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Royals Review Roundtable: This is the end

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My only friend, the end.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Kansas City Royals Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The season is over and the most exciting era of Royals baseball may be over as well, as Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and Jason Vargas all head into free agency. The future is uncertain, but one certainty is we will still have bloggers to discuss the Royals.

Who was your Royals MVP? Least Valuable Player?

sterlingice: Looking at WAR, Fangraphs has Cain (4.0) and Hosmer (3.9) within spitting distance of each other and then Duffy (3.5) and Merrifield (3.1) behind them. Baseball-reference has Cain out ahead of everyone (5.1) with Vargas (4.2), Whit (4.1), Hosmer (3.9), and Duffy (3.2) as the other substantial contributors. I guess it has to be Cain but there has to be some sort of special mention for Merrifield and Vargas for far exceeding expectations.

As for LVP, there are four "easy" candidates. How do you separate out Moss, Gordon, and Escobar? If I'm allowed, I just give them some sort of combo LVP award. Ian Kennedy gets a special mention as his fWAR hitting was actually higher than his fWAR pitching.

Matthew LaMar: Eric Hosmer is the Royals MVP. He was far and away the Royals best offensive player, and his extraordinary productivity was not guaranteed. Lorenzo Cain has also been very good, but his performance is not at all surprising or unusual.

The LVP is absolutely Jorge Soler. Not only was he God-awful in every facet of the game this year, but the Royals traded Wade Davis to acquire him.

Hokius: MVP has to be Cain. He stayed healthy all year and did his part to anchor the lineup and outfield. LVP is Jorge Soler. The Royals needed him to come in and be a superstar after giving up Wade Davis for only him got -1 fWAR in limited playing time. Impressive in it's way given that WAR is a counting stat.

Ryan Heffernon: MVP: Eric Hosmer. I have been one of Hosmer's biggest critics, but he had the breakout season we have been waiting for since 2011 and one of the better seasons form a Royals hitter since the turn of the century, if not all-time. He has done so much for this city and I'm glad that we finally got to see him put it all together

LVP: Ian Kennedy. I thought he would be a part of a good rotation. I was wrong on him and the rotation.

Max Rieper: I agree with Patrick Brennan’s case that Lorenzo Cain was the team MVP. Hosmer had a fantastic season, and Whit was a pleasant surprise, but Cain is just quietly the steadiest, most consistent player on this team. He set a career-high in on-base percentage, stole 26 bases while getting caught just twice, was one home run shy of tying a career-high, and was tenth among all outfielders in rWAR with 5.3.

LVP? I want to say Alex Gordon, but his defense was still very good. Jorge Soler didn’t play enough to make that big of an impact (which perhaps makes him the LVP). But I will say Brandon Moss. I thought he was a fairly savvy signing, but he showed that signing signing streaky 33-year old DHs with a super-high strikeout rate is probably a bad idea.

Looking back, what went wrong for the Royals this year?

Matthew LaMar: I've written about this a few time, but what went wrong for the Royals is that every major decision Dayton Moore has made since the 2015-2016 offseason has been a total dumpster fire of a disaster. Davis for Soler obviously didn't work. Trading Jarrod Dyson for Nate Karns blew up in their face when Karns became injured. Ian Kennedy is awful and owed almost $50 million more, ditto Alex Gordon. Joakim Soria has been expensive and mediocre. Brandon Moss has been very bad. The Chris Young re-signing was a giant flop. Moore dropped Jose Martinez for nothing, and he's now a productive player for the St. Louis Cardinals. And let's not even talk about the Padres trade this year.

The 2017 Royals core, overall, did very well, but the supplementary pieces have been so bad as to tank the Royals' chances at more postseason glory. Hopefully this isn't indicative of a more long-term issue with Moore and the front office.

Ryan Heffernon: The starting rotation. There were a lot of factors, obviously, including the bullpen and a declining defense. However, coming into the season, this looked like one of the better rotations of the Dayton Moore era. That did not turn out to be true, with the starters finishing with the seventh-worst ERA in baseball.

Max Rieper: The offense and rotation weren’t great, but they weren’t great when the Royals went on post-season runs either. What was great then was the bullpen, which was pretty mediocre-to-bad this year. The Royals were counting on Matt Strahm, Joakim Soria, and Kelvin Herrera to be the next “HDH” and instead they were instead a huge disappointment.

Hokius: What went wrong for the Royals is one of the things I was worried about before the season - lack of depth. Jake Junis was an adequate sixth starter but Travis Wood and Erik Skoglund following him were just never going to cut it. They knew going into the year that Duffy was an injury risk, Karns was an injury risk, and Vargas might be limited in returning from Tommy John surgery. They technically had depth - guys with arms listed as pitchers - but there was no quality to it at all.

sterlingice: A historically bad offense in April. A pitching staff that was out of gas down the stretch. Too many key players hurt or dinged up on a team with little depth. The team just wasn't good enough. Take your pick. It's actually kind of amazing they were as close as they were to .500.

What is one decision the Royals made this year that you would change?

Ryan Heffernon: The obvious answer here is starting the season with Whit Merrifield instead of Raúl Mondesí. This would have been good for both the Royals in the short term and Mondesí in the long term. The Wade Davis and Jarrod Dyson trades also could be visited, but I'm still not convinced that those decisions weren't the right ones.

Matthew LaMar: I'd take back the Trevor Cahill/Brandon Maurer/Ryan Buchter trade. Having Matt Strahm on a rebuilding team over those three would, I think, be a pretty big deal.

Max Rieper: Pretty easy to point to the Wade Davis deal as being very costly to their 2017 chances. Davis could have really solidified a struggling bullpen, and he could assist in the rebuild as well by either being flipped for a trade in July or by getting draft pick compensation for him. But, to be fair, I think a lot of people thought he was damaged goods and I understand why Dayton Moore wanted to trade him when he did.

Hokius: I don't think one thing is enough to make a difference for this team. I might have held on to Wade Davis and seen if they could get something more for him later. Even if Soler had been good this year I'm in agreement with Shaun's take then and continuing through the season - he wasn't enough of a return for Davis.

sterlingice: The cheap answer will be "they should have traded everyone last winter" and I guess there's something to be said for that. But I'll argue the market for hitters has been quite weak going back to last winter so there wasn't a lot of value to get back if you blow it all up. Not only that, but this was a team that was over 50% to make the playoffs at the trade deadline.

So, to me, Moore needed to make a better deadline deal than the one with the Padres. It was a good idea in theory: undervalued starter, former closer, and upside LOOGY - fill out the rotation and deepen the pen all in one trade. However, when you filled in the names Cahill, Maurer, and Buchter- it just didn't work out. Maybe if it has been David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and James Shields with his 10 starts down the stretch with 5+ IP and 4- R, or something else, this would have gone differently.

What will happen this winter? Will the Royals keep anyone?

sterlingice: I don't think so. Moose will have many suitors and is gone. I think there are some odd scenarios where if you squint, you could see agent Scott Boras overselling Hosmer to the point where he's out there in February and returns on a Gordon-esque kindof-a-bargain-but-not-really contract. Maybe Cain gets undervalued because of his age, but he's also put up 5+ WAR for three of the last four seasons and there will be a number of teams that will pay for that, even if the baserunning and fielding could lose a step.

I guess I could see Dayton being willing to extend a multi-year MLB contract to Escobar when no other MLB team will. But I have a sneaking suspicion he is ready to move on, even if Ned is not. The only way I really see him back is if no one signs him all winter, he's still jobless at the start of Spring Training, and Moore sees him as a bargain at $2M. The correct answer should be to move on from all of them and I think that's what we'll see. I think Moose is about 2%, Cain and Hosmer between 5 and 10%, and Escobar about 30%.

Max Rieper: I think payroll constraints will really tie their hands. I believe they will make a strong run at Hosmer, but will ultimately get out-bid. Part of me still thinks they’ll bring Escobar back and move Mondesí to center field, but that still seems a bit nutty. We will probably see a one-year “reset” to allow some bad contracts to come off the books while they go young and see what they have in Jorge Soler, Jorge Bonifacio, Jakob Junis, Raul Mondesí and some prospects. But I would guess Dayton Moore has eyes on contending by 2019, I don’t see him tearing this down.

Ryan Heffernon: I have no idea what's going to happen this offseason. Based on the last game of the season, it's obvious that these guys have a special connection to Kansas City. However, the whole thing felt like a farewell tour. I want to say that they'll keep one of the big three, but it might be a situation where parting ways with all three is the best for all parties. I think it goes without saying that Escobar is the most likely to be back in 2018.

Hokius: I tend to doubt the Royals will bring any of those guys back, but I can also see a scenario where they keep Escobar and Hosmer. This would force Whit into left field and Gordon into center so that Mondesí can play second. Beyond that I expect them to sign some back of the rotation guy and 1-2 middle bullpen guys. Maybe a journeyman position player to trade in at the corner infield or outfield spots.

Matthew LaMar: Based on Moore's previous rebuild, he will do at least two infuriating and counter-productive things per year. In the offseason, I think he'll bring back Alcides Escobar and sign another veteran corner outfielder (maybe Melky Cabrera) for offense reasons, stunting the growth of Raul Mondesí and Jorge Bonifacio. Beyond that, I have no idea.

What player in the organization are you most excited about for next year?

Ryan Heffernon: This is a much bigger list than I thought it would be coming into 2017. I could easily say Merrifield, Bonifacio or Junis. But I'm pretty amped to see Raul Mondesi. He quietly had a monster year at AAA and is the type of guy that could make this rebuild quicker if he can figure things out. And we've been hearing about him for so long that it's easy to forget that he's just 22.

Matthew LaMar: Raúl Mondesí. It'll be fascinating to see how he does after some AAA success and MLB failure in a second go-round.

Max Rieper: I am very curious to see how sustainable Whit Merrifield’s performance is. I would guess this is a career year, but even if he regresses a bit he can still be a very valuable player.

sterlingice: I want to see a full season of Jorge Soler in the majors. I also hope Nate Karns is back next year as he was really good in May until he got hurt. But, in general, I'm just looking forward to a young lineup and seeing what they can do. Use next year to separate out the major leaguers from AAAA guys. Find out what the Royals have in Jorge Soler, Jorge Bonifacio, Paulo Orlando, Bubba Starling(?), Cheslor Cuthbert, Raúl Raúl Mondesí, Ramon Torres, Hunter Dozier, Frank Schwindel, Ryan O'Hearn, and whoever else is near MLB ready. It's going to be painful both on offense and in the field. But I lived through the 2000s, so 2018 should be child's play. It may be that the highest ceiling any have are MLB bench players but take 2018 to find that out for sure.

Hokius: I'm probably most excited about Whit Merrifield. If he can prove that this wasn't a one year fluke he can either anchor an immediate rebuilding effort or he can be a very valuable trade chip for a more distant rebuilding effort. Dos Jorge and Raúl Mondesí in every day starting roles can make or break the 2018 squad, as well.

What is your World Series prediction?

Matthew LaMar: Los Angeles Dodgers over Cleveland Indians in seven.

Max Rieper: Washington Nationals over Houston Astros in an epic seven-game series.

Hokius: I predict the Dodgers over the Astros in 6.

sterlingice: It really feels like the six division winners and Diamondbacks are a step above everyone else so we're definitely seeing the best teams.I'm really hoping for the Astros or maybe the Diamondbacks/Rockies winner, but I'm worried we'll have something like Dodgers-Yankees where I won't even want to watch. Fox and ESPN should love these playoffs.

I'm just not that excited about Yankees North (Boston), Yankees Central (Chicago), and Yankees West (Dodgers) with the distinct possibility of the actual Yankees joining them. Those are all massive market teams with huge resources that are going to be there for a long time, able to wallpaper over mistakes with wads of cash. The last three years have been refreshing with the Royals, Mets, Indians, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Nationals all being in an LCS or multiple LDSs. It feels like we're about to return to another age of big market dynasties and that's just not interesting to me.

Ryan Heffernon: Indians over Dodgers. My prediction before the season was for the Dodgers to win it all, but the Indians have a 2015 Royals feel to them. You get the feeling that they aren't going to be denied.