The first real Royals game of 2017 will be played in just a little bit less than a week. Now is a great time to talk about fantasy baseball. Tim gave us all a great preview of the fantasy season to come. Shaun also had a little fantasy of his own. Many of you have already done your draft and look forward to seeing if your sleepers are going to hit, some of you are going to do your drafts any moment now. While we wait I thought maybe we could take a look at a third kind of fantasy.
Everyone is concerned, probably rightly, with the departing free agents following this season. The farm system looks pretty dry. But you all know my favorite quote about the Royals from Buddy Bell; say it with me now! “I never say it can’t get any worse!”
I started thinking, “What if the Royals were still run like they were a decade ago?” Unwilling/unable to spend much money, begging for the farm system to do something, signing a lot of bounce-back candidates but guaranteeing them a job because who else was going to do it? And I asked myself. What might the Royals’ roster look like, right now? Then I answered.
C - Salvador Perez
1B - Eric Hosmer
2B - Omar Infante
3B - Cheslor Cuthbert
SS - Raul Mondesi
LF - Whit Merrifield
CF - Bubba Starling
RF - Billy Burns
DH - Billy Butler
Bench: C - Brayan Pena, UT Christian Colon, UT Ramon Torres, 1B Ryan O’Hearn.
Yeah, Salvy is still here. But he is still under the first deal. No way do the Royals of the mid-2000s offer to pay a guy more just because he signed a bad deal in the first place.
Eric Hosmer is still here, too. But he’ll definitely be gone before the end of the season. The Royals can’t afford to pay him, but they don’t want to deal the face of their franchise until they absolutely have to. Which will be at the trade deadline.
Omar Infante never got released because the Royals gave him too much money to eat it. He’s just going to have to keep playing second base until his arm falls off.
Cheslor Cuthbert takes over at third base, the Royals managed to deal Mike Moustakas during the off-season for prospects despite his knee injury because they knew they weren’t going to be able pay everyone’s arbitration salary.
Raul Mondesi is the Royals’ shortstop of the future, and the future is now because rushing prospects is what they did and why should they pay Alcides Escobar six million dollars more to man the position that their exciting prospect can play?
Whit Merrifield is the new left fielder, Alex Gordon ended up signing with the White Sox because the Royals couldn’t even come close to their offer. Whit is young and plays baseball in an exciting way, they can do some marketing around his potential.
Bubba Starling is playing center field for the same reason Cheslor is at third base - the Royals can’t afford all that salary and Cain had enough value to move for a couple prospects. They’re hoping a show of confidence like a promotion to the big leagues will get Bubba going.
Billy Burns is in right field because they like his athleticism.
Billy Butler is still here because he loved the organization so much he was willing to take a discount after the 2012 season on an extension. No, he’s really not any good anymore, but he’s still got a big smile and fans have grown attached to the big lug.
Brayan Pena was willing to take less money than anyone and the backup catcher isn’t going to play with Salvy around even in this new universe. Christian Colon was a first round draft pick; he’s got to do something to justify that. Ramon Torres and Ryan O’Hearn would probably be better served getting more seasoning in the minors, but you have to fill out the roster and they seem like the best guys. They’ve both got some pop if Ned ever decides to pinch hit.
Starting Rotation: Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Vargas, Matt Strahm, Chris Young
Bullpen: Travis Wood, Peter Moylan, Mike Minor, Brooks Pounders, Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, Wade Davis
Danny Duffy is still here, and he even did the extension. That deal just made too much sense for even 2007 era Royals management to miss on.
These Royals still signed Ian Kennedy; remember that the 2007 squad signed Gil Meche for a lot more money than everyone expected, too. And it even looked good, at first!
Have you ever noticed that the mid-2000’s Royals always seemed to have a crafty lefty who was never ‘bad’ but never as crafty as they hoped, either? That’s Vargas.
Gotta fill those last two spots and Chris Young brings experience, while Matt Strahm brings an excellent end to 2016 and is a promising young arm to advertise around. Nate Karns isn’t here because the Royals traded Dyson for a prospect, instead.
Travis Wood, Peter Moylan, and Mike Minor are just guys pulled off the scrap heap that the Royals hope will eat some bullpen innings.
Brooks Pounders stuck around because...why not?
The Royals signed Joakim Soria up because it was another great opportunity for advertisements, “Remember when we had this guy and he was the Mexicutioner? Wasn’t that great?” He never stops pitching the eighth inning when the Royals have the lead because they paid him too much to use him in low leverage innings.
Kelvin Herrera is still under his rookie contract, so he can stick around a bit longer.
Wade Davis is still here because you gotta have a good closer, even if the rest of your team is terrible. When you get a lead to the ninth inning you want to know you’re going to keep it. Yeah, he’ll leave in free agency, too. But those 2017 wins are important or something!
So there you have it. A little thought exercise about how much things could be worse right now. Of course, I probably am still being too optimistic. Some of those teams were ugly to watch. How do you think the roster might be different if the Royals of today were still run like they were a decade ago?