Despite coming off a down season that left them short of the playoffs, the Kansas City Royals can return in 2017 with much of the core team intact that won them two pennants including a championship. Stars like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Danny Duffy, Alcides Escobar, Wade Davis, Jarrod Dyson, and Kelvin Herrera all have free agency looming, but not before they have one more opportunity next season to win it all.
If the Royals keep them all, that is. Earlier this week, Dayton Moore offered his outlook for the off-season, and the theme was financial constraint.
We’re living above our means. This payroll was put together with going deep in the postseason (in mind). That didn’t happen. Again, I’m accountable for that. It’s not going to look very good on the spreadsheet when the bill comes due. Again, it was built to go deep in the postseason. Last year’s payroll, it was built to go deep in the postseason; that worked out. This year, it didn’t. So we’ll have to re-evaluate that, probably reorganize, take some steps back. And again, Mr. Glass has said from day one, he’s not expecting to make money, but he doesn’t want to lose a bunch of money. And he has subsidized this club in the past, and I suspect he’ll have to do it in the future, from time to time.
What we will do is come up with a plan, that this is the best team that we can put together for 2017, and once I present that to Mr. Glass, we’ll see where his comfort level is payroll-wise. Right now, I don’t expect a significant different. But we are going to have to regress a little bit, probably.
The Royals are already reportedly moving on from pitcher Edinson Volquez, and at the press conference Dayton Moore sounded pessimistic about designated hitter Kendrys Morales returning to Kansas City. Even without those two, the Royals are looking at about a $140 million payroll for next year with the players currently in tow, pretty much in line with the $140+ million they spent in 2016. That means, if payroll is going to “regress”, that means trading someone away. Much as Royals fans may want to trade away Joakim Soria or Chris Young, no one wants to take on those contracts. That means trading away someone valuable - possibly Wade Davis or even Lorenzo Cain or Mike Moustakas.
I understand it is not my money, but now is not the time for the Glass family to get stingy with the finances. I imagine it is probably true the Glass family took a financial hit this year with a payroll that ranked 14th in baseball combined with one of the worst television deals in baseball. The Royals are also without the $10-15 million in post-season revenue that supported the team in 2015. No one expects the Glass family to lose millions of dollars year-after-year just to field a winning team.
But we are talking one more season. One more shot at winning it all. One last year with this core group of veterans that have won more games over the last four seasons than any other American League except the Cleveland Indians.
And while David Glass may be taking it on the chin now, it comes after year after year where he fielded a team with a payroll well under the Major League average. While it is true that revenues were lower in those years as well, it seems very likely that the team had years in which they had very strong profits due to fielding such a low payroll team.
This is not even taking into consideration the tremendous increase in value David Glass has benefited from since purchasing the team for $96 million in 2000. Thanks to a league that continues to see record revenues, and millions of dollars in public subsidies from Jackson County taxpayers to fund stadium renovations, the team is now worth around $865 million, according to estimates by Forbes Magazine.
As far as I am concerned, after this upcoming season, David Glass can go back to his frugal ways. Only five players will be left under contract at that point, earning less than $59 million (if Ian Kennedy doesn’t opt out of his contract). Paulo Orlando won’t even be eligible for arbitration yet. The team is likely to be be very cheap, and very bad.
The team can rebuild then and Glass can once again earn hefty profits - even if the fans don’t come out. Baseball has greater revenue sharing than ever before, and with massive new national television deals, it is impossible for a team with a low payroll not to make millions in revenues.
Maybe this is all posturing and the Royals will keep payroll the same or even increase it. After all, there were rumblings they were going to lower payroll last winter and they increased it 20% to a franchise-record payroll. It is not a particularly good negotiating ploy to tell potential free agents that there is money to be had.
David Glass has gone a long way toward erasing his miserly image and building up a reserve of goodwill with Royals fans. He said he would dip into his own pocket to field a winner, and he has kept his promise so far. We enjoyed seeing him hold the championship trophy. We laughed when he remarked that “losing is for losers.” We thanked him for hiring Dayton Moore, giving him the resources needed to compete, and getting out of the way.
Now is not the time to alter that strategy. The core of a good team is still intact. While there are holes, they can be addressed this off-season. But it becomes very difficult to compete while cutting payroll. Losing is for losers, and no Royals fan wants to see this team become a loser next year.