Coming off a World Championship, the Royals were focused mostly on keeping the nucleus together for another run. The result thus far has been a mixed bag with some ups and downs this season, but more than one-third through the season, the Royals stand 30-26, with the sixth-best record in the American League. Looking back at Dayton Moore's off-season, how do you think he did? Let's take a look back at the transactions:
There was much drama in the negotiations between Nebraska native Alex Gordon and the Royals, but shortly after the new year, the former #2 overall pick inked a deal with the Royals for four years, $72 million. Gordon was coming off a season in which he suffered a serious groin injury that kept him out two months, and he was entering his age-32 season, so there was some concern he would be in a decline phase. It is still early, but Gordon has struggled this year, hitting just .211/.319/.331 with just nine extra-base hits in 41 games and a strikeout rate over 30%. Gordon still makes highlight-reel plays, but the metrics show his defense has slipped in 2016, although defensive metrics can be inaccurate in small sample sizes.
The Royals had been linked to Kennedy for some time, but fans were still stunned to learn the Royals signed him to a five year, $70 million deal following a mediocre season in San Diego. Kennedy has seemingly flourished with the Royals defense playing behind him so far, with an ERA of 3.44 in 11 starts. His already-high flyball rate has spiked in Kansas City, but moving to Kauffman Stadium has helped his numbers, as just one of the ten home runs he has allowed this year has come at home.
Kennedy does have some numbers that give reason for concern. His left-on-base rate is the tenth-highest in baseball, and he has allowed a low batting average on balls in play (BABIP) suggesting perhaps he has been a bit lucky thus far. His strikeout rate is down slightly from last year, while his walk rate is the second-highest of his career at 3.31 per-nine innings. Kennedy has averaged just under six innings per-start, so he has not been quite the innings-eater they envisioned when they signed. Still, despite some red flags, the Royals have to be pleased with his performance thus far.
The Royals knew they would be without Greg Holland, who is out all of 2016 following Tommy John surgery, and the loss of free agent reliever Ryan Madson gave them a sizable hole in the bullpen. The Royals addressed the issue by bringing back an old friend in former closer Joakim Soria. Soria was coming off a solid season with the Tigers and Pirates and was throwing harder than ever at age 30. Still, even in an inflated reliever market, fans were surprised the Royals signed him to a three year, $25 million deal.
Soria struggled right out of the game, giving up three runs on Opening Night. He had a 6.30 ERA as late as April 26, but had a scoreless outing in 13 of his next 14 outings, and his ERA now sits at 3.81. Still, he has looked shaky even in some of his scoreless outings. His walk rate is 3.81 per-nine-innings, well above his career averages, and his command has been off much of the season. He is still throwing his velocity at the same velocity, but his trademark curveball has not been a successful pitch for him this season.
The lanky right-hander was one of the best success stories for the Royals in 2015, after signing a cheap, incentive-laden deal with the club in the spring. His skillset fit Kauffman Stadium perfectly, with his flyball tendencies giving his Gold Glove-caliber outfield defense an excuse to convert more outs. Although he would turn 37 in May, Young was looking for a multi-year deal, and the Royals were a match by giving him a two-year deal worth $11.5 million.
Young was anointed the #4 starter in the rotation to begin the year, but all those flyballs began flying out of the yard at an alarming rate. After giving up five home runs in a start at Yankee Stadium, Young went on the disabled list with a forearm strain. He recently returned, and after a few bullpen outings, rejoined the rotation on Sunday to give up four more home runs to the Cleveland Indians. His 17 home runs allowed lead all of baseball, despite the fact he has pitched just over 40 innings. With an ERA of 6.37, Young could be in danger of losing his rotation spot.
The Royals won a championship last year despite having the fourth-worst ERA for a starting pitching staff in the American League. Dayton Moore decided the best course of action was to add depth to the pitching staff, adding former Braves pitcher Mike Minor. Minor was rehabbing from labrum surgery in 2015, and was expected to miss the first half of this season. The contract he signed with the team reflected his injury, paying him just $2 million in 2016, and $4 million in 2017, with plenty of incentives. The Royals were eyeing a return for Minor in early June, but he struggled with his command during his minor league rehab time, and the team recently reset his rehab clock after he suffered shoulder fatigue.
The Royals brought in former Mets pitcher Dillon Gee on a minor league deal that would pay him $2 million if he made the roster. The right-hander was useful out of the bullpen, but stumbled in a short tryout in the rotation and was recently optioned to the minor leagues with a 4.28 ERA. Chien-Ming Wang was given a flyer to tryout with the team on a minor league contract and impressed with increased velocity to earn a spot. Wang has been useful with a 2.11 ERA in 21 1/3 innings pitched, although mostly in very low leverage situations with the game in hand. The Royals acquired catcher Tony Cruz from the Cardinals for minor league infielder Jose Martinez, but Cruz failed to beat out Drew Butera for a backup spot out of spring training. Cruz hit well for Omaha and is up with the team now as insurance against Salvador Perez's knee injury. Peter Moylan was a reclamation project signed to a minor league deal after a career ravaged by injuries. The 37-year old sidearmer has given the Royals a good relief innings with a 1.86 ERA in 9 2/3 innings of work. The Royals also re-negotiated Salvador Perez's contract over the winter, giving him an additional $36 million.
The Royals were said to be have been interested in pitchers Scott Kazmir, Wei-Chin Yen, and Yovani Gallardo. Kazmir agreed to a three-year, $48 million deal with an opt-out after one year with the Dodgers, but the early results have not been great. The 32-year old lefty has increased his strikeout rate, but has also seen a spike in his walk rate as well. His 4.46 ERA and 4.61 FIP suggest that perhaps his late season slide last year has carried over into this season. Wei-Chin Yen signed a five-year, $80 million deal with the Marlins, also with an opt-out. The lefty has a 4.25 ERA despite higher strikeout numbers. Yovani Gallardo signed a restructured two year, $22 million deal with Baltimore after his physical turned up shoulder issues. The issues were well founded as Gallardo showed up with a dramatic decline in velocity, and posted a 7.00 ERA in four starts before landing on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis.
The Royals showed interest in Denard Span as an alternative to Alex Gordon. The 31-year old signed a three year, $31 million deal with the Giants and is hitting .266/.359/.358. Colorado shopped their outfielders, with the Royals showing potential interest. Eventually Corey Dickerson was moved to Tampa Bay for reliever Jake McGee and a minor leaguer, and while he is hitting under the Mendoza Line at .193, he has hit nine home runs. The Royals talked to the Reds about Todd Frazier as an option in left-field, before Frazier was moved to the White Sox for Trayce Thompson, Micah Johnson, and Frankie Montas. Frazier is hitting just .218 for Chicago but leads the league with 18 home runs.
The Royals were also said to have checked in on C.J. Wilson, Clay Buchholz, Doug Fister, Gerardo Parra, Nick Markakis, and Austin Jackson. Perhaps a potential trade they may most regret not making, if it was ever on the table, was for Boston outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. The 26-year old has been a sensation this year, electrifying baseball with a 29-game hitting streak. Overall he has become a complete player, hitting .323/.400/.582 with 9 HR 38 RBI and Gold Glove-caliber defense.