmer would be keen. Ventura and Duffy staying healthy as well. But aside from Christian Colon, who looked fine in his sporadic playing time (a .366 BABIP helped), there isn't much going on for 2015 in terms of internal improvement.
In light of all of that, the Royals are trying to back up a World's Series appearance with a gross offense, supreme defense, a dynamite (yet volatile) bullpen, and are clearly not wanting to commit long-term to anyone in the hope that some of these prospects will make their way to Kansas City over the next year or so. Rios is the definition of a stopgap player. Morales might play his way into being traded, but might also just as easily play his way to the buffet line. Guthrie's mutual option for 2016 is likely dependent upon whether or not someone from the minors is ready to replace him, be it a Kyle Zimmer, Sean Manaea, or Brandon Finnegan. The safe money, though, is that we're staring down the last fiscal of year of Jeremy Guthrie in Royal blue. If Vargas and Volquez are your 4 and 5 behind three young, cost-controlled dynamos in 2016, I think you can stomach that. It hurts for 2015, since Guthrie is still a thing, but it is pretty clear that the Royals front office is not considering 2015 right now.
And maybe that's frustrating. Well, not maybe. It is decidedly frustrating. But the Royals are clearly intent on letting 2015 serve as a springboard for potentially more success in 2016 and beyond, and are more than willing to stand pat on being kind-of-okay following an unexpected, unprecedented run to the World's Series. Strangely enough, we find ourselves at the cusp of winter, still relying on Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to improve enough to become the guys that can carry the team offensively.
That isn't to say they are going to lose 90 games. They could, but it would be because of more serious problems than Morales, Rios, and Volquez (and Medlen) being who we think they are. Though 2015 has yet to come, the upcoming season is already starting to feel like Kansas City's Alamo; it's not a question of whether or not they will lose, it's a question of how long they can hold out, and whether or not it will inspire the others to rally for great justice in 2016.
*I'm actually in the process of graduating magna cum laude from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Today, as a matter of fact. Commencement is in eight hours. Film and Media degree with a minor in creative writing. Go figure.