Success in baseball eventually brings about mediocrity and/or failure. The ebb and flow for small-market teams results in the cherished moments of high tide swells and listless wandering during the recessed water's edge. And what, then, did the water bring? For the Royals, it has rolled in two World's Series appearances and a championship ring, a parade that one-third of the metro attended, and memories to last a lifetime. You could ask for a greater bounty, but you'd be asking for quite a lot.
But like all tides, it must eventually recess. And how should we then live? At what pace and time should the Royals make their corrective response to the receding shoreline?
The difficulty in such an exercise is that we do not know at what speed the water moves. By all accounts, 2016 should be another year of booming success, presuming this off-season finishes with a crescendo. And it would be hard to advocate that Kansas City explore the possibility of tearing down the tent at this time. Still, several players are sitting at their as-of-now peak value, and with multiple years of control the returns could be magnified.
But let us set that aside. Success is too alluring a lady to collect up our coat and hat and call it a night so early.
If the Royals falter (or, as some believe, play to their true talent level) and miss the playoffs in 2016, perhaps next winter would be the best time? I guess it depends on how far a tumble they take. Plummeting to 70 or 75 wins would have a much starker aspect than winning 85 games and missing out on the Wild Card by a game or two.
But next winter could conceivably be a good time to start moving players, particularly ones like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, who are either going to be too expensive or too unwilling to sign an extension or new contract in Kansas City. Seeing what they return in a trade could go a long way in kickstarting the next cycle of success at the major league level. Moving the likes of Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar, Alcides Escobar, and Salvador Perez would do the same. Even Steady Freddie Ready Like Eddie Volquez could bring back something of value. Anyone interested to know what Yordano Ventura's return would be, considering he is under team control through 2021?
Maybe next winter is too soon, but it is starting to become too late. The last stop the train makes before it terminates in an uncertain future is mid-season 2017, where the value of your assets is much more volatile and dictated by the demands of the unforeseen temperament of the trade market's open sea.
You see, after the 2017 season, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and potential club-option selections Edinson Volquez and Kendrys Morales will be gone. No more Alcides Escobar. And while he is still under control for two more seasons, Salvador Perez isn't exactly the kind of player you can build an offense around.
It won't be painless, and it won't be pretty. The Royals will have a couple of seasons where they tread the shallow waters of baseball's scum-sucking filter feeders. Miami, basically.
But it should be an inevitability, the necessary cleansing fire to spur on new growth, the natural course of time and the tides for a small-market team, whose success can't contravene the impending conclusion of success. All they can do is decide how long it takes between the old and the new, how beholden we become to the shadow of what once was, in favor of the specter of what could be.